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3 June 1999 Edition

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Mowlam hamstrings Patten

Mo Mowlam's views on the Patten Commission, published in Wednesday's Belfast Telegraph, ring alarm bells. The Secretary of State writes that the ``future of policing in Northern Ireland cannot lie in one of two extreme positions'', clearly meaning no-change or disbandment.

She further discredits herself by quoting the results of the recent so-called Community Attitudes Survey, which indicate that over 60% of Catholics think that the RUC is doing a good job.

At a time when the Patten Commission has been working to look into the future of policing, this statement shows the manner in which the British government is trying to undermine the work of a commission publicly described as independent. More importantly, the statement clearly indicates that the British government is engineering the work of the commission by trying to predetermine its outcome.

In the past, British ministers and politicians have always tried to influence the outcome of inquiries and commissions that they have set up. By doing so, they have ensured that the final recommendations, rulings and decisions would suit their own agendas.

Mo Mowlam's comments amount to clear political interference into the work of a commission, established under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, to look into the future of a paramilitary force that has acted as the armed wing of unionism.

By implying that disbandment is not an option, Mowlam has broken the promise made to the people of Ireland that the peace process would deliver true and meaningful change and that all options would be considered when it came to the future of institutions that in the past have been political tools directed against the nationalist community.

If the peace process is to mark a truly new beginning, Mowlam and other British ministers should stick to their promises and wait for the recommendations of the Patten Commission instead of putting down the parameters for what the final outcome should be. The credibility of the peace process and the confidence of the vast majority of the people of the island depend on it.

Local Power - A National Right

You could be forgiven for having a feeling of deja vu.about this month's local government elections in the 26 Counties. Eight years ago, there were also local elections. Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats were in power and the corruption mill was beginning to grind on with allegations and disclosures.

Now Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats are back in power, the corruption mill is still grinding and its election time again. In 1991, the turnout of 55% was considered to be apallingly low. Now, a poll of 55% next week would be considered high.

Sinn Féin came out of the 1991 county council elections with six seats. This time around, the party is aiming to add seats throughout the 26 Counties, with hopes high of breakthroughs in areas such as Kerry, Cork, Dublin, Donegal, Louth, Leitrim, Limerick, Tipperary, Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Offaly, Waterford, Meath, Wexford, Wicklow, Clare and Cavan.

When you count in the UDC and Town Commission elections you get a total of 110 Sinn Féin candidates running in 131 wards. Sinn Féin's vote share has grown since 1991, with gains made in the 1994 local elections as well as the 1997 Leinster House elections.

Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats are hoping they can pull out their core vote while the apathetic anti-establishment voters stay at home. This strategy could backfire, however, as public disillusionment with the establishment political parties is at an all-time high. Labour and Fine Gael are approaching the election as if they were never in government during the 1990s.

In 1991, Sinn Féin entered the local elections with a policy document called Local Power - A democratic right. This year, the Sinn Féin ard fheis endorsed a new policy document called Local Power - A national right.

The documents highlight the failure of successive Dublin Governments to deliver on the promise of local government reform, to devolve real power and the promise to provide adequate funding for local government.

The only anwer to these governmental failures is to vote Sinn Féin and use your preferences wisely.

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