Paterson 'straight answers' needed over dissidents
- A senior DUP politician has called for "straight answers" from the Northern Ireland Secretary of State over whether or not the Government has engaged in talks with dissident republicans.
Friday, 20 August 2010
The comments from East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell come in the wake of Owen Paterson's refusal to confirm or deny the alleged contact.
Claims that talks had taken place were made by Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
"Everything he (Owen Paterson) has said so far has left some wriggle room or space for later clarification, instead of giving a simple answer to a straightforward question," Mr Campbell said.
"We will be meeting with Mr Paterson to flush this out once and for all.
"Either talks have taken place or they have not. They have either taken place with the approval or knowledge of the Government, with or without a third party.
"There are yes or no answers to those questions and it would be much better for everyone if the Secretary of State could step forward and give straight answers."
On Friday, Mr Paterson described the Government's position as "completely clear" and consistent with that of previous administrations.
"You cannot have meaningful talks, serious discussions, real negotiations - whatever you want to call them - with people who are not absolutely committed to peaceful means of pursuing their goals," he said.
But when asked of the Government was involved in "contacts", he refused to be drawn and told BBC Radio 4: "We never discuss operational issues".
Stating that talks should not be opposed once the threat of violence has been removed from society in Northern Ireland, Mr Campbell said: "Whether Mr Paterson views talks as 'meaningful' or not is not the issue, but whether we have a situation once again where talks are being held with terrorists prior to the ending of violence.
"The equivocation and evasion coming forward from Owen Paterson only serves to confirm the suspicions in many peoples minds that the Government has engaged in contact with these terrorists."
Warning the Secretary of State not to "repeat the mistakes of the past", Mr Campbell added: "Unfortunately we have seen this pattern of behaviour before from the last Conservative Government - when many people will remember the denials of contact with the Provisional IRA, only later to find that talks had been ongoing alongside their campaign of terrorism."
© Press Association