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11 February 1999 Edition

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Governments must back Agreement

Next week will be crucial for the peace process. On Monday the Assembly votes on the report to set up the Assembly departments and the All-Ireland bodies. It should trigger the establishment of the shadow Executive and the All-Ireland ministerial council in preparation for the 10 March devolution of power. Whether it does or not depends largely on whether there is the political will to face down the Unionist `No' camp who are determined to bring down the Good Friday Agreement.

Crucially, the two governments have to decide whether they are going to implement the Agreement or consign it to the dustbin; in particular, whether the Unionist veto is going to win out over a hard-won negotiated settlement.

The current political vacuum is being exploited by loyalist death squads. It is a dangerous situation which can only be countered by injecting momentum into the political process by implementing the Good Friday Agreement. That means forming the agreed, inclusive political institutions, and doing it without preconditions. That was what was agreed. That is what the two governments must support.

Time for resolute leadership



By Mary Maguire

As the crunch 15 February vote draws closer, nationalist concerns about the peace process are deepening. Next Monday, the Assembly will vote on the Final Report on the Assembly departments and the All-Ireland bodies.

On Wednesday evening, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness held a routine meeting with the British Secretary of State. They urged Mo Mowlam to ensure that the crucial vote on Monday would effectively trigger the establishment of the shadow Executive and the All-Ireland ministerial council in preparation for the 10 March devolution of power.

So far, the substance and drafting of the Report have been used by David Trimble and the Unionist parties as a political card to gain time and prevent the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. The debates surrounding the Report have also been exploited and used as a key instrument of David Trimble's politics of exclusion and obstruction.

In reality, there is not and has never been any precondition to the full implementation of all provisions of the Good Friday Agreement and Sinn Féin's entry into government. David Trimble himself already admitted this on 18 February in the Assembly.

In this context of a deepening political crisis, Monday's vote can only be a key moment in advancing the peace process. The formal adoption of the final report must immediately trigger the establishment of the Assembly Executive, the All-Ireland Ministerial Council and the All-Ireland bodies.

While the document is ratified, all parties - and more importantly the Irish and British governments - have to show resolute leadership and stand up to their commitments.

It is urgent that such leadership is now shown and that the various bodies be established as this process will help alleviate widespread concerns.

These past weeks, nationalists have been alarmed by indications that the vote may kick-start a new political tug-of-war during which Unionists and the No-camp mentors will attempt to further torpedo the peace process and introduce new preconditions aimed at excluding Sinn Féin and renegotiating the Agreement.

This past week, nationalist fears have been heightened by David Trimble's attempts to renegotiate the Agreement, his increasingly negative tone when speaking about the whole peace process and a blatant lack of equality in the decision-making process. Feelings of frustration are also growing as the two governments are assisting Unionists in building a smokescreen around the real issues, thus totally ignoring the grassroots consequences of the political vacuum David Trimble has built and is striving to maintain.

The question of decommissioning is central to David Trimble's cover-up attempt. Although he himself has dismissed it as a precondition to any progress, the issue is being used to further demonise Sinn Féin. The British government, by failing to intervene, is clearly walking away from its commitment and helping David Trimble to continue and breach the Agreement.

Punishment attacks, and the Ulster Unionist Party's letter to Amnesty International was a further effort to distract attention from the implementation of the Agreement and attempt to exclude Sinn Féin from the decision-making process. This is further worrying as it shows how Unionists, aided by FAIT's Vincent McKenna and Patrick Mayhew, intend to use human rights issues to serve the narrow unionist agenda.

The way in which David Trimble is unveiling his agenda is also increasingly threatening. After having stated his intention to ``park'' the process and attempting to impose a Unionist veto by bringing in preconditions, he is now actively seeking to renegotiate the Agreement. The call for a new series of round-table talks and a return of George Mitchell is inconceivable at this stage of the process. The Agreement is explicit and Sinn Féin is standing up to its commitment.

As the political vacuum created by David Trimble deepens, it is once again ordinary nationalist people who have to face the consequences. While the wave of sectarian terror waged by loyalist death squads is intensifying, eleven nationalist families of the Garvaghy Road have been forced to move house following frequent loyalist incursions into the area.

Meanwhile, fears are heightened as pictures of loyalists rearming and retraining appear in the media.

The presence of British Crown Forces is also increasing in South Armagh and Tyrone.

The difficulties of the peace process have recently been presented as a dispute between the Ulster Unionist Party and Sinn Féin. This distorted view must be challenged. Sinn Féin has stood up to its commitments and has no more room to manoeuvre. Attempts to corner republicans are increasingly worrying as they only contribute to further prevent a historical compromise from being implemented.

Almost ten months after the Agreement was brokered, the onus lies on every party to stand up to its commitment. More importantly, it is the governments who now have a responsibility to ensure the immediate implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. There are no preconditions. The Agreement cannot be further delayed or diluted. It is now time to put an end to the political vacuum, time to stop the process from further sinking, and time for all parties to deliver on their commitments.

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