25 August 2005 Edition
The real threat to the Peace Process
PD President Michael McDowell's comments this week in relation to the Colombia 3 should ring alarm bells for anyone concerned with the protection of civil rights.
McDowell's blatant disregard for the evidence produced at the trial in Colombia, which found Martin McAuley, Niall Connolly and Jim Monaghan innocent of all the major charges levelled against them puts a question mark over his suitability as a Minister for Justice.
His claim that Gerry Adams and the Sinn Féin leadership had anything to do with the men's trip to Colombia amounts to the most blatant and pathetically transparent political opportunism.
That these three men have returned safely to Ireland is to be welcomed. They should now be allowed to get on with their family lives in peace.
As has been reported in our pages over several weeks now, vulnerable nationalists in North Antrim have been the victims of an intense and sustained campaign of violence and intimidation carried out by unionist paramilitaries.
It has been very clear for some considerable time that the purpose of this campaign is to drive Catholics and nationalists out of parts of North Antrim.
As we have also reported, the words and actions of unionist political representatives in the areas affected, has lent succour and support to this violent campaign.
Since the foundation of the Six-County state, nationalists in areas like North Antrim have been discriminated against at every level of society. What is different in 2005 is that the nationalist community in North Antrim, or anywhere else, will no longer stand for such treatment. The sooner the Orange bully-boys and their political mouthpieces in the DUP wake up to this new reality the better.
Ian Paisley's party shares forums and commissions with the leaderships of the UDA and UVF. From the Third Force to Ulster Resistance, the DUP has been directly linked to violent unionism. This is as true today as it ever was. The DUP has a direct influence with unionist paramilitaries. It could, if it were so inclined, apply pressure to have this campaign of 'ethnic cleansing' ended.
It would also serve Southern politicians well if they went to North Antrim to meet local nationalists to see the effects of this campaign for themselves. They could also do worse than to visit beleaguered nationalist communities in North or East Belfast to see exactly where the threat to the Peace Process comes from. It does not come from the Colombia 3 returning home, or from any republican activity. It comes from the activities of unionist paramilitaries and the bankrupt politics of unionist politicians which allows such activity to flourish.