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31 October 2002 Edition

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Solve the problem... Implement the Agreement

The announcement by the IRA that it has suspended contact with the decommissioning body is a reflection of the seriousness of this latest British-engineered crisis in the peace process.

They may have shifted the deckchairs last week, with Paul Murphy replacing John Reid, but the fact remains that because of the British government's actions, we are now back to direct rule.

The IRA last suspended contact with the IICD in February 2000, after Peter Mandelson suspended the institutions. On that occasion, the IRA said:

"The British Secretary of State has reintroduced the unionist veto by suspending the political institutions. This has changed the context in which we appointed a representative to meet with the IICD and has created a deeper crisis...

"Those who seek a military victory in this way need to understand that this cannot and will not happen."

The current crisis, against which this latest development comes, is down to the British government's decision to yet again suspend the institutions and its refusal to fully implement the internationally binding agreement to which it signed up in 1998. A raft of commitments remains unhonoured. Meanwhile, Catholics live with the reality that unionist death squads are seemingly allowed to act with impunity.

This week, An Phoblacht highlights the incessant sectarian campaign against Catholics in south Antrim. In Belfast, Ardoyne and the Short Strand have been the focus for attacks in the past week. It is against this background of fear, intimidation, beatings and even killings that many nationalists and republicans view the current crisis. These people also want a policing service they can turn to, not the RUC with snappier uniforms but undiminished prejudice. They want a political process that gives as much respect to their right to live without fear as it does to unionist demands about IRA guns that have been silent for years.

In interviews, when they are forced to, unionist politicians make quick condemnations of the sectarian campaign launched from within their communities. Some even try to deny the facts by claiming that they are staged by republicans. Therein is the nub. Their focus remains republicans, even while the violence emanates from closer to home. Their agenda is one of rejecting change, rejecting equality, rejecting an end to second-class citizenship for nationalists. Worryingly, both main unionist parties have now firmly moved into the anti-Agreement camp.

It is now time for the two governments to accept their responsibility in this process. The British in particular have pandered too long to unionist demands. Tony Blair must demonstrate to unionist politicians and paramilitaries that the Good Friday Agreement, as Gerry Adams said in Monaghan last weekend, is the only show in town.

An Phoblacht
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