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1 June 2006 Edition

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The Mitchell McLaughlin Column

Time for real leadership

Peter Hain has put forward proposals for a 'Committee for Restoration of Government in the Six Counties and Sinn Féin has decided to participate. If the proposed committee is a serious attempt to create the conditions for restoration of a fully functioning Executive and all-Ireland bodies then it will be worthwhile. We will perform a leadership role in such a body.

It will also present the DUP with both opportunities and challenges. In its Assembly election campaign the DUP claimed it would provide strong leadership for the Unionist electorate. It has thus far squandered that opportunity and instead provided an even more trenchantly negative leadership than the UUP. This is not, I am sure, the type of leadership that many unionists voted for.

The unionist electorate abandoned the UUP at the last election because it was seen as prevaricating, unsure, indecisive and weak. It was a tactical vote in the hope that the DUP would provide the strong, confident, decisive and positive leadership that they want and deserve. This committee will provide the DUP with the opportunity to rise to the challenge and deliver the type of leadership it promised in its election campaign.

The entire electorate deserves political leadership that provides efficient government. Sinn Féin looks forward to sharing that challenge with the DUP and others. This Committee will hopefully encourage all of the parties, but particularly the DUP, to do just that. Sinn Féin will assess the potential of the Committee and play a positive role in ensuring that it is not usurped by those intent on frustrating efforts to move ahead.

It is evident from extensive contact with the community, Trade Union, business and voluntary sectors that there is growing frustration with the DUP's negative leadership. It is only a matter of time before Paisley's party has to make the choice to exercise the power of its mandate or lose it. There are those in the DUP who know and accept that the only way they will be able to exercise that power is in partnership with Sinn Féin and the other parties that will make up the Executive.

I hope the proposed Committee provides those more progressive elements of the DUP with the opportunities to develop their ideas and to assert themselves by convincing their more fundamentalist colleagues that it is the only way in which to create functioning and stable institutions of government.

Sinn Féin's position is clear. If the DUP refuse to avail of this opportunity to participate in restoring the institutions which were endorsed by a majority of the people of Ireland, the Assembly should be wound up altogether. In these circumstances it will then fall to the two governments to jointly implement and develop all other aspects of the Agreement in accordance with their obligations as co-equal partners in an International Treaty registered with the United Nations.

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