6 January 2000 Edition
``Unprecedented Opportunity'' - IRA
A statement from the IRA was received by An Phoblacht on Wednesday, 5 January. In it, the IRA emphasises that this new century offers an ``unprecedented opportunity to leave behind the failures of the past''.
The statement says that ``there can be no excuse for further delay in the implementation of those aspects of the Good Friday Agreement which are the responsibility of the British government''. It emphasises that failure ``to rapidly implement a programme of demilitarisation can only have a negative impact on the potential for political progress and, therefore, serve the same agenda as those who continue covert surveillance operations''.
The IRA also refers to recent revelations surrounding British Intelligence covert surveillance operations and RUC efforts to recruit informers which, the atetement says, ``are clear evidence of a continuation of their war against republicans.
``These activities are part of an ongoing attempt to defeat republicans and subvert the existing opportunity for the achievement of a durable peace.''
The following is the full text of the statement.
``The leadership of Óglaigh na hÉireann extends New Year's greetings to our friends and supporters at home and abroad.
We send solidarity greetings to our imprisoned comrades and their families.
As we enter a New Year we reaffirm our commitment to the achievement of our objectives, the creation of a national democracy through a united, independent and free Ireland.
It remains our view that the ending of British government interference in Irish affairs offers the only basis for the establishment of a just and lasting peace in Ireland.
We have consistently demonstrated our willingness to facilitate the search for a durable peace.
On 17 November 1999, by way of further contribution to the peace process, we announced that, following the establishment of the institutions set out in the Good Friday Agreement, we would appoint a representative to enter into discussions with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD). This representative has since met the IICD and further discussion will take place.
We were persuaded to take this step on the understanding that it would help end the political vacuum which had been created and maintained by unionist politicians for the previous 18 months and bring about forward political movement.
The subsequent attempt by the UUP to set preconditions on further political progress was not part of this understanding, is outside the terms of the Mitchell Review and serves only to undermine the potential for advancing the peace process.
Recent revelations surrounding British Intelligence covert surveillance operations and RUC efforts to recruit informers are clear evidence of a continuation of their war against republicans. These activities are part of an ongoing attempt to defeat republicans and subvert the existing opportunity for the achievement of a durable peace.
There can be no excuse for further delay in the implementation of those aspects of the Good Friday Agreement which are the responsibility of the British government. Any failure on their part to rapidly implement a programme of demilitarisation can only have a negative impact on the potential for political progress and, therefore, serve the same agenda as those who continue covert surveillance operations.
The search for a durable peace has presented challenges to Irish republicans, unionists and the British and Irish governments and will continue to do so.
As we move into a new century there exists an unprecedented opportunity to leave behind the failures of the past.
The leadership of Óglaigh na hÉireann will continue to play a positive role in a genuine effort to realise a just and lasting peace.''
Irish Republican Publicity Bureau
A Time of Hope - Gerry Adams
Sinn Féin President and West Belfast MP Gerry Adams, in a New Year message on behalf of Sinn Féin, extended sincere ``bliain faoi mhaise daoibh go léir''.
Adams said: ``For many families, this Christmas and New Year will be a time of sadness and reflection as we remember those family members, friends and colleagues who are no longer with us.
``It is also a time of momentous change and great hope as we look to a future that for the first time ever in the history of our small island holds out the promise of a better time, a happier time, a peaceful and more prosperous time for all our people.
``It won't be easy. there are those who fear change and who are doggedly opposed to equality and justice. None of us should underestimate the difficulties that lie ahead.
``Our collective task must be to face down the wreckers and to make change irreversible, to see human rights protected and equality for all citizens become a reality, and to build a political system that guarantees freedom and justice for all of the Irish people.
``As an Irish republican, I believe we can best achieve these goals in a free and independent Ireland. Our efforts of recent years, and particularly recent months, mean that the new century, the new millenium, opens with the real prospect of achieving our goals.
``In recent years and in other parts of the world, conflicts which were formerly deemed intractable have been resolved. The impossible is possible.
``We are into a new and final phase of the struggle that will allow us to put the legacy of division, occupation and conflict behind us. Patrick Galvin the poet put it well when he wrote:
``We dream here.
We dream that this land
Is our land.
That one day
Catholic and Protestant
Believer and non-believer
Will stand here
And dream as Irish men and women.''
Review of the Political Year 1999
In its New Year message, the IRA said the unionist leadership appeared ``wedded to the politics of domination and inequality and were opposed to a democratic peace settlement''. It acknowledged the ``growing frustration at the failure thus far of the Belfast Agreement to deliver meaningful change'' and put the onus on the two governments to overcome the unionist veto, which was blocking progress.
David Trimble became increasingly strident in his assertions that Sinn Féin could not take seats in a Six-County executive and in the All-Ireland Ministerial Council until there was an IRA surrender of arms.
There was an upsurge in loyalist arson and bomb attacks against nationalist civilians and property across the Six Counties in January and February.
Sinn Féin and the Ulster Unionist Party had their first ever formal face-to-face meeting.
Sectarian attacks by loyalists continued. McNallys bar in Toomebridge, County Antrim, was the target of a grenade attack, while pipe-bomb attacks took place in various parts of the North.
Over 1,000 lawyers, human rights activists and politicians from across the world supported the demand for an independent inquiry into the murder of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane. Allegations of crown forces collusion were strengthened following the submission of a confidential report to the Irish and British governments and the United Nations prepared by British Irish Rights Watch.
March was dominated by the murder of human rights solicitor Rosemary Nelson outside her home. Collusion between crown forces and those who planted the under-car bomb which killed Nelson was widely suspected.
The 10 March deadline for the establishment of the Six-County Excutive was allowed to pass.
In a television programme, a former leading loyalist further confirmed ongoing allegations of collusion between official British forces and the RUC with loyalist death squads.
Lee Clegg, convicted of the murder of 18-year-old Karen Reilly in 1990, was acquitted in a re-trial despite the fact that the judge ruled that Clegg had lied to the court on several occasions and that his bullet had ``probably'' been the shot that killed Karen Reilly.
Three nationalist familes in Belfast, Ballycastle and Dungannon fell victim to loyalist pipe-bomb attacks in an ongoing loyalist campaign of sectarian violence.
Talks involving pro-Good Friday Agreement parties and the Irish and British governments failed to resolve the political impasse blocking the implementation of the Agreement, sending the Peace Process into freefall.
The Sinn Féin Ard Fheis met in an atmosphere of anger and frustration over a year without political progress.
Following agreement on a formula to break the political impasse reached between the UUP, SDLP, Sinn Féin, and the two governments at crisis talks in London, the UUP's David Trimble staged a dramatic U-turn, branding the compromise ``inadequate and incomplete''.
In a dramatic result in the 26-County local authroity elections, Sinn Féin doubled its vote, winning 62 seats in UDCs, Town Commissions, County Councils and City Corporations across the state. The party did also well in the EU elections, particularly impressive being the 117,643 votes garnered by Mitchel McLaughlin in the Six Counties.
Further talks aimed at breaking the political impasse broke down through Unionist obstruction.
In an effort to pander to Unionist intransigence, British Prime Minister Tony Blair rushed legislation through the House of Commons which turned the Good Friday Agreement on its head and provided for the exclusion of Sinn Féin from the Executive. However, these concessions were thrown back in Blair's face by David Trimble.
Trimble and UUP Assembly members remained in their Belfast Headquarters, while the d'Hondt mechanism to establish the Exexcutive was triggered. An Executive, formed solely of Sinn Féin and SDLP ministers, collapsed as soon as it was set up, with Deputy First Minister Designate Seámus Mallon resigning his position.
A controversial new immigration law was introduced in the 26 Counties. Dubbed the ``deportation bill'' it was strongly criticised for its ad hoc nature, the rushed manner in which it was introduced and the effects it would have on immigrants to Ireland.
An Apprentice Boys march was forced down Belfast's Lower Ormeau Road against the wishes of the local residents. Hundreds of RUC personnel were drafted into the district and viciously attacked local people protesting against the loyalist parade.
Unionists were furious when Mo Mowlam declared that the IRA cessation had not broken down.
The Mitchell Review commenced at Stormont. The Patten Commision on policing delivered its report, which was greeted with fury by unionist politicians.
Calls for an Independent Public Inquiry into the horrific murder of Portadown man Robert Hamill grew after the North's Director of Public Prosections declared that there would be no prosections against RUC officers linked to the murder.
Peter Mandelson was appointed British Direct Ruler in the North, replacing Mo Mowlam.
RUC intelligence files naming over 400 people were found in an Orange Hall in County Antrim.
The Fianna Fáil/PD government push through legislation, bringing Ireland into the so-called Partnership for Peace (PFP) and setting Ireland on a course for membership of NATO.
Thousands of nurses across the 26 Counties were forced into industrial action to improve pay and conditions.
A breakthrough in the political deadlock surrounding the implentation of the Agreement was achieved on 15 November.
David Trimble subsequently called a meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council at which he tied his party to terms which are outside the Good Friday Agreement and which were not part of the agreement reached during the Mitchell Review.
The Institutions under the Good Friday Agreement were finally set up and power was devolved from Westminster to the new Six County Executive and all-Ireland bodies.
A bug was discovered in a car used by Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness during the Mitchell Review.