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8 June 2006 Edition

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Mitchel McLaughlin Column

The Future of the Assembly

Embedding peace and creating political stability is arguably the most important issue facing the people of Ireland. The months ahead are critical.

The governments need to show determination to forge ahead by building on the progress made so far. They should not wait until the November deadline to show their determination to act decisively in the face of DUP procrastination.

Present DUP attitude would indicate its intention to drag the process out by insisting on sham debates that have as much influence on NIO policy as a college debating society.

The governments should make it clear that the alternative to sharing power will be less palatable than the status quo to those who refuse to play their part in restoring the institutions.

Instead, the British Secretary of State and the other parties are indulging DUP intransigence by participating in the charade that is the Hain Assembly. There is no possible excuse why the British and Irish governments are not fully and faithfully implementing those aspects of the Good Friday Agreement that don't require an Assembly. They must impress on the DUP that it can't undermine the will of the people of Ireland.

The peace process is in many ways the re-working of the relationships between unionism and the rest of the people of Ireland and between all of us and the British government. Its resolution will be to the benefit of peoples on both islands. It should not be allowed to be stymied by a political philosophy stuck in the 17th century.

British policy towards Ireland has historically been the catalyst for conflict and division. If the British government is to play a more positive role in the search for a permanent peace, a change of emphasis in the relationship between our two countries is required. The approach of the present Administration at the NIO displays little that would suggest this lesson has been learned.

The way in which Hain is approaching talks displays a lack of understanding of what is required. He is pandering to the DUP.

Is this because in the pre-marching season he will do and say anything to placate rejectionist Unionists, recognising that there is no probability of engagement before the end of June?

Does he think that by mollycoddling the DUP now, a more whole-hearted and inclusive approach will occur in the autumn?

Or does it reflect a view that the enterprise is doomed anyway because the DUP is not yet ready to share power?

The main objective of talks has to be an end to suspension of political institutions by the November deadline.

Sinn Féin has told both governments that there can be no dilution of the Good Friday Agreement and that continued British direct rule is not an acceptable option. I believe there is a significant onus on the Irish government to pro-actively support and promote this position on behalf of all of the people of Ireland.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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