6 March 1997 Edition

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PrimeTime propaganda

By Stephen Delaney

SINN FEIN NATIONAL CHAIRPERSON Mitchel McLaughlin has accused the makers of an RTE Primetime programme of being ``irresponsible and of putting any chance of a negotiated settlement'' to this year's parade issue in jeopardy.

McLaughlin warned of the consquences for communities across the Six Counties if there wasn't agreement and said the programme makers would have to accept their share of responsibility.

McLaughlin was appearing on PrimeTime on Tuesday 4 March, answering the programme's allegations that Sinn Fein is behind concerned residents groups and is exploiting the marches issue.

Reporter Justin O'Brien claimed that Gerry Adams said at an internal party conference in Athboy, County Meath in November last year that Sinn Féin had exploited the marching issue and the residents groups and implied that Sinn Féin was intent on trouble.

McLaughlin blasted the programme and questioned its authenticity. ``This programme can only undermine the tireless work of nationalist residents groups across the Six Counties who are trying through, peaceful dialogue with members of the Orange tradition, to come up with a solution'', McLaughlin told An Phoblacht on Wednesday.

He also pointed out that as Sinn Fein represented 43% of the nationalist community, ``in every area of the Six Counties you will find massive Sinn Fein support, of course you will get members or supporters in these residents committes, just as you will get supporters of other political opinion''. The party had a right to be involved in the parades issue, he said.

John Gormley, a spokesperson for the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community (LOCC), refuted claims of Sinn Féin manipulation, saying, ``we would point out that the LOCC was formed five years ago this month following the massacre of five local men and boys in Sean Graham's bookmakers. We were formed by local residents of all political opinions. Given this community's past experience of parades following those and other murders we were determined to campaign to have future parades rerouted.''

Gormley added, ``over the past five years we have sought and received the support of a wide range of political opinion, however at all times we have made our own decisions based on our assessment of the situation, no one else. We are also concerned at the release of this story at this delicate point in the run-up to the marching season when efforts should be concentrated on facilitating dialogue, not thowing up false barriers to it. We reiterate our commitment to talking to the Orange Order and others to resolve this issue. Talking should be everyone's priority.''

An Phoblacht
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