4 July 2002 Edition
Déjà vu at the Castle
BY MICHAEL PIERSE
Today, Thursday 4 July's negotiations at Hillsborough Castle, called at the behest of UUP leader David Trimble, have a great deal more to do with the Six-County Assembly elections next year than with current sectarian violence on the streets of Belfast.
Mirroring the Weston Park negotiations of exactly one year ago, the UUP leader, in a bid to outflank the DUP, will be yet again attempting to create a crisis around the IRA, this time in relation to unfounded allegations of republican involvement in the Castlereagh RUC barracks raid on St Patrick's Day; and about Colombia.
Gerry Adams told the inaugural dinner for Alex Maskey's mayoralty, on Saturday 29 June, that the response from republicans will be the same:
"I want to repeat again tonight what I said last July in London, that I am totally committed to playing a leadership role in bringing a permanent end to political conflict on our island, including the end of physical force republicanism."
Trimble was advised at a recent internal UUP meeting to avoid the antics that marginalised the UUP at last year's Weston Park Summit. At the time he insisted only one issue - IRA decommissioning - was up for discussion. All the other parties disagreed and Trimble's demands were unceremoniously dropped.
Meanwhile, following the banning by the Parades Commission of yet another parade from the Garvaghy Road, the British Secretary of State, John Reid, held talks with the UDA's Johnny Adair, John White and 18 other representatives of the Loyalist Commission, an umbrella group for loyalist death squads, unionist politicians and church leaders. The same organisation launched the much derided "no first strike" policy recently.
As we enter the height of the Orange Order marching season, many nationalists are bracing themselves for an escalation of loyalist sectarian violence.
Living in fear
Little Shauna Shepherd stands at the barrier at the bottom of Newington Street in North Belfast.
The RUC/PSNI have said they are going to remove this barrier, which affords the residents of Newington Street some protection from loyalist death squads. This pitiful excuse for a policing service has cited ``operational matters''. The threat to nationalist residents is very real, as this area has been under sustained attack from loyalists for the last 18 months. It is one of the most bombed streets in North Belfast, as it sits across the so-called peaceline from loyalist Tiger's Bay.
``Operational matters have never saved any lives in this community,'' says Sinn Féin's Gerard Brophy. ``I am not worried about operational matters; I am worried about lives in this community.''
Adams calls for end to 'interface violence'
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has called for an end to the ongoing street disturbances that have become a feature of life for people living on interfaces throughout Belfast.
Speaking at the launch of the 15th West Belfast Féile programme on Tuesday, Adams said: "The street disturbances are not in the interests of nationalists and republicans who want to see the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement."
He went on to stress that this violence was not in the interests of the people, in beleaguered interface areas who are suffering the brunt of the violence.
The Sinn Féin leader also disparaged the view within unionist circles that there existed a republican strategy of street agitation. "There is not," he affirmed.
He argued that unionists were being "wound up" by the anti-Agreement elements and urged that, "despite the provocations and the real threat to nationalist communities, nationalists should not do or say anything that plays into the hands of the anti-Agreement agenda".
Adams called on "all sections of our people to stand up against sectarianism".