gry reaction to UUC decision
BY MICHAEL PIERSE
Sinn Féin has reacted angrily to the decision of the Ulster Unionist Council on Saturday to try to block Sinn Féin ministers from cross-border ministerial meetings.
The party's Assembly member for North Belfast, Gerry Kelly, speaking on Saturday, described the UUC conference vote in support of a position outlined by David Trimble as ``destructive and ill-advised. It is a timetable for disaster.
The British government's chicanery on this matter, on the Patten recommendations and on the issue of the flying of the Union flag over government buildings, have convinced the UUP that they can hollow out the Agreement with impunity.
``Last night, Gerry Adams urged Mr Trimble not to go down this road but to work with nationalists and republicans to ensure that the Good Friday Agreement is implemented in full, that all parties keep their commitments and that we provide the better future people voted for in May 1998. He ignored this advice.
``Yesterday, in his letter to Council delegates, David Trimble set out his objectives as creating a crisis around the Executive and the Assembly, suspension of the Agreement and that the blame for the crisis be attached to republicans.
This is not about decommissioning. This is about people who are refusing to accept equality, refusing power sharing and the critically important all-Ireland dimension to this process
``Today he set out his plan to achieve these. The menu set out by the Ulster Unionist leadership is evidence of an absence of commitment to the Agreement and the Peace Process - it reflects a hankering after the failed status quo which all politically sane people accept to be untenable.
``The reality is that Mr. Trimble has not stood up to Jeffrey Donaldson. He has not stood up in defence of the Agreement, instead he has proposed an approach that is in clear breach of the Good Friday Agreement. He has been encouraged in his endeavours to have the Agreement and its requirement for change filtered through a unionist prism.''
Kelly supported this comment with three examples:
``The suspension legislation enacted by the British government is no part of the Good Friday Agreement. It was put in place at the behest of the UUP. It is their tactical sanctuary from their responsibility to effect change.
``The triggering of suspension by Peter Mandelson in February, in a crude act of misinformation, manipulation and cynicism, created the deepest crisis in the Agreement to date.
``The British government's chicanery on this matter, on the Patten recommendations and on the issue of the flying of the Union flag over government buildings, have convinced the UUP that they can hollow out the Agreement with impunity.
``The combined effect of the British government's approach to the implementation of the Agreement and the UUP's tactical engagement are leading to a timetable for disaster,'' said Kelly.
Party president Gerry Adams re-echoed the comments made by Kelly when he spoke at a national meeting of Sinn Féin activists at Castlebellingham, Co Louth, on Sunday which discussed the crisis created by the UUP.
Adams warned that ``if he (Trimble) follows through on his threat, he will be in breach of the Agreement and in contravention of his Pledge of Office and of his Ministerial code''.
The Sinn Féin leader pointed out that ``Sinn Féin does not hold Executive position by dint of patronage from the UUP. We have a mandate and the citizens whom we represent must have exactly the same rights as all other citizens.''
He posed the question: ``Could it be that Mr. Trimble's move is tacit acknowledgement that unionism isn't up to the challenge of working alongside other citizens or of developing and sustaining a peaceful future based upon equality?''
Adams, who had spoken to both governments and the White House the previous day, said he told them of the need ``to preserve the political process and the peace process thorough upholding and implementing the Good Friday Agreement. They cannot allow a unionist veto''.
Adams said that republicans ``have serious concerns about the focus and intent of Mr Blair and his colleagues.
``The time ahead will present challenges for everyone. Sinn Féin is up to those challenges and it remains the aim and the function of this party to manage the process in a calm and strategic way.
At a press conference on Monday, Sinn Féin Chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said that the crisis is not about decommissioning.
``Be under no illusion whatsoever, this is not about decommissioning... this is about people who are refusing to accept equality, refusing power sharing and the critically important all-Ireland dimension to this process.
``The reality is that the British government made a commitment in May of this year to fully implement the Patten proposals and to be involved in a meaningful process of demilitarisation. They have dismally failed to honour those commitments.
``I want the British government to honour their commitments. And I want the IRA to honour the commitments they made. But we all know that in this type of a conflict resolution process and peace process, if one side is reneging on commitments made, it is going to create difficulty.''