5 November 1998 Edition

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Mála Poist


A chairde,

No answer to the question, ``Why won't republicans offer some decommissioning now?'' could change the facts that the Good Friday Accord requires the establishment of the shadow Executive by 31 October 1998, and no decommissioning is made in that Agreement prerequisite to that establishment.

Why are republicans now asked to do things not required in the Good Friday Accord even before Unionists even do the things that are required therein?

Thomas Hutchison McFadden,

What about `legal' guns?

A chairde,

I cannot be alone in feeling very weary while observing the machinations of hardline unionists as they keep David Trimble imprisoned in the ``decommissioning'' corner they have reserved for him. Of course they are all aware that if he falls so may the peace process.

The issue which deserves serious attention is the sheer hypocrisy of demanding that republican weapons be decommissioned while there are still at least 138,727 legally held firearms in circulation in the north of Ireland - nearly all in unionist cupboards - for which 83,500 firearms certificates have been issued (police statistics as at 31 October 1997).

What was equally worrying after these figures were published was Dr Mowlam's response to a written parliamentary question from Jim Murphy MP for Eastwood concerning the 1998 Review of Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order 1981, under parliamentary scrutiny because of the ban on handguns in Britain after Dunblane.

Mo Mowlam replied, ``After much thought, I am not persuaded of the need to prohibit the possession and use of target handguns in Northern Ireland. I realise that my decision may disappoint some people who feel strongly, as I do, about firearms control and safeguarding the public''.

This was an extraordinary decision for a politician as politically skilled as Dr Mowlam and only explicable in terms of the power still wielded behind the scenes by the Orange Order. However, as the backdrop for the present impasse on decommissioning, it says a great deal about insidious double standards still in place despite the New Order.

Indeed, if there is to be any future agreement on decommissioning, surely the 12,771 legally held handguns in the north of Ireland should be the first weapons to be ``decommissioned''. Then perhaps the111,014 shotguns and airguns followed by the 13,736 small bore rifles and the 326 full bore rifles. Once these have been ``decommissioned'' perhaps the owners of the 880 ``miscellaneous'' licensed weapons could be induced to hand them over.

I suggest Dr Mowlam's Office first meet with the gun clubs run by the Orange Order, the Black Preceptory and the Apprentice Boys to put these points in order to gain some credibility as a ``persuader'' for the movement.

Moya St Leger

Mourning band

A chairde,

I am a third generation American from Ireland. Currently I live in Chicago where I study weaving at the School of the Art Institute. Although I live in America I still feel very close to Ireland through my family's experiences.

I have been researching mourning rituals and have been particularly drawn to the black mourning ribbons which are common in one form or another to many cultures. I feel it is a universally understood symbol. I would like to create a mourning band for all the Irish who have died in the troubles, to commemorate their spirits in cloth by weaving a long narrow band with the name of the deceased and the date of their death embroidered onto it.

Cloth is such a strong metaphor for so many things; family, nurture... it evokes the image of the mother, the provider of raiment and warmth. I urge all of you who have lost loved ones to send their names and dates of death and a brief story or note about them to the following address:

C. Ni Cheallaigh
1116 N. Milwaukee Ave. #2
Chicago, Illinois 60622

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1