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12 June 2008 Edition

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The Mitchel McLaughlin Column

Change must continue despite rejectionists

THERE was much speculation last week around the future of the Assembly. Whatever about the speculation or wherever it emanated from, one thing is certain: there is still a number of issues outstanding that must be resolved if we are to continue to build on the success of the past 12 months.
Primary amongst these is the transfer of policing and justice powers to the Assembly.
Unionist politicians cannot expect the international community to take seriously the claim of stable government and political institutions here while they project a lack of confidence to administer two of the essential pillars of any stable government – policing and justice.
Local control of and accountability for the policing and justice system is essential if we are to build a society based on equality and respect for all under the law. One of the main planks of the DUP manifesto was a promise to give “strong leadership”. They now have an opportunity to show strong leadership by agreeing the transfer of policing and justice to the Assembly.
Whilst I share people’s frustration, no one should be in any doubt that strenuous efforts are continuing to resolve the difficulties around the outstanding issues. But those within political unionism opposed to change should not mistake our patience for weakness. Sinn Féin will settle for nothing short of equality throughout all aspects of government and society as a whole. As well as policing and justice, that includes Irish language rights, educational reform, addressing economic disparities and other areas of historical discrimination.
Therefore, I hope that Peter Robinson will move quickly to stamp his authority on his party. Peter Robinson must ensure that we don’t revisit a David Trimble style of unionism where those within the party opposed to change are allowed to dictate the pace at which he can proceed. Rejectionists cannot be permitted to frustrate the delivery of good government to all the people of the North.
As guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement and the St Andrew’s Agreement, it is incumbent on the two governments to impress upon the rejectionists and to all those who would frustrate the work of building on the Peace Process that, with or without them, there is going to be a substantial and significant investment of effort and resources put into delivery of the implementation of the outstanding issues of the agreements.
Both governments should make clear that the introduction of further demands by the DUP will not be tolerated.
The pro-change majority on this island who want to see progress cannot be expected to wait for a minority within unionism to come into the 21st Century. The inability or unwillingness of some to engage and to accept the reality of the new dispensation cannot be allowed to paralyse the process of change.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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