7 December 2000 Edition
McGuinness lashes Mandelson's failures
IRA accuses British of bad faith
BY MICHAEL PIERSE
Martin McGuinness launched a scathing attack on British Secretary of State, Peter Mandelson, during a visit to Australia this week.
McGuinness, speaking prior to a meeting with the Australian Foreign Minister in Canberra, said that Mandelson has shown himself to be a ``peace wrecker rather than a peace maker.
``Peter Mandelson has inherited a unique and highly developed opportunity to resolve the historic conflict in Ireland. By his mishandling of this opportunity he has retarded the search for a lasting peace in Ireland and endangered the Good Friday Agreement.''
McGuinness said that the IRA's confidence-building initiative of 6 May this year was predicated on the previous day's commitments, by the British and Dublin governments, including commitments to the implementation of Patten and to demilitarisation.
``The IRA initiative was situated in this context and was wholly dependent on these committments being honoured. The British government reneged. I believe that this was primarily the responsibility of Peter Mandelson. And not only has he not honoured commitments given to nationalists and republicans, he has pursued with enthusiasm a pro-unionist agenda ever since, opposing demilitarisation, undermining the Patten recommendations and taking the power to fly the Union flag over the departments of nationalist and republican ministers.
``In short,'' he said, ``Peter Mandelson is a disaster''.
This disaster was acknowledged by the IRA in its statement issued on Tuesday, 5 December. Reiterating its commitment to the resolution of the arms issue, which it termed as a ``necessary step'', the army said that this would ``not happen on terms dictated by the British Government or the unionists''.
Outlining its fulfilment of commitments made, including the second inspection of arms dumps by the Independent Inernational Commission on Decommissioning, Oglaigh na hÉireann said that the British Government have failed to deliver on their promises.
``The British Government's approach to demilitarisation and their refusal to address the Good Friday Agreement's requirements for a new beginning to policing and other matters represents a failure by them to honour their commitments,'' said the statement.
Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast, Gerry Kelly, welcomed the IRA statement as ``a positive development in which the IRA asserts its commitments''. Of the Army's criticism of British intransigence on Patten and demilitarisation, Kelly said that what republicans require is ``substantial, in-your-face demilitarisation.
``The IRA has honoured all its obligations. It has demonstrated courage and vision. The onus of responsibility for real political progress now rests with the British Government.''
Kelly said that republicans and nationalists need to be careful and considered in their approach to the policing issue, amid increasing signs that some politicans and community leaders are now willing to toe the British line.
``Speaking to some Sinn Féin and SDLP supporters of late, I pick up a growing wariness that some parties might jump soon on the basis that the British Government has convinced them that there is no other choice or that further radical change is impossible.
``Sinn Féin stayed out of the 1996 Forum, when the SDLP jumped on, only to jump off later. The `Heads of Agreement' document was presented by the British Government to the political parties in January 1998, which substantially diluted the Framework Document of 1997. Sinn Féin refused to accept it; there were those tempted to go with it even though we were at a crucial point in the negotiations.
``Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Catholic Church and the Irish government have, from their separate directions, come to the same conclusions as Clifford Shearing.'' Shearing, who himself sat on the Patten Commission, came out last month in denouncing the Police Bill passed by the British Government as a subversion of the Patten Report.
``Let none of us jump to Mandelson's drum,'' Kelly said. ``It is far better to keep the British Government at the drawing board until they get it right than to go for something fundamentally flawed that would perpetuate the disaster of the RUC, possibly under another name.''