15 May 2003 Edition
Murphy in London to make case for democracy
Sinn Féin leader of the former Assembly and Representative for Newry/Armagh, Conor Murphy, was in London on Tuesday 13 May during the passage of a Bill through the British House of Commons attempting to legitimise the action of Tony Blair in removing indefinitely the democratic franchise of the people living in the North of Ireland.
Speaking at a Westminster news conference, Murphy said there was "deep anger right across Ireland" that the elections were put off.
Mr Murphy said:
"It is a dark day for democracy. A British government that claims to have fought a war in Iraq to establish democracy - even though few believe this - sees no irony in removing the right of Irish people to elect the representatives of their choice, to political institutions. Political institutions that were established by referenda on the island of Ireland where neither Tony Blair nor any of his government has a democratic mandate.
"If there is to be even a semblance of democracy and if we are to demonstrate the supremacy of politics then the situation demands that Tony Blair rescinds his indefinite postponement of elections in the North of Ireland. There is no valid reason why elections should not proceed as planned but if not then Tony Blair should set a date no later than June so that the people can exercise their choice of political representation. The British government have unilaterally decided at the stroke of a pen to do away with elections. No government has the right to deny the people the right to vote. Although they may have the power, no British government has the right to cancel elections in Ireland. Mr Blair's demand of more clarity from the IRA was a 'smokescreen' designed to obscure the fact that the Ulster Unionists did not want elections.
"It is a severe blow to democracy in the North that the entire population have been denied the right to vote. It is regrettable that the bill that the government have brought forward through the House has no fixed date for any election in the autumn.
"This is a denial of democracy. It is not just republicans; it is all of the voters in the north of Ireland who have been denied an opportunity to exercise their franchise. This sends a very bad signal to those who say that the British government are not serious."
Congressman questions Blair's comitment to peace
US Democratic Representative Frank Pallone Jr on Tuesday voiced his disappointment that the peace process has once again derailed, and seriously questioned whether or not Britain was bowing to the demands of unionists. The New Jersey congressman, on the floor of the US House of Representatives, said:
"With Prime Minister Tony Blair's announcement of the indefinite postponement of the elections in Northern Ireland, I worry that Great Britain is bowing to the demands of Unionist radicals in Northern Ireland who obviously oppose the Good Friday Accords.
"With the clock ticking toward the scheduled elections on 29 May, Prime Ministers Blair and Ahern held numerous meetings and made subsequent statements that led many media outlets around the world to report that the Northern Ireland Assembly was close to being reinstated.
"At the 11th hour, Prime Minister Blair asked the Irish Republican Army to declare their commitment to the Good Friday Accords and disarmament. While the IRA was not an original signatory of the Good Friday Accords, they still welcomed the Prime Minister's questions. The IRA, both through a recently released statement and through statements made by Sinn Féin's President Gerry Adams, made several clear and unambiguous statements pledging their peaceful intentions.
"It is obvious to me that the IRA has clearly stated their peaceful intentions to bring a complete and final closure to the conflict in the north. They have committed to disarmament to bring a final end to the insurrections.
"In the final days before Prime Minister Blair's announcement of the postponement of the elections, he continued to press the IRA to clarify their intentions. While much of the international community and the press viewed the IRA's statements as a giant step toward peace, Prime Minister Blair oddly continued to claim they were not going far enough.
"Then suddenly, Prime Minister Blair cancelled the elections in spite of opposition from the Irish government and every political party in Northern Ireland, except the Ulster Unionists.
"For the last five years, Blair has been urging the IRA to make a statement pledging their support for peace. Now, when the Agreement is about to fall apart, the IRA stepped up to the plate and the Prime Minister let a home run pitch pass him by. It seems that rather than working for what is truly important, peace, he is carrying the water of the Ulster Unionists.
"So - The question is - does Prime Minister Blair really want to see a peaceful resolution to the situation in Northern Ireland, or has it all just been a big political ploy to get the Irish republicans to pledge peace and then force them back under the control of the crown. I certainly hope the latter is not the case.
"I call on Prime Minister Blair to first, announce a June date for the Assembly Elections in Northern Ireland. Then, he must bring the parties back to the table to reinstate the peace process and most importantly the Assembly. Now, at this critical time, Mr. Blair must show true leadership and prove that he is not simply a pawn to Protestant Unionist radicals in Northern Ireland.
"This is a truly remarkable and historic time in Northern Ireland's history. I can honestly say, a lasting and just peace is within reach. Now it is up to Prime Minister Blair to do what is right and allow the people of Northern Ireland the opportunity to decide for themselves who should govern their provinces."
Bairbre de Brún on four-day visit to US
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Human Rights and Equality, Bairbre de Brún, is left for the Uited States on Monday for a four-day trip during which she is scheduled to speak at several engagements organised by Friends of Sinn Féin, including an event in New York where she will address members of the Irish community.
The former minister was in Washington on Wednesday, where she briefed members of Congress - including the Friends of Ireland group and the ad hoc Committee on Irish Affairs - on the current situation in the peace process. She reiterated Sinn Féin's call for the Assembly elections to go ahead in June and the need for the implementation of the Joint Declaration.