25 August 2005 Edition
Exposing chilling reality of unionist campaign
Sinn Féin Assembly members Gerry Kelly and Philip McGuigan were joined on Thursday 18 August by Councillors Caral Ní Chuilín and Billy Leonard as Sinn Féin launched a major report detailing the horrific reality of unionist paramilitary activity since June 2005.
The dossier details attacks carried out by unionist paramilitary gangs in the period since June 2005. Although by no means comprehensive, due to the fact that so many attacks go unreported it offers a chilling picture of orchestrated sectarian intimidation, particularly in areas where there is a vulnerable nationalist minority.
Throughout this period it is very clearly established that unionist paramilitaries have been engaged in ongoing sectarian attacks on nationalists, their homes and businesses, on Catholic churches and schools, in addition to the well-publicised feud between the UVF and LVF. The dossier will be sent to the Irish and British Governments.
The response from unionist politicians to the ongoing paramilitary campaign has been typically mute. Continuing to hide behind anti-republican rhetoric even after the historic statement from the IRA committing that organisation to peaceful and democratic programmes in the future, they refuse to acknowledge the reality that the biggest threat to the process comes from violent unionism.
At a time when the DUP in particular are continuing to ignore Sinn Féin's democratic mandate and are stalling efforts to put the political process back on track, both they and the UUP sit on forums and commissions with the leaderships of the unionist paramilitary gangs.
Speaking at the Sinn Féin press conference in Belfast Gerry Kelly said: "The following report details unionist paramilitary activity since the beginning of June. It details over 85 instances of unionist paramilitary activity, including five murders in a period of just over two months.
"This report paints a picture of a sustained and organised campaign of violence and intimidation. It shows very clearly where the threat to the Peace Process lies.
"This report should also act as a wake up call to unionist political leaders and in particular to the DUP.
"Both of the main unionist parties and the Orange Order sit on forums and commissions with the leaderships of the UVF and UDA. They undoubtedly have influence with these organisations.
"People have a right to know whether they have raised this ongoing campaign during these meetings.
"What are the DUP and UUP doing to end attacks on nationalists?
"What are they doing to end the ongoing feuding amongst the unionist paramilitaries?
"Sinn Féin is demanding that the leadership of the DUP and UUP tackle the issue of unionist paramilitary violence. Pretending that it is a reaction to the IRA or that it is 'tit for tat' is no longer tenable. It is time for the unionist parties to demonstrate to the entire community that they are serious about building a shared future.
"Part of that process must also be to respect the democratic mandate of Sinn Féin and sit down and engage in a constructive fashion and plan out the next steps in the wider Peace Process. The failure of the DUP to respect the mandate of Sinn Féin sends out a very clear message to those involved in this campaign that nationalists are not to be treated as equals.
"The current unionist paramilitary campaign must be tackled and addressed. A heavy burden of responsibility for this rests with Ian Paisley and the DUP as the largest unionist party."