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15 July 1999 Edition

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Blair backs exclusion

The legislation being rushed through the British Parliament as we go to print is an attempt to legislate for failure, based on the failed politics of exclusion.

The amendments being put forward are intended as a sop to unionism, but even so may have no effect. In his rush to offer a lifeline to David Trimble, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has threatened the entire Good Friday Agreement.

Two central tenets have maintained the often arduous momentum of the Peace Process. The principle of inclusivity, combined with the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement, are the essential elements for progress. The British government, by seeking to unilaterally legislate beyond the terms of that Agreement, has put the entire process in jeopardy.

The unnecessary appeasement of unionism that inspired this bill is a departure from the terms of the Agreement. He has taken power away from the parties and reinserted a unionist veto into the peace process.

Blair's legislation also impedes the remit and function of the de Chastelain Commission and compromises its objectivity in what republicans will see as a transparent cover for Sinn Féin's exclusion.

That process is not about guns. Two weeks ago the de Chastelain Commission stated: ``The role of the Commission is to facilitate the voluntary decommissioning of firearms.'' It is clear that decommissioning can only be a voluntary act by those in possession of arms. It is also clear that unionism, supported by Tony Blair, is far more concerned with silent guns than with the rights of nationalists.

These negative developments at Westminster cast severe doubt on the sincerity of the British government with regard to the entire process. Regardless of the strategic approach being adopted by the British government, the rights and entitlements of the republican constituency will remain foremost in the considerations of the party they have mandated.

The rights of over two million people to see the Agreement they voted for implemented should be the collective interest of all parties to the talks.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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