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18 September 1997 Edition

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Another inevitable step

David Trimble has finally - and reluctantly - brought his party to the Stormont talks table, with the PUP and UDP following dutifully behind.

It is a further step towards real negotiations. But the hypocrisy of Trimble's comments on Wednesday show that unionist representatives have a long way yet to go. It is clear that their strategy remains to wreck the talks and to destroy the wider peace process.

Flanked by representatives of those parties who are linked to the loyalist death squads, Trimble said that unionists were going into talks to confront Sinn Féin.

However it is Trimble, his loyalist colleagues and the British government who should be confronted on their duplicity. Since the Unionist parties affirmed the Mitchell Principles in June 1996 loyalist death squads have murdered several nationalist civilians including Michael McGoldrick, John Slane, Bernadette Martin, Sean Browne and James Morgan.

In that time also the loyalists have shot almost 100 people and have attacked scores, several of whom were beaten to death. Loyalist gun factories have been uncovered and loyalist groups have engaged in violent internecine feuding which has included public death threats. One loyalist delegate to the talks, Lindsay Robb, has been convicted of gunrunning.

Only last week masked and armed UVF members appeared on a public demonstration on the Shankill in West Belfast.

The Unionist parties, particularly the Ulster Unionists, recently mobilised the Orange Order in a mass campaign of forceful intimidation and disruption against nationalists over the issue of sectarian marches. None of the unionist or loyalist parties were expelled from the talks over these actions.

Since June 1996 British forces have killed Derryman Dermot McShane and have maimed and injured hundreds of people with plastic bullets.

The British army and RUC continue to saturate nationalist areas, harassing the local populace and on the Garvaghy Road they viciously assaulted unarmed, peaceful demonstrators, beating them off their own streets.

British forces continue to militarise the Six Counties through the construction of military fortifications and installations.

British Intelligence as well as the RUC have continued to threaten and pressurise people into becoming informers against members of their own community. Despite all of this nobody has raised doubts about the British government's sincerity in relation to the Mitchell Principles.

And the Markethill bomb raises as many questions for the British as it does for anyone else. It was reported this week that members of the British Labour government held the view that undercover elements in the British security establishment were behind the attack.

Unionists may raise as many red herrings as they wish but this will not allow them to escape the necessity for dealing with the real issues which confront all parties to the talks. Name-calling and game-playing are no substitute for real political negotiations. The question remains as to whether the present unionist political leadership is up to the challenge. One thing is certain, despite what David Trimble said this Wednesday, unionists will negotiate with republicans sooner or later. This week's developments mark another step towards that inevitability.

An Phoblacht Magazine

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