Defend the Agreement
Dublin, SDLP and Sinn Féin unite against Trimble
Six-County Health Minister Bairbre de Brún will meet her 26-County counterpart Micheál Martin this Friday to discuss Food Safety-related issues, despite efforts by David Trimble to deny Sinn Féin's mandate and exclude its ministers from such meetings.
In a show of solidarity, de Brún and Martin will be joined by Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon of the SDLP. Commenting on Trimble's attempts to exclude Sinn Féin from meetings conducted under the auspices of the North-South Ministerial Council, Minister de Brún said at a press conference on Wednesday that the move was ``both discriminatory and anti-democratic''. She pledged herself to continue the programme of work she has undertaken in the Six-County Department of Health on behalf of her own and David Trimble's constituents but warned that ``the Good Friday Agreement is in an extremely serious situation''.
The crisis arises out of the latest Ulster Unionist Council meeting at Belfast's Waterfront Hall. After four hours of discussion on Saturday, Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble emerged with marginally more support for his own leadership, gained by attacking the Agreement. 445 members of the Ulster Unionist Council (UUC), 54 per cent, voted in favour of Trimble's proposal to use his powers as First Minister to exclude Sinn Féin ministers from the North-South Ministerial Council, pending IRA decommissioning.
The other 46 per cent lent their support to `anti-Agreement' unionist Jeffrey Donaldson's proposals, described earlier by Trimble as a `letter to Santa', which placed a 30 November deadline for IRA decommissioning, after which Sinn Féin would be excluded from the Executive - or else the UUP would themselves resign from the body. Despite his earlier castigation of the Donaldson proposals, David Trimble emerged from the UUC meeting saying that he and Donaldson were of the same mind on everything but the question of tactics. Donaldson himself said that anti-Agreement unionism had succeeded in moving Trimble closer to their own thinking and that, despite their loss in the crucial vote, this would be deemed by them as a success in itself.
The UUC decision came just days after the IRA's latest positive contribution to the peace process, when it announced that its arms dumps had again been opened to inspection and said it would reengage with the De Chastelain body given positive developments in the peace process. Sinn Féin activists meeting in Castlebellingham, County Louth, last Sunday, were angered at the UUP's decision but more so by the approach of the British government.
The British government, by choosing not to oppose Trimble's actions, has once again helped the unionists to diminish and weaken the Agreement.
Sinn Féin the SDLP and the Dublin government have stipulated that Trimble's veto may be illegal and are currently seeking legal advice. This Friday's meeting is a clear show of solidarity in opposition to Trimble's wrecking efforts. Tony Blair take note.