Republican News · Thursday 13 January 1999

[An Phoblacht]

Troops must go

The failure of the British government to make any meaningful contribution to the demilitarisation of the situation in the Six Counties is deeply disappointing and raises serious concerns about the direction of the peace process.

This refusal to honour its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement has been compounded this week in remarks by Peter Mandelson. To leave the decision for movement on such a central and crucial issue, as he wants to, in the hands of the RUC and British army, turns the Agreement on its head and is an affront to the nationalist community.

Republicans have stretched themselves again and again to accommodate others in the quest to implement the Good Friday Agreement and achieve real political progress. That flexibility has not been reciprocated to the same degree. It is now time for others to act. The removal of British troops and the dismantling of the intrusive military installations that scar the streets and landscape of the Six Counties must be implemented without delay.

For his part David Trimble must carry his party fully into the process and to dispel doubts about their full commitment to working inclusively in the Executive and the other institutions. The decommissioning issue is now where it belongs - with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD).

In the United States on Wednesday, when asked about threats to collapse the Executive if there was no IRA decommissioning by February, Gerry Adams pointed out that such deadlines had never worked in other conflict resolution situations around the world.

Also on Wednesday, Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin voiced his concern at comments reportedly made by Bertie Ahern and Peter Mandelson. Ahern, when asked what would happen if the IRA did not begin decommissioning by February, reportedly said that ``if there's no decommissioning it is my view, with certainty, that the entire thing will fall apart. Whatever happens after that is another question.''

Mandelson, also speculating on IRA decommissioning, said that the UUP decision to set a new February deadline, which falls outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and the Mitchell Review, was ``understandable''.

Responding, Mitchel McLaughlin said recent speculation and commentary surrounding the issue of decommsioning had been unhelpful. Sinn Féin believed the issue was now where it should always have been, with General de Chastelain and the IICD. This is what had been agreed on Good Friday and during the Mitchell Review.

``Collectively,'' said McLaughlin, ``we all have an obligation to make the new institutions work. This must be the focus of the two governments and all of the political parties. This is, in fact, what people want. This is what people expect.''

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