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26 July 2001 Edition

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Police Act unacceptable

The package of proposals expected to be unveiled by the British and Dublin governments this week must stay within the bounds of the Good Friday Agreement if they are to be accepted by republicans, says Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly.

Kelly spoke to An Phoblacht following a meeting yesterday (Wednesday 25 July) he held with Dublin Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Cowen and a delegation of residents from North Belfast to discuss ongoing sectarian attacks in the area.

The three men and three women who made up the delegation, including Ardoyne Sinn Féin councillor Margaret McClenaghan, told Cowen that they were of ``one mind'' that the UDA was orchestrating nightly attacks on their area and that they were dissatisfied with the behaviour of the RUC.

As they were meeting, a loyalist mob emerged from the Tigers Bay area of North Belfast and attacked homes on the nationalist Limestone Road.

One of the main concerns raised at the meeting was personal security arrangements for nationalist people and their homes, Kelly said. He pointed to an incident where phone numbers, ``not names, or addresses'' of RUC members were found in a stolen car recently, and each one of the RUC personnel was given £50,000 to secure their homes. ``This is in stark contrast to the treatment of nationalists, who have been ignored by the Housing Executive. Brian Cowen has pledged to raise this issue and others with the NIO.''

Kelly said that the new beginning to policing enivisaged by the Good Friday Agreement was something that residents in the North Belfast area were ``crying out for''. He said the policing issue would require amending legislation and that the British government must return to the Patten Commission report.

``We need to see amending legislation. If it does not stay within the bounds of the Good Friday Agreement then it will not be acceptable. I've no great confidence in the ability of the British government to deliver. We'll wait and see.''


Governments must do the right thing by the people


MEDIA and political speculation here continues to mount about the contents of a much comment-ed upon and long overdue package awaited from the Irish and British governments. This package has been in the making since Sinn Féin and the other pro-agreement parties met at Weston Park during the Twelfth week. It seems like ages ago now. In the meantime loyalists have continued their daily bomb attacks on Catholic homes, churches and businesses. Over the weekend they reached a new low when a Loyalist Volunteer Force gang attacked health care workers, medical staff and other workers in the Royal Victoria Hospital. A few days before that an armed gang opened fire on a community centre including a summer scheme for young children in north Belfast.

These attacks came not long before a claim by former First Minster David Trimble that the Good Friday agreement was unworkable. He failed to say that this is because he refuses to work it.

So it is clear that the agreement is under threat and under continued pressure from a number of sources. The ending of their ceasefires by most of the loyalist groups and the ongoing campaign of violence by these groups presents a huge difficulty. So too do Mr Trimble's tactics. The vacuum created by his resignation has been filled by rejectionist loyalists. All of this has created fear as well as anger among nationalists and republicans. This has been heightened by the partisan behaviour of the RUC.

But while the effects of all these dimensions to our current difficulties should not be underestimated, the greatest difficulty at this time comes from the British government. This is because of that government's refusal to fully embrace the Good Friday agreement and a tendency by it to reinvent it.

There are a number of examples of this. The most recent one came at the beginning of the Weston Park talks when the propositions put by the two governments fell short of the Good Friday agreement. It could be that the British governments position, for example on policing which falls significantly short of the Patten recommendations, is predicated on a concern to manage unionism including elements within the RUC and within its own system. That's the case made by apologists for Mr Blair's position.

But whatever the rationale, the ongoing refusal of Downing Street to commit itself to proposals that will create a genuinely new beginning to policing is unacceptable. It is also counterproductive and shortsighted.

If the British government is truly wedded to creating the vision of the Good Friday agreement it needs to realise that the democratic rights and entitlements of nationalists and republicans on a wide range of issues cannot be conditional.

These rights are universal rights.

So the real focus of democratic opinion needs to be upon London's stewardship of this process.

The real challenge facing the British government, and the Irish government as well, is to produce a package that delivers on all aspects of the agreement without pandering any further to unionism outside or inside the British system.

This means London and Dublin delivering on their obligations and commitments. If they fail to do this then their package cannot match the objectives they set for it at Weston Park.

As Mr Blair finalises his government's proposals he will no doubt reflect on this.

He needs also to consider how much progress has been achieved here.

He needs to reflect on his huge majority in the last election and on his obligations to and under the Good Friday agreement.

He is assured of the support and on going cooperation of the majority of people and political parties on this island if he sticks to the agreement.

He is also mandated by referendums and by the international treaty he agreed with the Irish government.

He needs to reflect on the historic opportunity that has been given to him.

And then.......?

And then he and the Taoiseach need to do the right thing.


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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