18 October 2001 Edition
Sinn Féin leaders toil to save process
Inaccurate and untrue rumours dismissed
In recent weeks there has been intense media speculation surrounding the supposed intentions of the IRA. Some journalists have claimed that the IRA leadership has already decided on decommissioning. Others have claimed that votes have been taken to that effect, others that an IRA convention is imminent or has taken place. The Irish Times on Wednesday even spoke of republicans being briefed to expect some move on decommissioning by the IRA.
This speculation has created enormous confusion and uncertainty, not just among republican activists but also wider afield. It has raised an expectation of a breakthrough not based on the current state of play.
An Phoblacht understands that all these rumours are inaccurate and untrue.
What is true is that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have been involved in intense negotiations with the two governments, the Ulster Unionists and others. These efforts to try and resolve the crisis triggered by David Trimble's actions and by the failure of the British government to honour their commitments have been ongoing for some time. The goal of the Sinn Féin leadership is to create a context in which progress is possible across a range of crucial matters leading to the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
As we go to print, however, that context for progress has not been achieved and Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness remain locked in concentrated discussions to try to create it. Gerry Adams has cleared his diary so that he can give a singular focus to this, while Martin McGuinness is devoting as much time as his ministerial responsibilities allow.
While sections of the media and the political establishments have a singular focus on the issue of weapons, Sinn Féin sees this in the wider context of the peace process as a whole. In the effort to create a political context in which progress is possible, it is essential that David Trimble makes clear his commitment to working and sustaining the institutions. Tony Blair also carries an enormous responsibility, given the British government's unfulfilled commitments on policing, demilitarisation, the equality and human rights agenda and other matters of concern.
Yesterday, however, David Trimble announced that the resignations of his party's three ministers will go ahead today.
As An Phoblacht goes to print, Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly, responding, said: "The decision and the responsibility for the Ulster Uninist Party ministers resigning is entirely a matter for the UUP and for the ministers concerned. They cannot dodge that issue or pass the blame to others.
"Sinn Féin will not be walking away from our political responsibilities. Our view on the UUP's attitude to the political institutions and their obligations is very clear. The responsibility of politicians is to make politics work. That is what the UUP should be doing."
Kid gloves for the UDA and the UUP
BY MICHAEL PIERSE
Bertie Ahern, in an exchange last week in the Dáil with Sinn Féin's Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, conveyed something of the kid-glove attitude to which David Trimble has become accustomed. That attitude reads as follows: The UUP leader is wrong in suspending the institutions, destructive and impossible in asking for the exclusion of Sinn Féin and placing a veto at every step, but what else is he to do with the internal UUP rumblings he has to contend with?
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: "Does the Taoiseach recall the letter from David Trimble to the members of the Ulster Unionist Council almost 12 months ago, 26 October 2000? In that letter, Mr Trimble outlined his strategy to increase pressure on republicans and nationalists progressively, to place responsibility on republicans and "only that way can suspension be achieved"? Surely what we have now is the out-working of this Unionist strategy for suspension of the Good Friday institutions?"
Bertie Ahern: "The answer to that question is contained in the judicial findings of both the High Court and the Supreme Court in Northern Ireland. They have said that what David Trimble did on that occasion was wrong. We said that from the start and we all agreed with it. Trying to undermine the institutions or operate vetoes in them is clearly unhelpful and the legal process has answered that question. As we go forward, that ruling is now there. I remember well the morning that happened. It was the last Saturday in October. The Deputy and I will remember the reason David Trimble played that card on that morning, and I do not need to say any more. I disagreed with it but, in fairness, he is not here to answer. I remember why he did it."
Why David Trimble 'played that card on that morning' is quite easily explained by those who are eager to defend his every move. We are constantly bombarded with the assumption that 'poor David's' 'delicate leadership' of the UUP is dependant on his ability to assuage hardline party elements. This, we are informed, is for the good of the peace process, but leaves the 'beleaguered' leader with little room for manoeuvre. The clichéd irony is, we are told, that republicans must bend over backwards to save David Trimble's political neck.
And, the argument goes that because hardline unionist politicians are ill-at-ease with sitting in the same room with representatives linked with people who have guns, the IRA must decommission.
The absurdity of all this was revealed at the weekend when The Observer carried a sensational report about links between the UDA and UUP MP David Burnside. Now, if one was to pick a UUP figure who characterises all that is anti-Agreement, anti-republican, and a recognised threat to Trimble's leadership, David Burnside might easily be that figure.
A man who has whined about silent IRA arms, about power sharing, about the involvement of the Dublin government in the peace process, has, apparently, been having the UDA over for tea. So much for the UUP hardliner's distaste for violence.
At a time when the UDA's ceasefire has finally, belatedly, been declared extinct by the British government, when unionists should be empowering their own communities to speak out against the endless drug-dealing, pipe-bombings, killings, gun attacks and harassment carried out by the UDA, Burnside, it transpires, is working with them hand-in-hand.
What's letting unionism away with this charade is a mass media and British political establishment that, in pandering to the UUP and UDA, is becoming as discredited as those organisations in the process.
Sinn Féin had been calling for some time for John Reid to publicly recognise the reality that the UDA cessation was over and had been over for some time. John Reid reneged two weeks ago when he accepted the word of the UDA that it would stop the violence. Now, finally, most possibly because RUC personnel came under UDA attack, rather than out of any real concern for the nationalists who have endured hundreds more, Reid has been forced to act.
And this concern for the RUC, over the people the new policing service is supposed to represent, was re-echoed in another political charade this week. Much was made of the official change in name of the RUC next month to 'Police Service of Northern Ireland'.
Reid also made much of the fact that 154 Catholics have been recruited into the 'new force'. Yet when pressed by Sinn Féin on how he intends build equality of representation at all levels within that force, it was revealed that the British government have no answers and no plan. The 154 Catholics will be nothing more than pawns in an unrepresentative, unreconstructed RUC and will be used to buffer the unionist 'cosy cartel'.
They will be part of the kid glove mindset, that sees the UDA as unruly children who might have to be sent to their beds early and the UUP as difficult teenagers who need to be appeased at all costs.