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8 May 2008 Edition

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Crossing the Boyne

No section of the Irish people owes anything to the memory of either William of Orange or James II, two foreign monarchs waging war for the supremacy of Ireland and Britain at the cost of rivers of Irish blood. The Williamite wars ushered in an era of oppression. In later years the name of King Billy was invoked to justify sectarianism and to cloak the worst excesses of loyalism behind painted banners.
The participation of members of the loyal orders and of DUP First Minister Ian Paisley in the opening of the Battle of the Boyne Centre in County Meath this week shows how much has changed. It was both symbolic and practical. It symbolised a new political dispensation on this island and a new relationship between different sections of the Irish people. In practical terms it added a new element to our heritage and a major attraction which should bring increased numbers of visitors from the unionist community across the Border.
Successive unionist leaders tried to maintain the fallacy that the 26-County state was ‘a foreign country’ and this fallacy has now been well and truly undermined. Unionists are in Government with Sinn Féin and unionist ministers are participating in the all-Ireland Ministerial Council and are working the all-Ireland institutions. The role of London is diminishing in Six-County affairs.
Progress has been very significant but much remains to be done. It is absolutely critical that the momentum in the political process is maintained and that roll-out of the Good Friday Agreement and the St. Andrew’s Agreement continues apace. And no issue is more crucial than the need for the promised transfer of powers regarding policing and justice from London to Belfast.
The transfer was promised for May 2008. The DUP has attempted to prevent the deadline from being met. That is not acceptable. Policing is a cornerstone of the new political dispensation and for the Agreements to work for all the people it is essential that this key area of policy is located in Belfast and not in London. There is no valid objection to the transfer and both the Irish and British Governments should ensure the speedy implementation of this commitment.   

An Phoblacht
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Dublin 1

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