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20 May 1999 Edition

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Trimble reneges on Downing Street deal

BY SEAN BRADY

     
The new Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle met on Saturday and despite its reservations gave approval to the Downing Street proposition.
David Trimble, however, emerged from his own meetings on Saturday seeking clarification on a position to which he had already signed up.

Following the launch of his party's local election campaign in Dublin on Wednesday, 19 May, Gerry Adams flew to London to head a Sinn Féin delegation in urgent talks with the British Prime Minister over the latest initiative to break the political logjam and implement the Good Friday Agreement.

As An Phoblacht went to press, negotiations were continuing but it was reported that David Trimble was on his way back to Ireland and would not be returning to take part in discussions scheduled for Thursday morning. Senior Unionist Party figures were quoted as saying that it was ``back to the drawing board'' as far as the proposition agreed the previous week was concerned.

Wednesday's discussions came after David Trimble's surprise rejection of the proposition reached by the parties and the two governments in Downing Street on Friday, 14 May and to which he had initially agreed.

The Downing Street proposition was designed to immediately trigger the d'Hondt mecahnism setting up the shadow cabinet of the Belfast Assembly and provided for the transfer of powers by 30 June.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Gerry Adams called on the two governments and all the party leaders who participated in the discussions to ``uphold the spirit and the letter of the position agreed between them last Friday. From our perspective, the focus of that meeting will be once again to save the Good Friday Agreement. We are very disappointed that the UUP are still refusing to join with the rest of us in that endeavour.''

He added that David Trimble had emerged from his meeting with the Assembly members of his party on Saturday `seeking clarification'. ``I thought that to be fair enough. But it is now Tuesday and I would be very surprised if clarification had not yet been provided. Mr. Trimble's main aim at this time appears to be to play for time and to use the request for clarification as a cover for renegotiating and delay. This does not set a very good context for resolving those outstanding matters but Sinn Féin will do our best'', he said.

     
Unionist obstruction, coupled with the failure of both governments so far to effectively defend the integrity of the Agreement,has led to a serious loss of momentum and confidence. Trimble's stance of ``no guns/no government'' is no part of the Agreement but is rather an obstacle erected against its implementation.
Gerry Adams's comments came after David Trimble branded the compromise formula ``inadequate and incomplete''. This dramatic and dangerous U-turn was highlighted during the day not only by Sinn Féin but Deputy First Minister Designate Seamus Mallon, who confirmed that David Trimble had agreed to the proposals during a round-table session in Downing Street on Friday evening.

Since the Good Friday Agreement was reached, the Ulster Unionist Party leadership has attempted variously to reinterpret, renegotiate and rewrite it on unionist terms. The result is that the Agreement has not been implemented either in the timeframe envisaged nor on the terms which were agreed.

Unionist obstruction, coupled with the failure of both governments so far to effectively defend the integrity of the Agreement,has led to a serious loss of momentum and confidence. Trimble's stance of ``no guns/no government'' is no part of the Agreement but is rather an obstacle erected against its implementation.

The Agreement required that the shadow institutions be established as soon as possible after last June's elections. They have not yet been established. The shadow all-Ireland Ministerial Council was to have met and completed a work programme by 31 October last year. It has not yet met.

The all-Ireland Implementation Policy Bodies were to have been agreed by 31 October last year. They were not agreed until February this year and only then at the insistence of the unionist leadership, in a much-diluted form.

The selection of ministers was to have taken place on 10 March. It did not. Then it was to take place in the week beginning 29 March. Again this did not happen. Then it was to happen by Easter. The ministers have still not been selected.

Thirteen months on and the transfer of powers has not taken place.

It was against such a backdrop of broken deadlines, breaches of the agreement, political vacuum and growing loyalist violence that the parties and governments convened in London last week.

Motivated by a determination to see the Good Friday Agreement implemented and the credibility and integrity of the peace process protected, Sinn Féin put forward proposals which, while set firmly within the terms of the Agreement, would again stretch the republican constituency. Even though republicans were under no obligation to do so, they were prepared to make another serious attempt to resolve the impasse and salvage the Good Friday Agreement.

Last Friday the two governments, Sinn Féin, the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP spent over 10 hours in intensive discussions. The new Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle met on Saturday and despite its reservations gave approval to the Downing Street proposition.

David Trimble, however, emerged from his own meetings on Saturday seeking clarification on a position to which he had already signed up.

Trimble's main aim now, as it has been since the Good Friday Agreemnet was reached, is to play for time, using requests for clarification as a cover for renegotiation and delay. He also appears to want to get Orange marches down the Garvaghy Road as part of his tactical approach to the Agreement. Unionism's approach remains one of prevarication, delay and subversion.

The governments have allowed numerous deadlines to be broken on the basis of unionist demands. The Agreement is being continually breached and confidence in it is being eroded because of the governments' failure to call Trimble's bluff and proceed to implement the Agreement.

Tony Blair must now stick to his 30 June deadline, set up the institutions, and implement the Agreement which was endorsed by a huge majority of this country's people over a year ago.

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