16 November 2000 Edition
No confidence in British
Legal action imminent
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has accused the British government of lacking the political will to resolve the current crisis in the peace process caused by David Trimble's discriminatory actions against Sinn Féin ministers. In his strongest attack yet on Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson, Adams said that he had little confidence in the British government's management of the Peace Process and that Sinn Féin was taking ``imminent'' legal action to challenge the party's exclusion from all-Ireland Ministerial Council meetings.
The people who voted for the Good Friday Agreement won't accept ``second class rule and second class citizenship'', Adams told a press conference in Belfast on Wednesday, 15 November. Announcing the imminent legal action, Adams said David Trimble's refusal to nominate Sinn Féin Ministers Bairbre de Brún and Martin McGuinness had disenfranchised the two Sinn Féin ministers.
``Mr Trimble has fractured the all-Ireland leg of the institutions and commenced a process to collapse the Good Friday Agreement,'' said Adams. ``Following the Ulster Unionist Council meeting, Sinn Féin's Ard Comhairle authorised us to initiate court action in defence of our rights and those of our electorate.''
The Sinn Féin leader said he had been involved in lengthy and detailed discussions with the two governments, which included meetings and phone calls with Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair, as well as with senior officials from the two governments.
``For the past twelve days I have been trying to ascertain whether or not the British government has the political will to resolve this crisis,'' said Adams. ``In my view the British government at this time is more concerned with its management of unionism and with pandering to rejectionists within its own system, than it is with the full and proper implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and of the commitment it entered into in May at Hillsborough.
``The British Secretary of State claims that he does not endorse Mr. Trimble's position but yet he refuses to intervene. This is at odds with his record so far, when he abused his power at the beginning of the year, unilaterally and illegally, to collapse the institutions and more recently in contradictions of the Good Friday Agreement when he ordered the flying of the Union flag.''
David Trimble is in breach of his obligations under the Good Friday Agreement and Peter Mandelson is refusing to use his authority to defend the Agreement, the press conference was told.
Trimble had outlined his game plan in a comprehensive way in a letter to the UUC delegates when he set out his objectives as increasing pressure progressively on republicans and nationalists by creating a crisis around the Executive and Assembly, to achieve the suspension of the Agreement and to place responsibility for this on republicans.
``Sinn Féin is not prepared to tolerate this emasculation of the Agreement by the First Minister nor acquiesce in the progressive termination of the All Ireland Ministerial Council,'' said Adams. ``We have tried to resolve this matter politically. We will continue in contact with both governments, but I have little confidence in the British government's management of this process.''
``To be quite frank at this time, there is little room to manoeuvre. Mr Trimble is set to scrap another North-South Ministerial meeting set for Friday next. I am also very conscious that the policing debate is drawing to a conclusion and that it appears the British government, despite its protestations to the contrary, has overturned the recommendations of its own commission on policing. Only yesterday, another member of the Patten Commission attacked the British Police Bill and accused the British government of having ``gutted'' the Patten recommendations.
``The British government has a statutory obligation to act as a guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement. The responsibilities and obligations of both governments in this respect derive from the British-Irish Agreement, from the Good Friday Agreement itself, from the All Ireland referendum vote and from votes in the British parliament.
``The British government has a responsibility to effectively address the threat to the Agreement posed by David Trimble's disenfranchisement of the two Sinn Féin ministers, as well as his other demands,'' said Adams. ``The Irish government has a similar responsibility. It has attended to this in a responsible way.''
The Good Friday Agreement is not a northern issue, Adams told the conference; every citizen on this island has a stake in it. ``The people are the real guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, whether unionist, nationalist, republican, loyalist or people without any party politics, to defend the Agreement,'' said Adams.
Those who seek to prevent the changes involved in the Agreement would not prevail, said the Sinn Féin leader, the Good Friday Agreement will be judged, and is being judged, on whether it delivers or not. The Agreement itself cannot deliver change, said Adams, it is a charter or a vehicle for change and it needs to be driven forwards to achieve its potential.
``Sinn Féin is not giving up,'' said Adams. ``Our decision to take legal action, despite the lack of confidence by nationalists and republicans in the legal and judicial system here, is an indication of our grave dissatisfaction at how this British government, which promised so much has pandered to a unionist veto.''