It's simple, Tony
Uphold the Agreement you signed
The imminent arrival of British Prime Minister Tony Blair for yet another round of talks has left not only Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly but also most of Belfast's television and news journalists unimpressed. The prospect of another dreary, and this time a very cold, night outside Hillsborough Castle with little prospect of any significant new breakthrough, was enough to chill the bravest media hearts.
Everyone knew what needed to be done, said Kelly at a press conference held just hours before the scheduled arrival of Tony Blair yesterday, Wednesday 17 January. ``The British government must use its considerable power to move the process forward by fulfilling commitments they have signed up to.''
Kelly said the current crisis within the peace process was threefold. First, there was the fracturing of the Good Friday Agreement by David Trimble's refusal to nominate Sinn Féin ministers to the North-South ministerial councils. The Sinn Féin spokesperson said that he believed the First Minister had been given space to thwart the peace process by the actions of the British government.
The issue of policing was the focus of the second crisis, Kelly said. Peter Mandelson had effectively subverted the Patten Report and ignored the fact that Irish republicans, northern nationalists, the Dublin government and the American administration were united against his Police Act.
The third crisis was around the issue of demilitarisation. The British government had not delivered on guarantees they had undertaken and instead had adopted a minimalist approach to demilitarisation, he continued.
``There was universal recognition, and it was patently the case, that the big moves last May came from Irish republicans,'' said Kelly. ``This originated, in the first instance, in the doggedness of the Sinn Féin leadership to create an initiative in the face of the British government's collapse of the institutions in February.
``It came, in the second instance, in the two-pronged IRA initiative, firstly on arms inspections and secondly in its commitment to put weapons beyond use in a given context,'' he said. ``All of this was beyond the requirements and obligations of the Good Friday Agreement.''
On the other hand, said Kelly, ``the failure of the British government to honour their obligations has considerably exacerbated the situation''.
``Blair's visit is to be welcomed only if it signals an intention by him to fulfil his responsibilities. The big contribution this time round to the effort to stabilise the process must come from Tony Blair.''
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has described last weekend's media reports that the RUC Chief Constable has told the UUP `there will always be a Special Branch' as ``a deeply worrying development''.
The revelation underlines again the need for the Police Act to be significantly amended, he said. ``Tinkering with the implementation plan is not enough. There must be amending legislation. The entire thrust of the Patten recommendations in this key area was designed to tackle the problems created by the Special Branch. The Special Branch is a secret political force within an undemocratic and unaccountable RUC.
``Ronnie Flanagan's reported remarks indicate he is intent on subverting Patten on what is a touchstone issue for those of us who desire to see the system of civic policing envisaged under the Good Friday Agreement. It also highlights another serious flaw in the Mandelson Police Act, which is the power given to the Chief Constable to minimise change and block accountability.''
Adams said that the importance of this issue could be seen in the failure to tackle an increasing number of pipe-bomb attacks on Catholics and Catholic-owned properties.
``The deteriorating situation in Larne and elsewhere highlights the need for a policing service that is accountable and prepared to work for every citizen,'' he said. ``The RUC is clearly not that service and the British government handling of this issue has set back the objectives set for policing by the Good Friday Agreement.''
``The campaign of terror against the Catholic community, especially in North and East Antrim, is a source of deep concern. There is an urgent need for civic leaders, church leaders and politicians to take up this issue and to stand with their Catholic neighbours against this orchestrated intimidation,'' he said.