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1 March 2007 Edition

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The Mitchel McLaughlin Column

DUP’s unrealistic preconditions must not paralyse progress

The DUP’s unrealistic preconditions for power sharing must not be allowed to paralyse political progress.
It has been acknowledged by the British and Irish Governments that republicans have done all that is expected to create the conditions for restitution of the political institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.
It has therefore implicitly been accepted by both Governments that it is only the unrealistic preconditions of the DUP that are creating the obstacle to re-establishing the institutions.
Knowing where the problem lies, it is incumbent on the Governments to make it clear to the DUP what the alternative will be if it fails to enter government with the other democratically-elected parties following the 7 March election. The electorate is entitled to know what the repercussions of DUP preconditions will be for the general public.
With what I believe will be an increased mandate, Sinn Féin in government will oppose the imposition of water charges, and demand that the British Government invests sufficient resources to repair the damage done to the water and sewage systems from decades of neglect by its direct rule ministers. We will strive to ensure an Executive commitment to stop the decimation of our health and education systems and the under-investment in our economic and social infrastructure.
The DUP must not be permitted to undermine all of the progress achieved to date. The old political order is gone forever and Sinn Féin will ensure that republicans and nationalists share equally in the ownership and control of our economic and political futures.  It is obvious that British direct rule will not deliver that requirement. The needs of the North, such as rail and other proper transport infrastructure, social housing, youth and other recreational provision, attraction of highly-skilled and well-paid jobs, and delivery of first-class health and education to every inhabitant, can only be achieved through the restitution of the power sharing and all-Ireland institutions.
But if the DUP still refuses to participate in the democratic process after the elections, Sinn Féin will use our increased mandate to maintain pressure on the British Government to deliver a proper Peace Dividend to address its decades of neglect. We will also work with the Irish Government to ensure delivery of the all-Ireland agenda.

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