An Phoblacht 2 - 2022 small

2 September 2004 Edition

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Ten years on

Ten years ago, the Irish Republican Army took a bold and courageous initiative to forward the attaining of a lasting political settlement in Ireland.

The decision to announce a cessation was enormous and many republicans worried that it was a risk too far. The reaction of the British Government and of unionists offered little to re-assure the pessimists. They chose to wrongly interpret the cessation as a sign of weakness and refused to take the steps necessary of them to copperfasten the Peace Process.

In February 1996, "with great reluctance", the IRA announced the end of its cessation after 527 days.

The British Government had acted "in bad faith" and the then Prime Minister John Major and the unionist leaders had squandered "this opportunity to resolve the conflict".

In July 1997, following consultation with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, the IRA reinstated its cessation, stating it was "prepared to enhance the search for a democratic peace settlement through real and inclusive negotiations".

An IRA spokesperson explained that the key elements in the restoration of the cessation "were that the new British Labour Government moved with some speed after taking office to deal with the need for all-inclusive negotiations and the new Fianna Fáil-led government in the South moved to help put a Peace process back on the rails from an Irish point of view".

The subsequent Good Friday Agreement justified the IRA's decision, and the historic deal was backed by the people of Ireland in referenda.

Since then, the Army has reiterated its support for the Peace Process and has taken further bold initiatives, around the issue of arms, to help remove obstacles to progress. In the attempt to secure a lasting peace, neither the IRA nor Sinn Féin have been found wanting.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for successive British Governments or for the political representatives of unionism, who have invariably retreated to the familiar negativity of rejectionism.

The biggest obstacle to a breakthrough next week is the unwillingness of unionism and the British Government to embrace the changes that are necessary.

For too long the British have pandered to unionist rejectionists, for too long the NIO, with its inbuilt unionist bias, has been allowed to happily assist this wreckers' charter.

Tony Blair needs to confront these securocrats at the heart of his system if we are to build upon the potential which exists and deliver the sort of holistic package that is required.

Sinn Féin's objective going into the negotiations is to end the crisis in the process and restore the political institutions.

The talks offer a chance for both governments to commit themselves to implementing the Agreement in full. The British Government in particular must finally put the Peace Process first.

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