Republican News · Thursday 17 February 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Reinstate the institutions

The suspension by the British government last week of the Good Friday Agreement institutions was an illegal and retrogade act that leaves the peace process in a perilous state.

The IRA's decision to remove its representative from engagement with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) is one direct consequence of this sabotaging of the democratic political process.

Despite intense shuttle diplomacy on the part of Sinn Féin with the two governments, the Ulster Unionists and the IRA, which resulted in all parties being made aware that the IRA had put forward a new, positive and highly significant position, Peter Mandelson stuck to his destructive course of action.

Indeed, there is a growing belief that Peter Mandelson, in suspending the institutions, was keeping to the terms of a secret deal done with Ulster Unionists during the Mitchell review last November.

The institutions should not have been suspended and there was clearly no need to do so. An initiative which was capable of resolving the decommissioning issue existed and all parties were aware of this.

Despite being aware of the IRA's position and of the imminence of a very positive second de Chastelain report, Peter Mandelson suspended the institutions because he was operating to an agenda dictated by the Ulster Unionist Council.

In these circumstances, there is no basis whatsoever for another review of the Good Friday Agreement.

The British government is now clearly in default of the Good Friday Agreement. It has confirmed widespread fears that the unionist veto still holds sway in relation to British policy on Ireland. The collapse of the institutions signals a failure of politics.

The British government's capitulation to the Orange card has deeply shaken the confidence of nationalists and republicans in the British approach to the political process. It will also confirm the unionists in their belief that they hold a veto over political progress, encouraging further intransigence and sending the Peace Process into reverse.

The Executive, which contained such potential and hope, was in the end given just eight weeks of life before the British allowed the unionists to snuff it out.

The people of Ireland, particularly of the Six Counties, need to know there is hope for the political future. That hope can only be given sustenance by the reestablishing of the institutions and the adoption of the second de Chastelain report.

The challenge to O'Rourke

Dublin's Public Enterprise minister, Mary O'Rourke, was always going to have her work cut out for her when she took on a portfolio that included responsibility for the ESB, Eircom, Aer Lingus, Aer Rianta and CIE.

Apart from the issue of whether or not she would implement EU directives on privatisation, O'Rourke faced taking responsibility for a group of public companies dreadfully mismanaged by previous ministers. Michael Lowry and Alan Dukes had allowed CIE management to take a deliberately confrontational stance in negotiations with their workforces.

O'Rourke rapidly defused the situation in 1997 by calling off management. This week, however, confrontation emerged again as Dublin Bus workers staged a one day stoppage in pursuit of a 20% wage claim. They have been waiting over six months for management to consider their claim. Mary O'Rourke should have intervened weeks ago in this dispute.

The delay this week in the publication of the principles for the ESB's deregulation because of worker concerns over job losses seems another example of a minister with her eye off the ball.

There has been a need over at least the last ten years for a public discussion on the privatisation issue in the 26 Counties. Mary O'Rourke has completely ignored this by ploughing ahead with her privatisation programme. In this, she is no different from any of her predecessors. There is, though, still time for her to act and show a more positive side to the Public Enterprise post. Is she up to the challenge?

Contents Page for this Issue
Reply to: Republican News