Republican News · Thursday 11 May 2000

[An Phoblacht]

IRA paves way for just peace

Writing in this week's An Phoblacht, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams says that the struggle for freedom and justice has to continue.

Adams was writing in the days after the IRA leadership restated its commitment to a just and lasting peace in Ireland, ``despite the abuse of the peace process by those who persist with the aim of defeating the IRA and Irish republicanism''.

The IRA leadership announced on 6 May that it would re-initiate its contact with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) and that it agreed ``to put in place within weeks a confidence building measure to confirm that our weapons remain secure. The contents of a number of arms dumps will be inspected by agreed third parties who will report that they have done so to the IICD. The dumps will be re-inspected regularly to ensure that the weapons have remained secure''.

That the IRA initiative is historic and courageous is unquestionably true; that it once again demonstrates the Army's commitment to ``a just and lasting peace'' is also true and that the weekend's statement now reopens the door to further developments in the peace process is welcome.

For republicans then, the message to be taken from last weekend's statement should be a positive one.

Admittedly, this groundbreaking initiative will stretch the republican base to the limit. The anger of many republicans in February when Peter Mandelson,the British Direct Ruler, collapsed the institutions of government to save David Trimble's political skin should not be underestimated.

But last weekend's IRA statement is telling republican activists and supporters alike that we need to keep the process moving. To allow it to become bogged down by unionist intransigence will only see it wither.

The hope now is that David Trimble will accept the challenge and, at last, confront the `No people' in the wider unionist hinterland.

What we should remember is that in the South African experience, from which we often draw, there was no movement from the Apartheid regime until political conditions created the space for the Afrikaaners to move towards accommodation.

In other words, there was no De Klerk character in advance of the political conditions created by the ANC, which forced the government to move into real negotiations.

Hopefully the latest IRA initiative will go some way to reassure unionists.

In that context, the unionist leadership might recognise the space opened up in front of them and work to develop it. Sinn Féin knows that within the unionist community as well as the unionist body politic there are more than enough people willing to work for a future for us all. One with justice and peace.

It is also incumbent on the British government to accept the lengths to which republicans are going and work with them, instead of bowing to unionist threats as they did in February. After all, the British are the biggest force, both politically and militarily, in this conflict and should, therefore, drop the pretence of neutrality.

That pretence reached new heights when the British collapsed the Executive to suit an intransigent unionist agenda. Saturday's initiative gives the British an opportunity to move away from being intrinsically unionist to being a willing partner in building a democratic peace process that can lead to a just and lasting settlement.

In short, the British should look at the big picture and take this golden opportunity to build for peace. After all, a just peace will serve both the British and Irish nations.

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