British drag feet
BY SEAN BRADY
A senior Sinn Féin delegation is in the United States this week. Gerry
Adams MP, Six-County Minister for Education Martin McGuinness and
Caoimhghín O Caoláin TD are holding a series of political meetings and
briefings, media interviews and public and private meetings with Irish
American support organisations.
Demilitarisation is a political matter for the British government and
not a matter for the securocrats. It must act on demilitarisation
- Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams held a meeting with US President Bill Clinton in the White
House on Wednesday.
This is the first trip to the United States by a Sinn Féin minister
and on Friday Martin McGuinness will be in Washington to meet his
opposite number in the Clinton administration, the Secretary of State
for Education Richard Riley, to discuss areas of mutual interest and
The members of the delegation will hold a series of private meetings,
including briefings with the editorial boards of several major US
This latest US visit will provide the Sinn Féin leadership with an
opportunity to brief the White House and other key figures as well as
support organisations in Irish America on the ongoing peace process.
Speaking at Belfast International Airport before his departure for the
US, Gerry Adams urged Six-County First Minister and Ulster Unionist
Party leader David Trimble to remain true to the Good Friday Agreement
at next month's meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council and said that
republicans had stretched themselves to meet unionist demands on
decommissioning. He said: ``We have at considerable risk to ourselves
sought to accommodate and to take on board the difficulties of others,
especially the Ulster Unionist Party, because that is the imperative
of making peace.
``It is now up to David Trimble to lead his party, through the Ulster
Unionist Council and other party forums. It is up to him to be
truthful and true to the Good Friday Agreement and to what needs to be
Adams also slammed remarks this week by British Secretary of State
Peter Mandelson regarding demilitarisation of the Six Counties, which
have provoked widespread anger within the nationalist community.
Speaking on UTV's Spotlight programme on Monday evening, 9 January,
Mandelson said that any decisions on demilitarisation would be based
on advice from the RUC and British army.
Responding to Mandelson's comments, Gerry Adams said: ``If Mr
Mandelson's remarks reflect British government thinking at this time,
then it is failing to live up to its obligations under the Good Friday
Agreement. Demilitarisation is a political matter for the British
government and not a matter for the securocrats. It must act on
``Nationalists are outraged that the British government has
effectively surrendered responsibility for its long overdue
demilitarisation programme to such a partisan, sectarian and
discredited force as the RUC - a force whose very existence hinges on
frustrating meaningful moves towards demilitarising the political
``The RUC has a vested interest in maintaining not only its political
and security power base but the financial umbrella for the force and
its members individual lifestyles. It is simply not in the RUC's
interest to see progress on demilitarisation.
``Demilitarisation is a political responsibility that cannot be
shirked by the British government. They cannot allow the RUC to
dictate political progress.''
The Sinn Féin President said that the issue would be raised by him in
the United States: ``This is one of the issues I am going to be
raising, the whole slowness, reluctance and refusal to demilitarise,
the continued existance of the RUC, the failure thus far to implement
the Patten Report and the disgraceful decisions around Rosemary Nelson
and the failure to move on Pat Finucane's case or that of Robert
Gerry Adams called on the British government to accommodate an
independent, international inquiry into the role of British military
intelligence and the RUC in the deaths of Rosemary Nelson, Pat
Finucane and Robert Hamill, and said the inquiry should focus on the
role of agents such as Brian Nelson.
Meanwhile Conor Murphy, Sinn Féin Assembly member for Newry and
Armagh, speaking before accompanying a delegation from the South
Armagh Residents' and Farmers' Committee to present submissions to
Peter Mandelson on Thursday 13 January, said the wide range of groups
and individuals represented showed the malign impact of the British
military presence on ordinary people's lives over the past three
decades and they are clear in their demand for that presence to be
Murphy said: ``The British government published a paper on
demilitarisation just before Christmas. It caused understandable anger
in South Armagh and other areas because it came nowhere near meeting
the British government's obligations under the Good Friday Agreement
to publish a schedule for demilitarisation. These hundreds of
submissions are making a very clear demand that the British government
begin the immediate demilitarisation of South Armagh. It is the only
policy which the British government can implement if they are serious
about living up to their responsibilities in the peace process.''
Nationalist anger at the latest indications that the British
government is not taking the demilitarisation issue seriously has been
compounded by several other factors. First is the concentration by
unionist politicians on the issue of silent IRA guns. This is taking
place in the context not only of a failure by official British forces
to demilitarise but also against the backdrop of continuing loyalist
attacks against nationalists and the recent outbreak of violence
between the UVF and LVF.
Furthermore, the decision by the North's Director of Public
Proescutions not to bring charges against RUC officers accused of
threatening human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson has left republicans
and the nationalist community angry at the failure to grasp the nettle
of RUC collusion with loyalist death squads. The British state once
again stands accused of protecting state agents from rigorous
investigation and accountability.