23 March 2000 Edition

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Public meeting in Ballinamore

No consent for suspension

The implications of the suspension of the Good Friday Agreement

institutions are ``just as serious for people in the 26 Counties as they are for those in the Six Counties''. So said Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD when he spoke at a Sinn Féin public meeting in Ballinamore, County Leitrim, last Sunday.

The well-attended meeting was chaired by Leitrim County Councillor Liam McGirl and saw a thorough political debate. Giving the main address, Ó Caoláin reminded the crowd that the suspension was a unilateral British government decision, clearly outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and the inter-governmental British-Irish Agreement.

He highlighted what Bertie Ahern said in the Dáil on 21 April 1998, in the debate on the Bill to amend Articles Two and Three:

``The principle of consent is paramount. From now on everything will hinge on that. This represents a substantial change. Moreover, consent is now, for the first time, formally recognised to be a two-way process.''

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:

``Where was the consent and the two-way process with the collapse of the institutions? It did not exist. The British government alone, acting at the behest of David Trimble, brought down the whole political edifice so carefully constructed by both governments and all the parties and endorsed by the people of Ireland in referenda on both sides of the border. The referendums were described by the Taoiseach in the same speech as `a concurrent act of self-determination by the people of Ireland as a whole for the first time since 1918'.

``We are in the present crisis because the British government has granted a veto to the minority of unionists who voted No in that referendum and has thus set at nought what the Taoiseach described as a `concurrent act of self-determination'.

``The votes of people in this state have been nullified by a British

government. People who voted for the Agreement in this State are now experiencing the same kind of disenfranchisement which nationalist and republican voters in the Six Counties experienced for decades.

``Our task in Sinn Féin in the period ahead is to bring that reality home to people. We must intensify our campaigning activity around the theme of this meeting `Ireland Votes - Britain Vetoes'. We must lobby public and party political opinion, organise street demonstrations and meetings, pass resolutions at local authority level and mobilise our supporters. Our aim must be to increase the political strength of Sinn Féin while at the same time building the broadest political support for the demand that the institutions be reinstated without any false preconditions.''

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