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31 May 2001 Edition

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`Trimble will not resign' - McGuinness

BY MICHAEL PIERSE

David Trimble will not resign after the coming local and Westminster elections, Sinn Féin's chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness said this week.

McGuinness (speaking before news broke on Wednesday of the latest visit to IRA arms dumps by international inspectors) said that a period of intense negotiations will follow the elections next week and that Trimble is likely to ditch his resignation commitment pending a successful outcome to these negotiations. Trimble announced that he would resign if the IRA does not decommission weapons before 1 July in a post-dated letter he read to the Six-County Assembly earlier this month. The letter prompted criticism from Sinn Féin and was slammed as an electoral ploy by Trimble's opponents in the DUP.

``I do not believe it is going to happen,'' McGuinness said of the UUP leader's proposed resignation. ``We will have very intensive negotiations, which I hope will have a very successful outcome.'' McGuinness said he believes that negotiations between the Assembly parties, the British government and the Dublin government will begin on 18 June. However, an official date for resumption of negotiations has not yet been fixed. Sinn Féin will be banking on its increased political mandate following the elections to boost the party's standing in subsequent negotiations.

``These elections are the most critical for the nationalist electorate in recent times,'' McGuinness said. ``It is critical that Sinn Féin returns to the negotiating table with a renewed and strengthened mandate. Sinn Féin has been the engine for change. When others had given up, it was Sinn Féin that demanded and then secured a commitment from the British government to amend the Police Bill.''

The Sinn Féin agenda for negotiations will mainly focus on the issues of policing, demilitarisation, the stability of the Good Friday political institutions and the issue of arms. McGuinness believes that only Sinn Féin will ``stand up'' to the British government on these issues.

On the issue of policing, which has possibly created the most controversy of all the issues up for negotiation, Sinn Féin will be focusing on four key areas, McGuinness said. The first, the democratic accountability of the new police service on various levels, includes the organisation being answerable to community bodies as well as the political institutions.

Secondly, the organisation must be representative of the community throughout the Six Counties at all levels, according to McGuinness. This will mean ending the sectarian imbalance of the RUC, whose membership is 93 per cent Protestant and entirely unionist, and ensuring that nationalists and republicans are represented at all levels of the service.

The third point McGuinness made related also to the issue of democratic accountability. The new police force must be free from ``partisan political control'', he said. By this he meant that the organisation cannot, in the estimation of Sinn Féin, be regulated solely by nationalist or unionist politicians, or by the British government.

Lastly, McGuinness said that a ``human rights culture'' must be developed for future policing. The RUC has been severely criticised in the past by Amnesty International, the United Nations and Human Rights Watch, who have all accused it of human rights violations.

This week also the RUC was criticised after firing plastic bullets at rioting youths on the Garvaghy Road. On Saturday night last, following a provocative Orange Order march, a riot ensued in which the RUC baton charged and fired at the youths. On the same night, in Oldham, England, up to 500 youths were involved in pitched battles with British police. While the RUC were quick to fire at a small group of youths on the Garvaghy Road, however, police in England were not prepared to do the same during a much larger riot.

Sinn Féin has been campaigning for an end to the use of plastic bullets, which have resulted in the deaths of 17 people, nine of them children, in the Six Counties since their introduction in the early 1970s.
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