Praise for Clinton but Blair must deliver
The visit of US President Bill Clinton to Ireland bestrode the news agenda this week like a Colossus. His public engagements were positive and upbeat, a perfect showcase for his strong charisma and his undoubted commitment to securing progress in the Irish peace process.
With dignity, Clinton took his well-deserved bows at the end of a Presidency that has seen a sea change in the US attitude towards the political situation in Ireland. Without his personal attention and interventions, it is highly unlikely the process would have travelled as far as it has.
There have been a series of political engagements over the past couple of days to discuss the crisis in the peace process. At Stormont on Wednesday, a Sinn Féin dellegation consisting of Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness, Bairbre de Brún, Gerry Kelly, Joe Cahill and Martin Ferris met with Bill Clinton and other US government representatives and with Tony Blair and his people. Gerry Adams also had a private meeting with the US President.
But the point to be borne in mind as Bill Clinton departs for home is this. His contribution has been important, but responsibility for moving the process forward now rests squarely with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Clinton may have influence, but Blair has the power to move the situation forward.
Blair is the one who can deliver a full and fair implementation of the Patten report.
Blair is the one who can deliver on demilitarisation.
Blair is the one who can use his influence to force David Trimble's hand on the exclusion of Sinn Féin ministers from North/South Ministerial Council meetings.
Bill Clinton's commitment to the Irish peace process is not in doubt. The same cannot be said for Tony Blair and the British government, who have acted dishonourably and have reneged on commitments made.
The ball still rests squarely with Tony Blair.
Gardaí act with malice
Sinn Féin has accused the Garda Representative Association (GRA) of fabrication following comments by that body on Wednesday in connection with the release on compassionate parole of two republican prisoners over the last month.
``This has been done as part of a campaign by the GRA to try and prevent the release of the Castlerea Five,'' said Gerry Kelly, rejecting the GRA's claim that two of the prisoners had abused compassionate parole.
``The commotion caused by the GRA has little to do with how compassionate parole is exercised but about who receives it as both Jeremiah Sheehy and Pearse McAuley honoured the terms of their compassionate parole.
``The GRA is misrepresenting the facts in an attempt to attack Sinn Féin's irrefutable case that the republican prisoners held in Castlerea are entitled to release under the terms of the Goood Friday Agreement. Any attmept to check out this story quickly shows how much of it is factually incorrect.
``These prisoners should have been released by now and Sinn Féin will continue to campaign for their immediate release.''