28 August 1997 Edition

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Test public opinion, McLaughlin tells papers

By Deirdre Feehan

Sinn Féin national chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin has called on the editors of the Irish News, News Letter and the Belfast Telegraph to gauge public opinion on the need for all parties to engage in negotiations on 15 September. He said they should offer their readers the opportunity to register their opinion in a telephone poll, something which these papers were quick to indulge in regarding demands for `peace' earlier this year.

Councillor McLaughlin said: ``I believe the result would show that the majority of respondents from both traditions would urge all parties to do what they were elected to do in the elections to negotiations in May 1996 - negotiate.

``The commencement of all-party talks on 15 September presents the political leaders on this island with the opportunity to address in a substantive and meaningful manner the root causes of conflict in our country,'' continued the Derry councillor.

``It is time for the Ulster Unionist leadership to stop procrastinating, face up to their obligation of leadership and state clearly that they will be at the negotiaing table.

``The days when the Ulster Unionists monopilised power, occupied the driving seat and applied the brakes to progress when they felt insecure, are no longer. Negotiations are now in forward gear and the unionists cannot be allowed to retard the progress.

``The prevarication of the Ulster Unionist leadership begs the question. Are they really interested in peace? If they are not prepared to negotiate, how do they intend to contribute to the search for an accommodation which will be acceptable to all the people of this island and bring a lasting peace? They owe an explanation to those who elected them to negotiate, as to why they are reluctant to face up to the mandate with which they have been invested.''

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