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12 March 2009 Edition

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The Mitchel McLaughlin Column

Strong resolute leadership required

The events of the past week have demonstrated very clearly the need for strong and resolute leadership. Make no mistake about it although these attacks were directed against members of the British Army and PSNI, the ‘real’ target of these organisations is the Peace Process.
Across the political spectrum our opponents are watching to see if republicans show any sign of weakness in the face of these attempts to destabilise the Peace Process. There will be no diminution of Sinn Féin’s resolve to continue on the path that we have mapped out and our political strategy for Irish reunification.
More importantly many people will be watching to see if the political institutions, the Executive and the evolving policing structures can resist the pressure from the securocrats and sections of unionism demanding a return to the failed, oppressive military responses of the past.
Let there be no ambiguity about the response that is required from all parties in the Executive and the Assembly. We must continue to co-operate and thus strengthen the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement including its all-Ireland architecture. We must continue to demonstrate political leadership in our communities.
The rejectionists within the republican constituency have miniscule support and no strategy to achieve a united Ireland. Their stated objective is to bring British soldiers back onto the streets.
In a desperate attempt to stampede unionist opinion, they seek to destroy the progress of recent times and plunge the North back into conflict. They are intent on denying the people of Ireland the opportunity to pursue their desire for Irish unity through peaceful and democratic means. They will not succeed and Sinn Féin will not be deflected from our republican and democratic objectives.
Sinn Féin has a well-established strategy to bring about an end to British rule. We have put it to the test in numerous elections and the people of Ireland in the hundreds of thousands have demonstrated support for that strategy while disdainfully rejecting the proxy candidates who stood for the dissidents.
This is a time for republicans to once again deliver calm, thoughtful and decisive leadership. The peace process was built against the odds, not least because of the willingness of republicans to take risks, be strategic and long-sighted.
Just as important as the political parties in the Executive standing strongly together will be the level of support for the institutions forthcoming from both the Irish and British governments.
Sinn Féin will not permit these micro groups to hijack the cause of Irish republicanism to further their misguided agenda. The British and Irish Governments must not be provoked into disproportionate responses that would give these people a relevance that they don’t deserve.
However, it is primarily the duty of politicians in the Assembly to ensure that the political institutions deliver for all the people. This is an opportunity for bold and decisive decisions by Unionist parties.  They should abandon resistance to the transfer of Policing and Justice.  They should act with courage and conviction by deciding that this is the time that acceptable and transparent policing will be delivered into local democratic control without any further delay.

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