Peace process in free fall
BY MICHAEL PIERSE
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has urged the British and Irish governments to recognise that the peace process is now into a ``rolling crisis'', following the passing of the finalised British Police Bill at Westminster on Tuesday night.
Speaking at the launch of Sinn Féin's Pre-Budget Submission on Wednesday, Adams also said that the next Cross-Border Ministerial meeting, scheduled to take place between Education Minister Martin McGuinness and his 26-County counterpart, would be ``unlikely'' to take place on a bi-lateral basis.
McNamara said that elderly people were described by one RUC trainer as custard-dribbling old fools
This followed news that the two Sinn Féin ministers' legal application for a judicial review of David Trimble's decision to exclude the party from Cross-Border Ministerial Meetings has been successful.
``Bi-laterals are not an alternative to the provisions that have been mandated under Strand Two of the Good Friday Agreement,'' he said. Asked why the party may switch from the strategy employed in the immediate aftermath of Trimble's decision, when Bairbre de Brún attended a meeting with counterpart Micheál Martin - despite the ban - Adams said that that decision was right at that time. He pointed to the fact that the Ulster Unionist Council ban had been implemented almost one month ago, with little or no progress since.
This lack of progress, he said, has been compounded by the failure of the British government to implement the Patten proposals. The British Police Bill has been criticised as a subversion of the Patten proposals by Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Dublin government, the Catholic hierarchy and, significantly, in comments made by Patten Commission member Clifford Shearing amid a blaze of publicity last week.
Oblivious to this, the bill was passed on Tuesday night amid a lacklustre debate in the British House of Commons. SDLP leader Séamus Mallon was surprisingly uncritical as he evaded the substantive issues raised by the bill, asking for `greater clarification' on issues such as the flying of flags from police barracks.
British Labour party member Kevin McNamara was more critical when he cited the findings of a report by the Six-County Human Rights Commission on RUC training. The report, which expressed serious objections to the human rights training given by the RUC to its personnel is, he said, a disturbing consideration in light of the failure to incorporate adequate human rights training into the Police Bill.
RUC tutors were accused in the report of sidelining and creating a negative attitude towards human rights. McNamara said that elderly people were described by one trainer as `custard-dribbling old fools'.
``I don't think that anyone can have any confidence that the new beginning that was required under the Good Friday Agreement is being pursued by the British Government,'' Adams said. ``We only have to look at who it's being left to: the RUC Chief Constable. The British Government have missed a hugely important opportunity.''
Questioned as to whether Sinn Féin would be open to a review of the Good Friday Agreement, Adams said that the context for any review would be centred on the failure of David Trimble to honour his commitments.
``The only basis on which there could be a review would have to be that David Trimble is in breach of the Good Friday Agreement and his code of office. But there is no question of our commitment as republicans to achieving the necessary change.
``We have devoted our lives to this kind of change and we aren't going to give up.''