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25 February 1999 Edition

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March deadline must be met

Sunday's rally in Belfast is a demonstration of nationalist discontent.

``Nationalists must send the message to the British and Dublin governments that they will not allow unionists to bring down the Good Friday Agreement'', Sinn Fein national chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin told AP/RN on Wednesday 24 February.

``Nationalists are angry that unionists have been able to block the implementation of the Agreement. The overwhelming majority of people in Ireland voted for the Agreement. They voted for change yet the unionist veto has prevented change and unless the British government ensures the unionists live up to their responsibility then the Agreement will collapse'', warned McLaughlin.

The Sinn Fein chairperson went on to say: ``There are no preconditions in the Agreement and the Executive and All-Ireland Implementation bodies must be set up by the March 10 deadline. The next couple of weeks represent a crucial phase in the peace process and it is essential that the March 10 deadline is not missed''.

McLaughlin added: ``It is time to end the unionist veto and implement the Agreement in full. Sinn Fein's mandate must be respected. 175,000 Sinn Fein voters cannot be silenced, our voters are not going to be treated like second class citizens. We are calling on all people to attend the rally this coming Sunday February 28 and demonstrate for an end of the unionist veto''.

The march and rally on Sunday is a demand for democracy, the unionist veto and failure to implement the agreement is anti-democratic. The British and Dublin governments cannot allow the unionists to undermine what is a basic right. We are all equals, and our votes, the Sinn Fein mandate cannot be subjected to a unionist veto. Add your voice to the demand for democracy, be there on Sunday.

 

Not an inch of progress



By Caítlin Doherty

Nationalists are expressing growing concern as another week slips by without a move towards any concrete progress and as the political vacuum created by David Trimble grows.

In the light of Unionist blocking tactics and obstructionist politics, there are increasing doubts about the peace process itself. At this stage of the process, it is important not to underestimate the potential consequences of further delay in the implementation of the Agreement.

The vote on the final document on the Assembly Executive, the All-Ireland bodies and the All-Ireland Ministerial council last week was a milestone. Over two-thirds of the Assembly voted in favour of the crucial document. The No-camp was clearly defeated. The vote signalled the will of the vast majority of people to move the process forward.

In the days after the vote, after having defeated the No-camp and the potential internal rebels, the onus was on David Trimble to stand up to his committments. The vote demonstrated that Trimble is not in a weak position in terms of the unionist block. He is clearly now in a commanding position and has the ability move the situation forward. The major responsibility however is now on Mo Mowlam to trigger the setting-up of the Executive and respect Sinn Féin's mandate.

But no move has yet been made. Not an inch of progress has been reached. Instead, the Unionists, led by David Trimble, are only digging themselves further into political stalemate. A week after the last technical obstacle to the setting-up of the Executive was lifted, the unionists continue their game of political obstruction and delaying tactics.

By doing so, not only is David Trimble unveiling the true agenda of his party but is also lending weight to the minority that is clearly opposed to the Agreement and whose only intention is to hold-up its implementation.

The clear failure of the unionist political leadership to stand by their committments and show a willingness to embrace change is best illustrated by the decommissioning issue. This question has been cherry-picked out of the Agreement and is still brandished by the Unionists as a precondition to the implementation of the Good Friday document. It is not a precondition and never has been. This issue, like all the others, has to be dealt with in the framework spelt out in the Agreement.

David Trimble, in trying to rewrite the Agreement, is being given a green light by the British government. So far, Mo Mowlam is only helping David Trimble in his attempt to silence the voice of the nationalist and republican community. It is not only 175, 000 Sinn Féin votes that are being censured. It is also the one of the vast majority of the people of the island who called for the Agreement they backed to be fully and swiftly implemented.

At this stage of the process, good faith and commitment from all those involved in the process is needed. No one can allow the Good Friday Agreement to collapse. The deadline for the formation of the shadow Executive has been missed due to Unionist stalling and prevarication.

In this context, it is essential that the deadline of March 10th for the devolution of powers from London to Belfast not be missed. The unionist veto over the whole peace process must be broken.

That veto, as part of a strategy to deny the nationalist community their voice, and re-negotiate the Agreement is far reaching. The stalemate is clearly designed at containing the debate at a highly political level and preventing the wider nationalist community from intervening.

This situation must be challenged by every means. The strength of the nationalist and republican movement is in it's base, at a community and grass-roots level. The rally planned on Saturday is the occasion to express anger at the Unionist veto, call for an immediate implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and counter David Trimble and the British government's attempts to exclude the wider community from the dynamics and crucial decisions relating to the peace process.

As the political vacuum deepens, the dividends of the current peace for nationalists and republicans in the six Counties are hard to come by. While the Patten commission continues to process information, the RUC is pursuing it's charm offensive. As reports of RUC harassment pile up, this Unionist paramilitary force continues to make bogus statements to attempt to deny Sinn Féin its right to participate in new political structures. In their pronouncements, the securocrats clearly continue to pursue an overtly political and unionist agenda. The RUC's latest public relations stunt takes the form of a ``performance'' survey, distributed to homes and businesses.

This publicity blitz occurs at a time when the Hamill family has to cope with the grief of seeing the RUC members that assisted in killing young Robert remain unchallenged. In terms of justice, the Hamill family hold out little hope that the current prosecution will bring them justice. An independent investigation should have been launched months ago into the murder of the young man not only by leading human rights organisations, but more so by the British government.

The mainstream media continue to ignore the ongoing siege of the nationalist residents of the Garvaghy Road and the consequences this traditional sectarian pattern of violence has on the Catholic youth of the town and the wider nationalist community.

Further sectarian violence has also rocked Belfast where loyalists have attempted to abduct nationalists. On Wednesday morning a delivery driver stopped on the Ormeau Embankment was approached by an armed and masked man. The RUC did not inform the media of the incident and have subsequently denied that any serious incident occurred.

The Red Hand Defenders have also admitted the bomb attack on a nationalist resident living in the Greymount area. They also admitted having to abandon an attempt to abduct a leading Republican on the Whitewell Road. North Belfast Sinn Fein Councillor Danny Lavery was on constituency business in the area at the time and it appears that this planned abduction was directed at him.

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