3 December 1998 Edition
Executive must be formed
Who cannot welcome the possibility of finally moving to the creation of All-Ireland and policy implementation bodies. Sinn Féin has done all it could, engaging positively to ensure such progress on these basic elements of the Good Friday agreement were delivered.
As An Phoblacht goes to print British prime minister Tony Blair has flown to Belfast to add impetus to the discussions that should lead to the setting up of the All Ireland implementation bodies.
Given the potential for a positive outcome of the ongoing deliberations at Stormont there is a need for a full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. We have to establish the shadow Executive and establish the All Ireland Ministerial Council. This is what the Irish people, the majority of political parties and the two governments have publicly committed themselves to do. There can be no dilution and backtracking.
By Peadar Whelan
Trimble's refusal to form the executive, using the decommissioning argument, is grinding the political process to a standstill.
Now with British Prime Minister Tony Blair flying to the North for talks with party leaders and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern due in Belfast to add the authority of Dublin to the push for progress, the question arises: will Trimble finally confront the unionist backwoodsmen who want to pull the peace process into the quagmire?
After the overwhelming support for the Agreement in May's referendum, the anti-agreement unionists were forced to tread cautiously and their efforts to use the Drumcree Orange march as a battering ram to bring the Agreement to its knees failed when the horror of the Ballymoney fire and three dead children struck home.
However in recent weeks the No Men have begun to once again raise their heads. The pressure group Union First held its first major public meeting in Belfast.
The meeting, in the Forte Crest Hotel in Dunmurray on Thursday 19 November, was attended by MPs Martin Smyth and Willie Ross as well as UUP councillor Jim Rodgers and Peter Weir, one of the anti-agreement Assembly members. Lord Molyneaux and Jeffrey Donaldson sent apologies.
These UUP members were joined by the Paisleys, Ian senior and junior, UKUP leader Bob McCartney and the Tory unionists Andrew Hunter and David Wiltshire.
`Hardline unionists at war with UUP leader' ran a Newsletter sub-heading the following day, but the truth is that by attempting to destroy the Agreement and any possible political movement, these unionists are at war with us all.
An Phoblacht has spoken to a man who attended the Union First meeting.
As the press had been sent out of the meeting after the initial soundbite and photo opportunity the speakers were, according to our source, less circumspect. ``The SDLP, along with the GAA and the Catholic church were all lumped together with Sinn Fein and branded pan-republican'', we were told.
Ian Paisley senior maintained that with the support of another eight UUP Assembly members the Agreement would be brought down and his son Ian declared that the `No' people must now be told to make the break.
However, it seems the prerequisite for any unionist gathering is that someone stress that ``unionists will do whatever is required'' to wreck whatever needs wrecking. And so it was at this meeting. ``Those attending the meeting were middle aged and mostly middle class and... most wore suits or formal dress. Few women attended,'' our source said. ``It was the worst kind of conservatism with everyone there from the oldest to the youngest looking like clones of each other and all intent on bringing down the Agreement so they could re-establish unionist domination''.
Of course this is not happening in a vacuum. It is all happening at a time when loyalist gunmen are threatening to kill nationalists. The latest threats are coming from the Orange Volunteers who last week said ``if it comes to the crunch we will assassinate the enemies of Ulster''.
This same group - whose objects and policies were carried in the Orange Order's `The Twelfth' programme for this year's Twelfth parades in Belfast - stated then that one of their objects was to uphold and maintain the union and resist assimilation with the Irish Republic and they would ``carry out such actions as may be necessary in the interests of the aforementioned''.
But before anyone tries to dismiss the Orange Volunteers or indeed bile vented by the DUP at its party's conference in Omagh last weekend they will do well to remember that Brian Service is only the latest in a long line of Catholics to be killed by the loyalist gun this year.
Now let's move to the executive
The message is that Irish republicans and nationalists have to concede ground, compromise and endure endless stalling on even the smallest step forward.
``There is already understandable frustration among many republicans that the fundamental political, institutional and constitutional changes promised in the Good Friday Agreement have not yet happened''. This was the view this week of Sinn Féin's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness.
McGuinness was speaking as yet another bout of intense negotiations and another potential impasse in the peace process looms. As An Phoblacht goes to print British prime minister Tony Blair has flown to Belfast to add impetus to the discussions that should lead to the setting up of the All Ireland implementation bodies.
As usual the delivery of even this basic element of the Good Friday agreement has been held up by the Ulster Unionists. It has become a cliche to write of unionist intransigence and back tracking but here we are yet again enduring another bout of such intransigence.
What has made this particular impasse more worrying and disabling is the attitude adopted by Fianna Fáil leader Bertie Ahern in Leinster House this week. Ahern, answering a question from Fine Gael leader John Bruton, said that ``I do not see Mr Trimble being able to deliver on that (All-Ireland bodies) without some positive sign from the paramilitary organisations''.
So there you had it, a simple agreement on All-Ireland bodies was linked to progress on decommissioning. The IRA Ahern said ``have been asked to make some unspecified gesture to allow room to co-operate with an international commission on decommissioning''.
These leads to a situation this week where David Trimble's difficulty with the IDA and IDB can only be solved by the IRA decommissioning.
The Ulster Unionists' inability to face up the cultural rights of Irish citizens and agree policy on Irish language rights can only be solved it seems by IRA decommissioning.
Bertie Ahern said in his Leinster House question and answer session that ``we are definitely creating for ourselves enormous difficulties''. However there was no recognition that these ``enormous difficulties'' have been created by David Trimble and his decision to stall, negate and water down what was agreed upon in the Good Friday Agreement.
Yet again an impasse in the peace process that was not created by Sinn Féin is being used a stick to beat them with. The message is that Irish republicans and nationalists have to concede ground, compromise and endure endless stalling on even the smallest step forward.
Believe it or believe it not, it is now nearly five years since the signing of the Downing Street Declaration after which then Fianna Fáil leader Albert Reynolds promised a level playing field to Irish nationalists and republicans struggling for national self determination.
Over the last five years it has been plain that the level playing pitch is some way off. Sinn Féin has done all that it has been asked of. They have waited and watched hurdle after hurdle, crisis after crisis, impasse after impasse.
This week the level playing pitch got waterlogged. The only way forward is to uphold the spirit of the agreement made last April and endorsed buy Irish voters last May. There can be no dilution and no back tracking of the democratic will of the Irish people. There must be all-Ireland bodies, there must be an executive, there must be positive progress. That would be a Christmas present all the Irish people want to see.