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19 April 2001 Edition

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Peace process needs urgent attention

Elections should not distract focus - McGuinness



Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator and Six-County Minister for Education, Martin McGuinness is urging the political parties and the British and Dublin governments to remain focused on breaking the stalemate in the peace process.

Speaking to An Phoblacht, McGuinness said that the parties and the British government should not be distracted by the oncoming local and general elections across Britain and in the Six Counties. ``A lot of spade work'' will be required, before the June elections, if agreement is to be reached on policing, demilitarisation and the arms issue, he said.

``We are of the view that just because we are facing a possible election, that does not mean people should stop facing up to their responsibilities.''

McGuinness said Sinn Féin will be keeping up contacts with both governments in an attempt to create renewed impetus for talks. However, he added, the party will not accept any attempts to renegotiate the Good Friday Agreement.

The Sinn Féin negotiator was also critical of David Trimble's continued ban on Sinn Féin ministers attending North-South Ministerial Council meetings. The UUP leader's actions had ``complicated and hindered'' the political process, he said.

Electioneering could not be used as an excuse for Trimble to continue to endanger the Agreement, as he looks over his shoulder at DUP gains, warned McGuinness.

``People in our community will be looking to see if David Trimble as Ulster Unionist Party leader is going to come out fighting for the Agreement or come out, as he has done in the past, with a strategy that goes both ways.

``The lesson for Mr Trimble from South Antrim is that that strategy doesn't work. It handed the seat to the DUP. We want to see him embrace the Good Friday Agreement, work for the Good Friday Agreement, go out and bat for the Good Friday Agreement.''
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