20 September 2001 Edition
Fresh IRA initiative
The following statement from the leadership of Óglaigh na hÉireann was received by An Phoblacht as we went to print. The IRA begins by extending its sympathy to the people of the United States following last week's attack. As ``an earnest of our willingness to resolve the issue of arms'', the IRA confirms that its representative will intensify engagement with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) ``with a view to accelerating progress towards the comprehensive resolution of this issue''. The IRA also makes it clear that the Army Council ``sent no one to Colombia to train or to engage in any military cooperation with any group''. The full IRA statement is reproduced below:
``First of all we wish to extend our sympathy to the people of the United States and especially to the families and friends of the victims of the deplorable attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
On August 8 we confirmed that the IRA leadership had agreed a scheme with the IICD to put IRA arms completely and verifiably beyond use. This unprecedented IRA initiative was the result of lengthy discussions with the IICD over a long period. It was another expression of our willingness to enhance the peace process and it involved considerable problems for us and for our organisation.
The IRA leadership's ability to speedily and substantially progress the decision was completely undermined by the setting of further preconditions and the outright rejection of the IICD statement by the UUP leadership. Subsequent actions by the British government including a continued failure to fulfil its commitments, removed the conditions necessary for progress. On August 14 we withdrew our proposal.
However, as an earnest of our willingness to resolve the issue of arms, the IRA leadership wish to confirm that our representative will intensify the engagement with the IICD. This dialogue is within the context of our commitment to deal satisfactorily with the question of arms. It is with a view to accelerating progress towards the comprehensive resolution of this issue.
Progress will be directly influenced by the attitude of other parties to the peace process, including and especially, the British government. The IRA's commitment is without question. However, as we have said before, peace making and peace keeping is a collective effort. It is our considered view that the Irish peace process can succeed. The continued failure or refusal to sustain political process and to deliver real and meaningful change has a direct bearing on how this will be accomplished.
The IRA has contributed, consistently and in a meaningful way to the creation of a climate which would facilitate the search for a durable settlement. We will continue to do so including through our engagement with the IICD, particularly at this difficult time, and in the period immediately ahead.
We also wish to state our attitude to the arrests of three Irishmen in Colombia. There has been a lot of ill-founded and mischievous speculation about these arrests and some ill-considered and aggressive comment directed at our organisation.
We wish to make it clear that the Army Council sent no one to Colombia to train or to engage in any military cooperation with any group. The IRA has not interfered in the internal affairs of Colombia, and will not do so. The IRA is not a threat to the peace process in Ireland or in Colombia. The three men have asserted their support for the process and we accept that.''
Irish Republican Publicity Bureau,
Events in America overshadow crisis at home
BY MICHAEL PIERSE
It should not be the prerogative of John Reid, David Trimble, or any other individual, or sectional interest to do as they please with institutions that should belong to the people they are there to represent
The sheer enormity of the attacks on the US, in terms of human suffering and in terms of global political consequences, overshadowed and dwarfed political life in Ireland this week.
In his speech to the Assembly, Gerry Adams captured the feeling of loss that touched at the heart of so many Irish people, yet hoped that, through a common determination to resolve the conflict in Ireland, we, as a nation, could play our part in contributing to a better world order.
``The best contribution the parties represented here, along with the Irish and British governments, can make to world peace, to the cause of justice throughout the world, to the memory of those who have died in the USA, in conflicts around the world, including our own country, is to make our peace process work,'' he said. ``When viewed in the awful context of other conflicts, or in the enormity of human suffering in New York and Washington, it is true to say that great progress has been made here. Is this to be squandered?''
Sadly, it is those factional interests that are now threatening the stability of the institutions, a new beginning to policing and the confidence invested, democratically, by over two million people in Ireland, in the Good Friday Agreement.
Sunday, 23 September, will mark the passing of yet another frustrating deadline in the peace process. Frustrating, because despite all the associated media clichés about `down-to-the-wire', `round table', `emergency' talks, that perceived sense of crisis has so far eluded the British government and unionism. All the signs point to John Reid yet again suspending the Executive, or calling an Assembly election, or launching a review of the entire process, or engaging in some other myopic, senseless act of desperation - rather than face up to unionism and defend the integrity of the institutions. The real issue, is that it should not be the prerogative of John Reid, David Trimble, or any other individual, or sectional interest to do as they please with institutions that should belong to the people they are there to represent.
The British Police Act and recently published implementation plan pose further problems because of pandering to sectional interests. In supporting the plan, the SDLP and the Dublin government broke the consensus of support for the Patten Commission recommendations and also alienated the majority of nationalist and republican opinion in the Six Counties.
Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly on Monday led a party delegation to meet the 26-County Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowen. The meeting addressed Sinn Féin's concerns on policing, issues surrounding the Criminal Justice review and the imbalance of representation on the Human Rights Commission in the Six Counties. Kelly also raised the ongoing blockade of the Holy Cross Primary school in Ardoyne.
On policing, Kelly said: ``No one is claiming that we have the required new beginning - not the British government and certainly not the Irish government or the SDLP. All accept that there is a gap to be closed, even if there is disagreement on exactly what constitutes that gap.
``The British government Implementation Plan is designed to implement that flawed Police Act. It does not and cannot amend the legislation. The Policing Board, the Chief Constable or political parties cannot amend this legislation. The only people who can amend the Act is the British government.''
Kelly said that while he respects the right of both the Dublin government and the SDLP to take the position they have now embraced, he believes it was a premature move.
``It would have served the national interest and indeed the Good Friday Agreement better if the British government had been faced with a unified demand for it to fulfil its obligations on the issue,'' he said. ``For instance, Patten required that human rights abusers in the RUC be dealt with. The British government has refused to create a means for doing this. Instead they have granted a virtual amnesty to those involved in torture, collusion and other abuses.''
Kelly said that those ``who have abused human rights in the past simply transfer wholesale'' into the new police force. ``There are no powers to weed out these people or to deal effectively with those who abuse human rights in the future. Instead, the British government has chosen to formally given protection in the future to people like Special Branch agents and the Special Branch handlers involved in human rights abuses.''