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12 November 2009 Edition

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The Mitchel McLaughlin Column

Exaggerated threat being used to re-arm unionists

THROUGHOUT the Peace Process Sinn Féin insisted that the goal was to ‘take the gun out of Irish politics’ and we pointed out that this would only be possible through the creation of a new political dispensation where political ideals and objectives could be pursued on a level playing field.
The Good Friday Agreement, endorsed throughout the island mapped out a peaceful and democratic way forward. It meant that republicans could pursue our objectives of Irish unity and sovereignty on the same basis as unionists could pursue the maintenance of the Union with Britain.
Much negotiation, hard work and courageous personal risks taken by the Sinn Féin leadership created the conditions whereby republican guns could be put beyond use. Unionists were vociferous in their pronouncements that the removal of weapons was essential if normal political relations were to be established. Of course in reality they were only exercised by republican weapons. Unionist weapons were only included in the equation for rhetorical effect when pushed in interviews. Four years after the IRA announced that its war was over, dealing with unionist weapons is still only at the rhetoric stages.
And while Sinn Féin has been working diligently to ensure that the Executive and the Assembly function fully, isn’t it ironic that those who held up the political process for years over the issue of getting rid of weapons now want to hold it up again to bring back weapons? The latest DUP demand is to seek the provision of personal weapons for former UDR and RUC members.
The so-called ‘Independent’ Monitoring Commission confirmed that the major responsibility for violence in the North today lies with loyalists. Nevertheless unionist politicians, abetted by British Security Services focus on the exaggerated level of threat from republican rejectionists! They do so of course to demand re-arming former unionist militia members and they also wish to reward them with a bounty of a £20 million ‘gratuity’ payment for the former RUC reservists. I can think of many better uses for £20 million in today’s climate of Health and Education cutbacks and efficiency savings.
The transfer of policing and justice was agreed as long ago as October 2006. It is a vitally important and stand alone issue. A financial package, acceptable to both governments, the US administration, the PSNI Chief Constable, Sinn Féin and DUP has been agreed. There is no excuse for further delay, the issue of funding has now been resolved. The only thing remaining is for the Democratic Unionist Party to show leadership and accept the time has come for transfer and to get on with it. And that requires an immediate end to the delay and prevarication and attempted obstruction of the transfer of powers from the British government to the Executive and Assembly.
It is also past time for the British government to cease its indulgence of the DUP in its obstructionist tactics and re-commit to fully implementing the Good Friday Agreement.

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