Republican News · Thursday 13 January 1999

[An Phoblacht]

British drag feet


Demilitarisation is a political matter for the British government and not a matter for the securocrats. It must act on demilitarisation immediately

- Gerry Adams

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.

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 co-operation.

The members of the delegation will hold a series of private meetings, including briefings with the editorial boards of several major US newspapers.

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 done.''

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 demilitarisation immediately.

``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 situation.

``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 Hamill.''

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 removed.

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.

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