Governments must intervene
BY SEAN BRADY
The Ulster Unionist Party, already in breach of the Good Friday
Agreement, has so far sucessfully frustrated the establishment of
an Executive in the Six Counties and an all-Ireland Ministerial
This week they turned their attention to the issue of the release
of political priosners, and the creation of an acceptable police
force, both vital ingredients of the Agreement, and began what
seems to be the beginning of a concerted attempt to have progress
on these issues frustrated too.
As pointed out by Sinn Fein Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin the
unionists are clearly involved in a ``programmatic atttempt to
dismantle the Agreement'' itself.
It seems to be only a matter of time until the unionists attempt
to prevent any progress on the issues of equality and the Irish
language, provisions for which are contained in the Agreement.
It is the responsibility of all the political representatives of
the Irish people and both the British and Irish governments to
ensure that the express wishes of the people are not trampled
underfoot by those who want to bring down the Agreement and
prevent political progress and that such attempts are exposed and
It was therefore annoying to hear Seamus Mallon in his address to
the SDLP annual conference attempt to equate Sinn Fein with the
UUP in terms of attitudes to the Good Friday Agreement. He
decried the placing of sectoral party interests before those of
the wider community and lumped Sinn Fein in with the UUP in
putting ``party before the agreement''.
Nothing could be further from the truth and Mallon knows it. Sinn
Fein has consistently attempted to uphold the Agreement and to
see that all of its provisions are adhered too. The pursuit of
this course of action has resulted in what has been described
here before as collateral damage. Sinn Fein has met all of its
requirements under the Agreement and seeks to have its provisons
brought into reality. In contrast the unionsts are in breach of
the Agreement and are actively attempting to destroy it.
The antics of unionists in trying to re-write and overturn what
they already agreed comes as no surprise to republicans. This
rearguard reaction is central to the nature and practice of
unionism over many decades.
For political unionism to accept full equality for Irish
nationalists would signal the end of the Northern Ireland state
as we know it. Unionism's raison detre has been the maintenance
of that state in all it's sectarian, gerrymandered, and
undemocratic glory. They are not prepared now to volutarily
forego that task.
But the refusal to establish the Executive and the all-Ireland
Ministerial Council and the associated implementation bodies has
put the future of the Agreement in serious doubt. The Peace
process cannot stand still- it either goes forward or it
eventually starts going backwards. This should be a matter of
deep concern to everyone. Above all it should be a matter of
concern to the Irish and British governments.
Unionism's successes so far in stimying the wishes of the people
is leading to a growing sense of despair and disillusionment.
Faith in the Agreement is being steadily eroded. Urgent action is
The challenge once again is to dispense with the unionist veto.
That veto has been one of the factor's in Irish politics which
has sustained the conflict over the years and the removal of
which is central to conflict resolution. In the past, both recent
and distant, British government's gave way to it and we have all
had to live with the consequences of such an appeasement policy.
The current impasse around the implementation of the Good Friday
Agreement has been created by the mentality within unionism
which is refusing to change and which wants to impose a veto over
The British and Irish governments must not allow the unionist
veto to prevail over the implementation of the agreement. To do
so would be to fly in the face of the expressed wishes of the
people of Ireland who voted for the agreement in overwhelming
numbers. It is time now that they intervened directly.
The British and Irish governments and all of the political
parties including Ulster Unionists themselves know that Unionist
arguments around decommissioning do not equate with the terms of
the Good Friday Agreement.
The choice they have to make is whether they will keep their word
and implement what they signed up to or whether they will allow
the process to collapse.
For David Trimble, this means abandoning attempts to turn back
the clock. As it seems he is as yet unwilling to do so the
impetus must come from others.
Tony Blair cannot allow the Agreement to fail. He must force the
pace of political change in the Six Counties, tackle the causes
of conflict and render redundant the unionist veto.
Bertie Ahern must stand full-square in defence of nationalist
interests at a time when they are under direct attack.
Nationalist unity around the issues which have been so hardly
fought in recent years is now essential so that what has been
achieved is not lost by default.
As has been stated here before it is now time to bring to bear on
the entire process the influence and direct involvement of all
those forces which were so crucial to securing the Agreement
itself last April and that includes the US administration.