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26 March 1998 Edition

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Articles Two and Three cannot be bartered

The Dublin government has again come under renewed pressure to accede to changes in Articles Two and Three of the 1937 Constitution. The calls from Unionist politicians on this issue, echoed in statements from the LVF, have once again been taken up by some politicians and media commentators in the 26 Counties.

It is a ludicrous proposition that the removal of Articles Two and Three will bring long-term peace in Ireland any closer. Articles Two and Three did not cause the conflict in Ireland and changing them will do nothing to end it. The only `concession' to be made by such a change will be to the British government in accepting its aggressive claim to sovereignty over the Six Counties as set out in several British Acts of Parliament.

To portray Articles two and Three, as some media commentators have done, as meaningless words that could easily be dispensed with or watered down to become an aspiration, ignores the concerns of more than half a million Northern nationalists who are trapped in a state to which they have no allegiance and in which they are second class citizens.

A removal of Articles Two and Three would contribute to a situation where many nationalists would feel even further alienated from the political system. In that sense, rather than lead to a more peaceful scaenario it would most likely contribute to an aggravation of the problems which face us all.

It must be said that both the SDLP and the Dublin government have been extremely weak in their defence of Articles Two and Three and in their challenges to the British claims. It is now time that nationalist political leaders united in facing down pressure on this issue. Nationalist Ireland must make its position crystal clear. Articles Two and Three cannot be bartered away in return simply for the recognition of basic rights for nationalists in the Six Counties. Rights to equality of opportunity in employment, to a fair policing system and to recognition and respect for cultural identity cannot and will not be bought at the cost of Irish nationalists selling their birthright.

The unilateral removal of the Irish constitutional statement of nationhood while leaving British claims intact would institutionalise the ultimate inequality for Irish nationalists in the Six Counties.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1