4 August 2005 Edition
Seize the opportunity -implement the Agreement
Seize the opportunity —implement the Agreement
The IRA's decision to ends its armed campaign has met with widespread political support across Ireland and internationally. There is recognition at all senior political levels here and aboard, and among the vast majority of people, not just of the historic nature of the IRA move, but also of the need for political momentum to be maintained in the Peace Process.
In straightforward terms this means that the Irish and British Governments need to push forward with the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and the restoration of the political institutions established by it.
It also means that the days of Ian Paisley and the DUP being allowed to prevent political progress comes to an end. Given the reaction of the DUP in the days since the IRA announcement it appears as if Ian Paisley would have preferred that the IRA had not made its move at all.
Tony Blair needs to advise the DUP, on behalf of the British Government, that the Good Friday Agreement is going to be delivered and that the opportunities presented by last week's IRA initiative have to be seized.
It is long past time for the DUP to face up to their political responsibilities and start representing the interests of those who vote for them. Sooner rather than later they need to sit down face-to-face with Irish republicans to work out the way forward.
The announcement by the British Government of a strategy to demilitarise society in the Six Counties including the disbandment of the notorious, locally-recruited loyalist militia — the Royal Irish Regiment (RIR) is welcome but long overdue.
Sinn Féin has been consistent over the course of the Peace Process so far in demanding that the British Government remove its war machine from the North of Ireland. Sinn Féin has consistently called for the British Government to produce a comprehensive strategy to achieve demilitarisation. Any such strategy had to include the future of the RIR.
The continuing role of the RIR, its sectarian composition and its collusion with unionist paramilitary death squads has been brought up time after number by Sinn Féin representatives and in the party's encounters with the British Government. The British announcement of a scheme to disband the RIR Battalions belatedly deals with this issue.
The start which the British Government has made to the demilitarisation process is just that, a start. The moves by the British Army to pack up in South Armagh must be built upon across the entire Six Counties. As the Peace Process moves ahead, demilitarisation must be advanced further and the job completed as quickly as possible.