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19 September 2002 Edition

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Has Reid lost the plot?

Gerry Adams this week warns that the British government is increasingly adopting a complacent attitude towards the peace process. He says that their strategy towards conflict resolution is in danger of being replaced by short term tactical management and a return to the old game of bolstering unionists and pointing the finger of blame at republicans.

The fact is, the peace process is in grave danger at present. Progress is being held up by the unionists (the Ulster Unionists are to have yet another crisis UUC meeting) as part of tactical manoeuvering in advance of next year's Assembly elections.

Sinn Féin's worry that the British government is willing to play along with this blocking agenda has been borne out by the bizarre actions of Secretary of State John Reid. Nationalists could be forgiven for believing the man has lost the plot altogether.

His role is to deliver the Good Friday Agreement, but instead he has played Pontius Pilate as loyalists have launched a sustained campaign of sectarian attacks on vulnerable nationalist communities. After months of pretending that this was a tit-for-tat scenario with the overstretched PSNI/RUC stuck in the middle, Reid has now taken the extraordinary step of declaring what is needed is a ceasefire monitor.

Flying in the face of all reason, Reid has run with this latest unionist invention, aimed squarely at creating an argument that the IRA has broken its cessation, a politically motivated snub to republicans.

To date, Reid has ignored a vicious and sustained loyalist pogrom, has stalled on promised reform of policing legislation, and has tried to sell the notion that the PSNI is not just a repackaged RUC. He has allowed the unionists to lead the process by the nose, with crisis after contrived crisis, this latest being the most transparently manufactured to date. Reid has also failed in his responsibilities with regard to the equality agenda, human rights, the criminal justice system, the All-Ireland agenda and, of course, on demilitarisation.

The last two years should have been about building on the Good Friday Agreement. It should have been about delivering change. John Reid has failed to advance any of this and has instead allowed the entire process to languish.

Hs actoons are corroding republican and nationalist confidence in the British government's commitment to deliver on the peace process.

The political vacuum that he has played a crucial role in creating has allowed the loyalist death squads to thrive and the more sectarian unionist politicians to encourage them with poorly veiled rhetoric, eyes set on destabilising the process.

Tony Blair needs to reengage with the Irish peace process and refocus on his responsibilities therein. That means implementing the Good Friday Agreement.

An Phoblacht
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