12 February 1998 Edition

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Kelly counters Mallon

SINN Féin talks negotiator Gerry Kelly struck a raw nerve with the SDLP this week when he accused its Deputy leader Seamus Mallon of favouring the failed approach of marginalisation.

Speaking at the annual Kevin Coen/Joe McManus Memorial Lecture in Sligo, Kelly expressed the disappointment of many nationalists at the position taken up by Mallon.

In his address to an audience of 200 people, the Sinn Féin negotiator emphasised the need for the talks to consider all issues. ``This process must cover all of those issues which are at the heart of this conflict and which need to be resolved if a lasting peace settlement is to be found. These are constitutional and sovereignty issues, demilitarisation, including the release of political prisoners, the equality agenda, new political arrangements and structures.''

Calling for equality and demilitiarisation to be implemented immmediately, he said, ``This process is not simply about institutions. It is about the issues which effect people in their everyday lives.

Explaining that the Hume/Adams initiative envisaged inclusiveness and maximum cooperation between Sinn Féin and the SDLP on agreed positions.to bring about a comprehensive settlement, he said that all other failed efforts dating back over the last quarter of a century had agendas with minimalist positions, exclusion and marginalisation.

Accusing Mallon of favouring such an approach, he continued, ``I can understand that in times of change, there will be huge challenges for everyone, especially the leadership of political parties. The nature of electoral politics, and perhaps Seamus Mallon's relationship with his own party, may make it difficult for him to reach beyond a narrow party-political view. But that is part of what Hume/Adms requires of both Sinn Féin and the SDLP.''

Saying that both parties have a duty to cooperate, Kelly said, ``Many nationalists are disappointed at the position taken up by Seamus Mallon. As a member of Sinn Féin's talks delegation I can assure you that Mr Mallon's recent solo run is nothing new. Some of you will recall that before Christmas he agreed an agenda with Mr Trimble which excluded, and would have prevented discussion on critical issues such as equality, demiltiarisation, sovereignty, and prisoners.

``All other things to one side many people are asking why on earth has the SDLP conceded an assembly to the unionists, particularly given the overwhelming historical and contemporary evidence about unionist abuse of institutions which they control.

``No one has yet been able to point to one institution or body in the north, dominated by the unionists, in which there is no discrimination or inequality. Do we really want a Belfast City Council or Lisburn Borough Council with even greater powers?

``It is also, I presume, a matter of some satisfaction for Mr Trimble that sections of the SDLP are attacking Sinn Féin both inside and outside the negotiations room.

``Mr Mallon accuses us of stepping outside the `nationalist consensus.' Does he favour Trimble/Mallon in place of Hume/Adams?

``For our part Sinn Féin is determined that the unionists are not allowed to regain powers - which all of the contemporary evidence shows they will misuse and abuse. Any structures which Sinn Féin ultimately agrees to will have to be both bigot proof and veto proof.

``Our party leader has made it clear that Sinn Féin will not be diverted into bickering with the SDLP when what is required is the maximum focus by nationalists in pursuing a truly democratic peace settlement,'' he concluded.

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