23 August 2001 Edition

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Australian leaders urge progress

A group of senior Australian trade union leaders and MPs have written to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, urging them not to let unionist politicians frustrate the peace process.

Five senior Australian trade union leaders, including the national secretaries for the maritime and construction unions, an assistant secretary of the New South Wales Labor Party and eight Labor MPs, as well as Green Party representative Ian Cohen, signed the letter. It noted that the current crisis has been triggered by the resignation of UUP leader David Trimble and it said unionists should not be allowed to exercise a veto to which they have no right.

The letter described the IRA offer to put its arms verifiably beyond use as courageous and it called upon loyalists to do likewise.

The letter states:

``We are concerned that the present crisis has been deliberately contrived by the unionist forces to frustrate and undermine political reform. We note that the trigger for the present crisis was the resignation of Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble as First Minister.

``We urge your governments to honour all the commitments made in the Good Friday Agreement and not allow the unionists to continue to act in a unilateral manner exercising a veto that they have no right to.

``For too long now, unionists have hidden behind the issue of decommissioning as an excuse not to proceed with agreed political reforms. Last week's statement by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning that the IRA had begun a process of putting its arms ``completely and verifiably beyond use'', exposed the spurious motives of those who have hidden behind Decommissioning as the basis for opposing political reform.''

The letter terms the IRA's proposal on arms, since withdrawn because of the Britihs government's suspension of the institutions, as ``courageous'' and as ``greatly enhanced the peace process''.

Expressing their abhorrence of loyalist attacks, the Australian group also called for loyalists to be put under pressure to match the IRA offer. Saving the peace process is a matter of ``collective responsibility'' they said, to which a new beginning to policing is an integral part:

``We believe that the immediate reform of the RUC, at least in line with the proposals in the Patten Report, is an urgent requirement for the future of the peace process. So too is the British government's commitment to a timetable for the complete demilitarisation of its Armed Forces and facilities in Ireland.''

The letter is signed by: Paddy Crumlin, National Secretary Maritime Union of Australia; John Maitland, National Secretary Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union; John Sutton, National Secretary Construction Workers Union; Maurie O'Sullivan, General Secretary Public Service Association of NSW; Ron Land, Secretary United Mineworkers Federation NSW Northern District; Damian O'Connor, Assistant Secretary Australian Labor Party NSW; Paddy Gorman, President Australian Aid for Ireland; Paul Lynch, MP for Liverpool; Col Markham, MP for Wollongong; Hon Peter Primrose, Member NSW Legislative Council; Hon Ian Cohen, Member NSW Legislative Council; Alison Megarrity, MP for Menai; John Mills, MP for Wallsend; Ernie Page, MP for Coogee; Milton Orkopoulos, MP for Swansea; Neville Newell, MP for Tweed.

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