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10 September 1998 Edition

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Face to face

This week witnessed an historic first face-to-face meeting between Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and Ulster Unionist Party leader and First Minister of the Six County Assembly David Trimble.

This important event is not an issue of personalities. It is far more significant than merely Trimble meeting Adams. It is in reality the largest section of Unionism finally, belatedly and begrudgingly accepting the rights of non-unionists in the Six Counties to political representation.

Once again this significant milestone in the ongoing Peace Process was made possible by the initiatives taken by republicans. Gerry Adams's repetition last week of Sinn Féin's commitment to making conflict a thing of the past and Sinn Féin's announcement that Martin McGuinness was to be the party's representative with the International Commission on Decommissioning, increased the growing pressure for Trimble to meet with Sinn Féin, as he must under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

These developments removed the last fig leaves which covered Trimble's lack of excuses for refusing to meet Sinn Féín. Despite confusion caused by unionist posturing and poor media reporting, it was never the case that Sinn Féin's membership of the Six County Executive was in the gift of David Trimble or anyone else. That is the party's clear entitlement as part of the Agreement.

This week marks a significant development on the road to justice and and peace. The acknowledgement of the political rights of republican voters and their representatives, although belated, is nonetheless welcome. It was also inevitable. What is important now is that the other elements in the Agreement, particularly the establishment of the Executive and the all-Ireland bodies, be implemented with all speed.

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