Republican News · Thursday 4 September 1997

[An Phoblacht]

Consent is mask for British policy


A foretaste of negotiations to come was given this week when Mo Mowlam dealt with the issue of consent in a Belfast Telegraph interview while Gerry Adams set forth in detail in the Irish News the Sinn Féin position on this key issue.

Mowlam's interview contained a number of positive elements. She said: ``You can't force people to decommission,'' and stressed that it can only take place if there is ``trust and confidence''. Asked about the morality of sitting down with Sinn Féin she said: ``Morally I would prefer to sit down with someone who has a past than see other RUC men killed. That is the choice I would make, I hope others make it too.'' (Would that her predecessors had taken the same view!)

She acknowledged the essentatial basis of the talks when she said:

``What we have to say to everybody is that the options of the Union and a united Ireland are all on the table, nothing is given away, nothing is taken.''

There was much comment on her remarks about consent. She said:

``I understand consent to be that it is that the wishes and support of the people that a conslucsion or accommodation or outcome is reached. I don't define it in numbers terms, necessarily. I don't necessarily define it in a functional, geographical sense, because those could change the nature of the outcome as both sides are very fearful. Consent means a willing accomodation. I think there is a willing accomodation for a peaceful outcome by many people in Northern Ireland.''

This was qualified however be her statement that: ``Northern Ireland is part of the UK and our policy is not motivated in any way to change that.''

The contradiction in the British position was made clear when Mowlam once again tried to portray the British as honest brokers:

``We represent on one hand with the Irish government a joint approach to arbritrate, build, accomodate with the parties because it is only in the end the parties that can do it... We are facilitators...''

In dealing with consent Gerry Adams pointed up these contradictions in the British position. The following extracts make the point.

British policy in relation to the `union' lies at the heart of the conflict. All other politics rotate around that central issue and until such time as that policy changes the political arguments and debate which revolve around it are in essence academic exercises.

We have not heard a British government say or act in such a way that they have no interest in maintaining the Union.

For the British government `consent' is the last refuge; a camouflage behind which it is attempting to conceal the reality that British policy is for maintaining the union. It implies that their policy could be otherwise. It suggests that ending the union is a matter for the people of Ireland. When in fact the triumvirate of legislature, courts and armed forces act in every conceivable way to maintain the union.

Let them through words and deeds demonstrate that they have no interest in maintaining the union.

If nationalists in the next election, or the one after that, were to secure one vote more than unionists, would that resolve the conflict? Would unionists acquiesce to nationalist demands for a unitary state? I think not!

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