Rebuilding the Peace Process
BY SEAN BRADY
Sunday afternoon saw discussion around the issue of rebuilding the peace process and related issues such as demilitarisation in the Six Counties and policing.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD pointed out that nearly two years ago Sinn Féin had agreed to change its Constitution to allow entry to the new Six-County Assembly and not oppose changes to Articles Two and Three of the 1937 Constitution.
The compromises made by republicans, however, had been spurned by unionists and disregarded by the British government. The votes of the vast majority of the electorate throughout the 32 counties were set at nought by the the British government in suspending the Good Friday Agreement institutions and the implications were just as serious for people in the 26 Counties as for those in the Six Counties.
The British government alone, acting at the behest of David Trimble, brought down the whole political edifice so carefully constructed by both governments and all the parties and endorsed by the people of Ireland in referenda on both sides of the border.
On policing, former Six County Health Minister Bairbre de Brún said the existence of repressive legislation in both states in Ireland mitigated against the development of an effective police service.
De Brún pointed out that in the last three weeks helicopter activity in South Armagh was at an all time high, flying at dangerously low levels and that harassment of the nationalist population by regiments of the British Army and RUC continued across the Six Counties.
She said it had been a serious mistake by Peter Mandelson to suggest that the British crown could still form part of any new insignia and that those present members of the RUC would be exempt from taking the oath proposed by Patten as part of any new policing arrangements. ``These suggestions are deeply offensive and show a lack of backbone on the part of the British government in bringing about the new beginning to policing promised in the Good Friday Agreement,'' she said.
This had clearly shown the wisdom of the Sinn Féin position that the party would examine the Patten legislation, any proposed implementation plans and the terms of reference for the international oversight commissioner, who has yet to be appointed, seven months after the publication of the Patten report.
``The Irish government signed up to an Agreement that called for a new beginning to policing. So how can they allow the Garda Síochána to work hand in fist with the discredited force that is there at present?
``The Irish government gave recent public support for and independent inquiry into the death of human rights defender Pat Finucane. They said there was clear evidence of collusion in Pat's murder and this was only one of a number of cases? Why then are the Gardaí continuing to give the RUC information that can be passed on to loyalists? Why are sections of the Gardaí such active participants in the RUC's publicity strategy?''
Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said a juncture had been reached where the British government needed to honour its responsibilities rather than bow down each time there was a possibility of a revolt in unionism or when there is a question about David Trimble's leadership.
``David Trimble is very, very important to the Good Friday Agreement but he is not more important than Gerry Adams, he is not more important that John Hume. The peace process is more important than all those leaders.''
He said republicans were angry at the suspension of the institutions in February but he told them to keep faith with the party's vision of a lasting peace.
Motions were passed calling for the immediate reinstatement, without preconditions, of the institutions suspended by Peter Mandeslon, calling on the British government to honour its obligation to demilitarise the situation on the ground in the Six Counties under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and demanding the total disbandment of the RUC and the immediate withdrawal of all British troops from Ireland.