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23 September 1999 Edition

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British must deliver on Agreement

BY SEAN BRADY

As the Review of the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement this week entered what U.S. Senator George Mitchell described as an ``intense'' period, Sinn Féin held its first face-to-face meeting with the Ulster Unionist Party since July.

The two-hour meeting between Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness and UUP leader David Trimble took place this Tuesday, 21 September, and was also attended by George Mitchell. Gerry Adams later went on to meet a delegation from the SDLP.

Speaking after those meetings, and one day after the UUP began a legal challenge to Sinn Féin's participation in the review process, Gerry Adams expressed clear scepticism about the sincerity of the unionist position.

``At the beginning of the review process I expressed my confidence that if the political will existed, we could succeed in ending the current crisis and implement the Good Friday Agreement,'' he said. ``The widespread view among nationalists and republicans at this time is the UUP does not have the political will to implement the Agreement. On the contrary, the `No' camp now appears to be in control of policy and decision making within the UUP. Despite this we are determined to do our best.''

Also criticising the UUP stance Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty said: ``For six years now, unionism has set its face against change - against the peace process and its underlying principles - inclusivity, equality, justice and the viability of politics.

``The alliance of David Trimble and Jeffrey Donaldson, as well as developments over the summer, are evidence that `No'' politics, the politics of intransigence, are dominating the UUP.

``Unionism is seeking to veto hope, veto the exepectation for peace, and veto change. It must not succeed. Politics must be seen to work. That is the alternative to conflict that we are attempting to build. The responsibility for meeting the challenge presented by unionist inflexibility rests with the two governments but primarily the British government.

``The British Prime Minister once said the status quo is not an option. He must deliver on that rhetoric.''

Senior negotiator Martin McGuinness indicated that all the parties had to accept collective responsibility. He said that the ``big problem is that the unionists do not think they have a responsibility to engage''.

When asked if he believed a deal was possible, Gerry Adams said: ``We have to accept that this current UUP leadership and the other leaderships in this process are the best bet that we have.''

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness meet Mo Mowlam on Thursday, 23 September. The Sinn Féin leaders will impress upon the Secretary of State the major responsibility of the British government to get the process moving again.

The British government, as one of the parties which drew up the Good Friday Agreement, is critical to its implementation. But to do that, its approach to date will have to change. It must again take the initiative and force the political pace.

The Patten Report has been published, but the reality is that the RUC continues to be a problem. There has been no real movement on demilitarisation or on the equality or human rights agendas. Isolated communities do not have freedom from sectarian harassment. All of these are issues of basic rights. They are also key elements of the Agreement.

If the process is to succeed, all participants must refocus so that the Agreement is implemented. Only the British government can create the conditions which will bring this about. Tony Blair holds the key. The Good Friday Agreement provides the only way forward. It cannot be renegotiated at the behest of unionism.

On Thursday 23 September, Sinn Féin officially launches its submission to the Mitchell Review.

The party believes believes that the review of the implementation of the Agreement should conclude:

That all parties to the Agreement, including the two governments, have an obligation to implement all aspects of the Agreement.

That the Agreement has not been implemented in the key areas of the political institutions, the Executive, the all-Ireland Ministerial Council, the British-Irish Council and the all-Ireland Implementation Bodies.

That there is no precondition to the establishment of the Executive, the all-Ireland Ministerial Council and the British-Irish Council other than the elections to mandate their membership, which took place in June 1998.

That there is no precondition to membership of the Executive other than sufficient political support and the taking and honouring of the pledge of office.

That the Executive, the all-Ireland Ministerial Council and the British-Irish Council should have already been established.

That the Executive, the all-Ireland Ministerial Council and the

British-Irish Council should now be established.

That the transfer of powers to these institutions should be immediate.

That the all-Ireland implementation bodies should begin to function immediately.

That all of the parties have an obligation to work constructively and in good faith with the Independent Commission on Decommissioning and to use any influence they may have to bring about decommissioning.

That the other elements of the Agreement should continue to be implemented as negotiated and agreed on Good Friday 1998.''

At this stage, while unionists remain engaged in a what has become a marathon filibuster, it needs to be made clear that whatever way unionist tactics pan-out during the review, the British government must deliver on the Agreement.
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