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26 February 1998 Edition

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Mowlam's insult to nationalists

THE decision by Mo Mowlam to appoint an Apprentice Boy and a former leading member of the UDA to the Parades Commission has exposed the notion that Britain is a neutral arbitrator in the conflict in the Six Counties.

When she came to the Six Counties last May, Mowlam presented herself as an advocator of debate and openess, a politician of the people.

Some even welcomed her as a breath of fresh air in comparison to the direct rulers who preceded her. However, her handling of the marching crisis in July exploded any false hopes that some harboured for her. She cynically decided on a strategy of building up the hopes of nationalist residents while she had already decided to allow Orange marches. And she sanctioned the use of RUC brutality to facilitate those marches.

Glen Barr played a key role in the downfall of the Sunningdale power sharing arrengements. He will be joined by leading Apprentice Boy Tommy Cheevers who has consistently refused to discuss contentious loyalists parades with concerned residents.

Two other appointments - which Mowlam claims will give balance to the Commission - are a Catholic barrister, Rose-Anne McCormick, a former member of the Police Authority, and Aidan Canavan, a solicitor for the Police Federation.

Is Mowlam serious? Who does she think will accept that these appointments will contribute to a balanced Parades Commission?

The body was always likely to be a Unionist Commission for marches, leaving nationalists under no illusion about the British government's respect for their rights. These appointments only confirm that the New Labour administration has once again caved in to Unionists - and loyalist - pressure.

Nationalists have never been in the habit of expecting much from the British government, and in the midst of a peace process many have wondered in recent months just how genuine the British are about tackling injustice.

They still have not accepted that there can be no peace, no settlement, no agreement without equality. If they can't accept that with regards to the blatantly triumphalist, sectarian Orange Order, what hope for other areas?

But nationalists are resolved as a community to put up with injustice and inequality no longer. We will not be walked over.

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