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10 June 1999 Edition

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New talks announced amid increasing violence

BY SEAN BRADY

     
The vacuum generated by the failure to implement the Good Friday Agreement is being increasingly filled by loyalist bomb and gun attacks on nationalists, and the wholesale intimidation of the Garvaghy Road community.
The past week saw urgent calls from Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams to the British government to take hold of the political situation which has descended inexorably into heightened loyalist violence and increased political tension in the build-up to the now annual Drumcree siege.

On Sunday, Adams said the onus was on the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his government to uphold the rights of the people on Portadown's Garvaghy Road: ``This beleaguered community have suffered greatly at the hands of the Orange fundamentalists and the nationalist people of Portadown have been targeted as part of a vicious sectarian campaign.''

The demand of the Orangemen to march down the Garvaghy Road was ``at the core'' of the loyalist campaign of violence, said Adams.

``There is no absolute right to march but there is an abligation on both the British government and the Irish government to uphold the rights of the people of Portadown to be free from sectarian harassment.''

On Monday, Adams said that he had been in touch with both the Irish and British governments and that he was seeking an urgent meeting with the British Secretary of State, Mo Mowlam, to urge the two governments to urgently reconvene the Downing Street discussions.

Adams said: ``The vacuum generated by the failure to implement the Good Friday Agreement is being increasingly filled by loyalist bomb and gun attacks on nationalists, and the wholesale intimidation of the Garvaghy Road community.

``Ten men, women and children have died as a result of this intimidation and attacks, including Elizabeth O'Neill on Saturday.

``The rejectionists and the right wing of unionism are being allowed to dictate the political agenda, to subvert the peace process and undermine public morale. This situation needs to be reversed. All of the parties need to be brought together.

``The two governments should now indicate their intention to reconvene the Downing Street discussions so that the political institutions can be put in place in advance of 30 June. These talks should begin immediately after the election. Too much time has already been wasted.''

On Tuesday evening, the Dublin government announced that a final attempt would be made to break the political deadlock before 30 June. This is the deadline which was set by Tony Blair for the establishment of the institutions provided for under the Good Friday Agreement. The latest initiative will be made after the EU elections in a series of intensive talks in Belfast and London.

The talks may begin as early as next Tuesday and will involve both governments and all parties in favour of the Good Friday Agreement. The governments are to contact the political parties over the following days to work out the finer details of where, when and how the talks will proceed.

Speaking in Dublin on Wednesday morning, 9 June, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams welcomed the announcement and said: ``Over the last few days I have engaged in an intensive lobby of both the Irish and British governments to get them to announce the details and the start of the intensive negotiations which will be required if the Good Friday Agreement is to be put back on the rails before the 30 June deadline.

``The need for such an announcement and for firm commitments by the governments regarding this next round of talks is obvious, given the constant loyalist campaign and the lack of will within unionism to deliver on the committments of the Good Friday Agreement. However, it is not enough for us to have yet another round of negotiations. Political will is required if the next round of talks is to succeed.

The only way forward is in the terms of the Agreement. Whatever difficulties this represents - and we all have difficulties - the Good Friday Agreement is meaningless unless it is implemented.''
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