Govts urged to implement the Joint Declaration
Govts urged to implement the Joint Declaration

The Irish and British governments should stop rewarding unionists for putting the peace process on hold, and declare immediately they will press on with the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel McLaughlin said this weekend.

Speaking from London, where he lobbied British MPs and media on how to advance the Good Friday Agreement, McLaughlin said only the Republican Movement and General John de Chastelain, the head of the decommissioning body, had delivered on their commitments in an honourable fashion.

Referring to Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble's surprise rejection of the latest deal to move to a power-sharing executive in the North, McLaughlin said Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the British prime minister Tony Blair ``should make it clear that refusing to step up to the line will not be rewarded by the two governments holding back any further on those issues contained in the joint declaration''.

``With the exception of the International Monitoring Commission, all of the other issues reflect the failures of the two governments to deliver on the Agreement,'' he said.

``We want an immediate statement from them that the implementation of the Joint Declaration will begin forthwith,'' McLaughlin said. ``Let's see no more hold up in terms of demilitarisation, or the equality agenda, or human rights, or policing and justice issues.''

The Joint Declaration published by the two governments in May this year set out a process for implementation of the Good Friday Agreement's provisions on a series of key issues like political institutions, demilitarisation, policing and equality.

Anti-Agreement unionists should not be given the ``soft option'' of allowing Direct Rule from London to continue following the November 26 elections to the Belfast Assembly, he said.

``Sinn Fein is demanding that the Joint Declaration which deals with Good Friday Agreement issues that the two governments recognise have yet to be delivered should proceed immediately.

``Such actions would honour the British and Irish governments' commitments in the sequencing and agreement of last week. In the event of unionist obstruction of the implementation and formation of an Executive following the elections, the Irish government must be given a more formal role in the implementation of all of the outstanding issues for full implementation of the Agreement.''

Sinn Fein's demands had been communicated to British Prime Minister Tony Blair through his chief of staff Jonathan Powell over the past few days, Mr McLaughlin said.

And he called for the Irish government in particular to take a proactive role, not act ``like cheerleaders'' or observers.

For example, previous decisions on suspensions had been taken unilaterally by London, he said. A formal say for the Irish government would reassure nationalists that they were being treated equally, while preventing unionists from bringing about a return to direct rule whenever difficulties arise in the devolved institutions.

Mr McLaughlin said: ``In the agreed choreography and sequencing that occurred on Tuesday October 21, only republicans carried out their part in that agreement.

``Republicans acted with word and deed and in good faith in the reasonable expectation that the other parties would follow through on their part in that event. It is now incumbent on the two governments to carry out their obligations by activating the terms of the Joint Declaration. It is unacceptable that the only aspect of the Joint Declaration to be actioned to date is the International Monitoring Commission, which is outside of the terms of the Agreement.

``The all-Ireland aspects of the Agreement must proceed. In the absence of an Executive being formed, unionists should be left under no illusion that the governments will once again choose the soft option of direct rule >from Westminster.''

Mr McLaughlin said that attempts to reach agreement with the unionists ahead of the election had ``ended for now'' and made clear he believed there was no prospect of the IRA agreeing to lift Gen de Chastelain`' obligation of confidentiality over the decommissioned arms.

But he stressed that Sinn Fein remained committed to dialogue with the UUP and said he was confident that the devolved institutions would eventually come out of suspension.

Sinn Fein also called for the expansion of the areas of co-operation covered by the North-South Ministerial Council to include community development, arts and heritage, economic co-operation and public investment, as well as the enhancement of existing areas of co-operation.

It called for the creation of nine new Implementation Bodies, to cover justice, policing, social economy, energy, rural development, pollution control, mental health, communications and higher and further education.


At the weekend, the SDLP's policing spokesman, Alex Attwood, called on the British and Irish governments at the weekend to back down from a ``whispering campaign'' against the head of the International Decommissioning Body, General John de Chastelain.

Reports in a Sunday newspaper, apparently politically motivated, suggested that the London and Dublin governments were questioning the value of the body.

The arms body continues to be criticised by unionists for its plain-manilla presentation of its verification of a third IRA arms move, which was described as they largest and most significant yet.

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble blamed the arms body for his refusal to back a return to power-sharing. But nationalists have been baffled by the focus on the arms body and point out that its function and operation are clearly and rigidly defined in legislation.

Nationalists see the report as an attempt to make the general a scapegoat for the failure of the unionists and the British government to fulfil their part of the deal.

``It's clear that elements in the two governments, as well as some of the political parties, are trying to undermine and question General de Chastelain's work. The general is not to blame for the farce of two weeks ago when the deal collapsed,'' he said.

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© 2003 Irish Republican News