6 May 1999 Edition
Sinn Féin seeks to rescue flagging Peace Process
BY SEAN BRADY
The issue of collusion is endemic and systematic and stretches back over 20 years. It cannot be dealt with on a piecemeal case-by-case basis. What is urgently required is an inquiry similar to the one carried out by Judge Goldstone in South Africa, who unearthed the state's involvement in killings there.
Gerry Adams will lead a delegation to meet Tony Blair at Downing Street today, Thursday, 6 May, as part of Sinn Féin's efforts to resolve the current deep crisis in the peace process. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will also meet the British Premier, as shuttle diplomacy continues against a backdrop of political stalemate.
Earlier this week, Sinn Féin dismissed out of hand a British government suggestion of a `transitional executive'. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern also rejected the proposal.
Sinn Féin has been engaged in an all-out diplomatic offensive in recent weeks to get the two governments to face up to their responsibilities and implement the Good Friday Agreement. This has included Gerry Adams holding meetings with the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister last week and a high-level visit to the United States by the party's chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness.
Speaking in Dublin on Wednesday at the launch of the party's Ard Fheis clár, Sinn Féin Vice President and Assembly member for West Tyrone Pat Doherty told journalists that Sinn Féin members were meeting in a political atmosphere which starkly contrasted the circumstances of their last Ard Fheis.
Republicans had taken great risks last year in terms of endorsing a Yes vote for the agreement, changing the party's constitution in terms of taking seats in a Six-County Assembly, and accepting changes to Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution. A year later, there had been little siginificant progress.
Doherty said that unionists were demonstrating that their veto over political change remains in place and that by threatening, intimidating and refusing to talk they can impose their own narrow will on the rest of the people of Ireland. He said that David Trimble had been rewarded for his intransigence. But he pointed out that it is not merely the intransigence of the unionists which is underming the peace process. ``There are many others as vehemently opposed to change well placed in the system who are actively blocking progress,'' he said.
That change of a fundamental nature is required has been brought home with dramatic effect in recent days. Collusion between the British forces and loyalists, highlighted in a report from the British-Irish Watch and taken up by the Irish government, proves the corrupt and rotten nature of society in the Six Counties. The issue of collusion is endemic and systematic and stretches back over 20 years. It cannot be dealt with on a piecemeal case-by-case basis. What is urgently required is an inquiry similar to the one carried out by Judge Goldstone in South Africa, who unearthed the state's involvement in killings there.
Doherty said: ``It is therefore not surprising that republicans are both angry and frustrated at the manner in which the two governments have repeatedly failed to honour the commitments they made in the Agreement. They are not only in breach of the Agreement, they are dismissing the wishes of the almost two million people who voted YES in the refrenda.
``We are bitterly disappointed at the performance of the two governments. They are squandering the best opportunity for resolving this conflict since partition.
Asked about David Trimble's decision to meet elected representatives, including those representing the residents of Portadown's Garvaghy Road, Doherty said that it should be put in context: ``It has taken David Trimble seven years to meet his own constituents. This is a good development. It is a pity that it took so long.''
He said Sinn Féin was involved in intense dialogue to resolve the current crisis in the peace process. Both governments had to take their responsibilities seriously. The British government had allowed the entire situation to drift since last year.
Doherty said that Sinn Féin would not voluntarily allow itself to be excluded from an executive. The party would go to any lengths to find a way to resolve the impasse but the solution had to be in the context of the Good Friday Agreement.
He said all was not yet lost: ``The two governments have it within their power to reverse the downward spiral. They can restore the people's confidence in the flagging peace process by immediately setting up the Executive and the all-Ireland Ministerial Council.''
Peace Process to dominate Ard Fheis
BY SEAN BRADY
Announcing details of the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis which takes place in Dublin's RDS this weekend, Sinn Féin General Secretary Lucilita Breathnach told reporters: ``Sinn Féin's primary focus for debate at this year's Ard Fheis will be the peace process, the EU elections in June, and the local government elections here in the 26 Counties. These elections will provide Sinn Féin with another opportunity to convince more and more people to vote for us, thereby confirming the party's growth as a radical and alternative voice for political change. At this year's Ard Fheis we will be launcing three major policy documents - on local government, women in Ireland and the European Union.
``Over the course of the weekend, we expect to have 2,000 members in attendance. Also in attendance will be international guests including US Congress members Peter King and Todd Allen, Joe Kliphosizi from the ANC, a representative from the Palestine Liberation Organisation and a member of parliament from Herri Batasuna in Euskadi.''
Party Vice President Pat Doherty said there was no doubt that there is a clear and stark difference both in context and mood between this year's and last year's Ard Fheiseanna.
``Last year, republicans met at a time of great hope, optimism and expectation. The Good Friday Agreement had just been negotiated. It was a challenging time for republicans but we positively set about the task of making our contribution to shaping the new political situation promised by the Good Friday Agreement.
He said the past year, however, had been one of broken promises and missed opportunities. The Executive and all-Ireland Council were no nearer being set up and the peace process had been reduced to the single issue of decommissioning. The unionists were being rewarded for their intransigence and it was not surprising that republicans were angry and frustrated at the manner in which the two governments have repeatedly failed to honour the committments they made in the agreement. Doherty said all was not lost and that the governments could reverse the downward spiral by setting up the Executive and all-Ireland Ministerial Council.