Irish Republican News · November 10, 2003
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Parties unite to oppose `No' men

At the launch of his party's campaign for the November 26 election in the Six Counties, Sinn Fein Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness urged supporters to frustrate parties opposed to the Good Friday Agreement by voting first for Sinn Fein candidates and then transferring to other pro-Agreement parties in the proportional representation election.

He continued: ``I will tell you my prediction. The DUP aren't going to come out on top.

``I think there is no doubt that the DUP is going to increase its representation but I don't know how it is going to increase its representation in a fashion that can destroy the peace process or the full and faithful implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.''

The pro-Agreement parties, including Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Ulster Unionists, have all rounded on the anti-Agreement unionists in the past few days.

But the DUP's Gregory Campbell said it showed the other parties were worried about the prospect of the DUP overtaking Mr Trimble's Ulster Unionists.

``Martin McGuinness and (SDLP leader) Mark Durkan's recent comments seem to bear out what we are hearing on the doorsteps - that there's a good vote for the DUP,'' the East Derry MP said.

``There is so much disillusionment with the Ulster Unionists, voters want a new hand on the unionist tiller.

The political stand-off which would develop if the DUP emerge as the new unionist power players after the Assembly elections was spelled out clearly at the weekend.

DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson rejected the possibility that powers for policing and security could be transferred to a government at Stormont during any time over the next four years.

Mr Robinson, who was speaking on BBC Radio, said his party would not accept a Sinn Fein minister in control of policing. ``It should not take place in circumstances where that can be the outcome,'' he said.

He could not foresee an Assembly at Stormont being sufficiently grounded over the next four years to be able to take on that additional responsibility. Nor would the DUP ever accept that those who had been involved in terrorism and murder could be put in charge of security, the police and the prisons.

However, Gerry Kelly of Sinn Fein said his party felt it was vital that policing was devolved and the party was working towards that. He advocated that it be given to a local accountable Assembly and Executive.

During campaigning in his home town of Derry, SDLP leader Mr Mark Durkan mounted an attack on the DUP.

``We need to stand against those whose agenda is to destroy the Agreement,'' he said. ``This means that the DUP and the other `No' men must be stopped.''

The SDLP suggested the DUP were to blame for a threat to impose water charges in the Six Counties.

``DUP inaction let direct rule ministers propose water charges. DUP wrecking would let them get away with imposing water charges and the average household here will be paying an extra £400 for water alone,'' said West Tyrone candidate Joe Byrne.

Mr Peter Robinson said the claims were ``utterly absurd''.


Meanwhile, Martin McGuinness predicted that the story of the election would be the return of Sinn Fein to the Assembly as the largest nationalist party.

He was joined by party colleagues Caitriona Ruane, Kathy Stanton, Alex Maskey and Pat Doherty at the formal launch of the party's election campaign.

He called for voters to back the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, whose implementation remains the subject of bitter and slow negotiations.

``The pro-Agreement electorate recognises that Sinn Fein are the most effective negotiators,'' he said.

``For that reason people want to see a Sinn Fein First or Deputy First Minister. I believe that will happen.

The Mid Ulster MP was predicting his party would overtake the rival nationalist SDLP in the Assembly, and also forecast Ian Paisley's hardline Democratic Unionists would not emerge the largest unionist party.

``Coming out of the last Assembly we had 18 seats,'' Mr McGuinness said.

``We expect to increase dramatically on that this time around and I think there is a real sense in the community and wider afield that that is most definitely going to happen.

``That will effectively put us, as the largest nationalist party, in the running for the position of First and Deputy First Minister.''

He said Sinn Fein had delivered ``significant change''.

``Republicans have taken risks for this process and we are asking people to endorse this.

``Sinn Fein is on the verge of an historic advance which will be seen across the north in Belfast, North and South Antrim, East Derry, Upper Bann, Lagan Valley and South Down, as well as republican heartlands West of the Bann and in Newry & Armagh.

``In this election we are asking people to join with us in defending the Good Friday Agreement against those who wish to destroy it. There will be no renegotiation. Sinn Fein will ensure that the Agreement is implemented in full.

``I am appealing for people to come out and vote in this election. We cannot take anything for granted.''

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© 2003 Irish Republican News