Dublin should move on Oireachtas representation
BY MÍCHEÁl MacDONNCHA
Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has welcomed the vote by the Ulster Unionist Party to return to the Executive. He has called on the Dublin government to build on this progress by moving to give citizens in the Six Counties representation in the Oireachtas, and to ensure that the Patten Report on policing is fully implemented and a new police service established.
Responding to the vote of the Ulster Unionist Council to return to the Executive established under the Good Friday Agreement, Ó Caoláin said:
``This is a welcome decision by the Unionist Party. It allows us all to move forward to implement the Good Friday Agreement. Implementation has been stalled for over two years and we must move quickly to recover the political momentum for change that has been thwarted for so long.
``I believe that if David Trimble follows the logic of the Yes vote in his party, narrow though the margin was, then he must join with the rest of us in fulfilling the promise of Good Friday 1998 with enthusiasm. He must embrace fully the spirit of partnership and respect for all electoral mandates that is at the core of the Agreement. Sadly his conduct to date has shown a lack of understanding of that imperative.
``I share the anger of republicans and nationalists at the comments of David Trimble in the aftermath of the vote when he spoke of Sinn Féin not being properly house-trained and the need to bring Sinn Féin to heel. He shouldwithdraw these disgraceful sectarian remarks.''
New start to policing
Turning to the issue of the RUC and policing Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
``A new start to policing is fundamental to the entire peace process. There is deep, deep concern among nationalists and republicans at the Policing Bill published by the British government last week. This Bill falls far short of the Patten Report and, if implemented, would not represent a new start to policing. It would leave the RUC in place and republicans could not recommend people to join it. This goes far beyond the issue of the name and badge. Patten's recommendations regarding democratic control of policing and safeguards for citizens have been disregarded. The Patten Report was effectively `gutted' by the British government in order to facilitate last weekend's UUC vote.
``I urge the Irish government to engage urgently with the British government to ensure that the Policing Bill is amended so that it implements Patten in full. The Patten Report itself was a compromise and did not meet all the concerns of nationalists but it did offer the potential for a new beginning to policing. For that reason, Sinn Féin has given it a fair wind. But anything short of Patten is totally unacceptable. We must dispense with the legacy of the sectarian RUC and establish a new police service for all the community.''
This Thursday, Deputy Ó Caoláin is hosting a visit to the Oireachtas by Sinn Féin Assembly members. With his Assembly colleagues he will meet other TDs and Senators and focus on the issue of policing and the need for urgent action by the Irish government.
The Cavan/Monaghan TD also called on the Irish government to move on Sinn Féin's longstanding proposal for elected representatives in the Six Counties to be given the right to sit and speak in the Dáil. He said:
``Six-County representation in the Oireachtas would be a positive way to build on the progress in the peace process. Legislation to give effect to it should be introduced without delay.''
Sinn Féin has made a submission to the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution recommending that MPs elected in the Six Counties have attendance and speaking rights in the Dáil. In the submission, Sinn Féin says that a key factor in securing a Yes vote in the 26 Counties in the referendum following the Good Friday Agreement was the assertion of the right to Irish citizenship of every person born on the island of Ireland. The Irish government, therefore, is under a special onus to vindicate the rights of Irish citizens living in the Six Counties. Sinn Féin argues that these rights include the right to send representatives to the Irish legislature.