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Sinn Fein shouldn't have had power without decommissioning, blasts Seamus Mallon

By Rebecca Black

One of the architects of the Good Friday Agreement has blamed "impatience to get into the history books" for allowing Sinn Fein into government without decommissioning.

Former Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon said if the two governments had told Sinn Fein it would not be in government until arms were disposed of, "they would have done it because they were holding onto the arms as a political weapon".

"The governments' failure was bad tactical politics and devalued and tarnished the agreement and the currency of politics," he added.

Mr Mallon also claimed that it was a "fundamental mistake" to allow the party in without decommissioning.

The comments from the normally reclusive former SDLP MLA came in an interview with The Irish Catholic.

Mr Blair famously described feeling "the hand of history" on his shoulders when agreement was finally reached.

But Mr Mallon (79) said although the Agreement was a "great step forward", it was part of a "flawed process. Some people don't realise that two-and-a-bit years before Good Friday, the Provos had already done their negotiations with London and Dublin and with America," he added.

"They had been talking to the British, they had been talking to Hume and had been talking to Dublin and they had been talking to America.

"And they had been laying down their basis for ending [their campaign] before the negotiations even started.

"The total fundamental weak part of it was that the governments allowed Sinn Fein to set the agenda."

Mr Mallon claimed that things "could and should have been done differently".

He also blamed a failure to deliver for the fall from power of former UUP leader David Trimble.

While Mr Mallon and Mr Trimble did not appear to have had the warmest relationship while in power, Mr Mallon paid tribute to his former partner in government, saying he had made a "courageous decision, took enormous abuse and at the end of the day was thrown out of the boat by the two governments when they called the election".

The comments came as Stormont stands on the brink of collapse following an assessment by PSNI Chief Constable that the IRA is still in existence, and that some of its members were involved in the murder of east Belfast man Kevin McGuigan in July.

Sinn Fein insists the IRA no longer exists as a fighting force.

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers set up an independent review of paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland earlier this month.

Talks are still ongoing between the political parties in an attempt to resolve the latest row at Stormont.

Meanwhile, former SDLP Upper Bann MLA Brid Rodgers has spoken about enjoying herself at 80.

She told the Irish News that life had "never been better" and she put her health down to daily power walks, trips to Italy, swims off the Donegal coast and the occasional whiskey nightcap.

Ms Rodgers said retirement had given her the freedom to "get up and go where she pleases".

She represented Upper Bann in the Assembly from 1998 and served as Agriculture Minister until 2002, when Stormont was suspended.

Belfast Telegraph


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