Republican News · Thursday 19 November 1998

[An Phoblacht]

Governments must intervene


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 Council.

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 confounded.

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 required.

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 political change.

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.

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