Irish Republican News · March 10, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Blame the Provos, not us - Murphy

British Direct Ruler Paul Murphy was today challenged to a public debate with Sinn Féin about paramilitary activity as talks on the non-implementation of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement were cancelled.

Today's plenary talks session was abandoned by the British government, with unionist parties were expected to boycott the talks.

Sinn Féin's Mitchel McLaughlin accused the British government of focusing in recent weeks only on allegations of Provisional IRA activity, ignoring unionist paramilitary violence and running away from a comprehensive debate on the issue.

Meanwhile, the British government's ``security'' minister in the North, Jane Kennedy, has admitted in parliament that unionist paramilitaries had killed seven people, carried out 135 shootings and 41 bombings in the past 12 months.

Mr McLaughlin said: ``I would challenge Paul Murphy to a public debate on the issues of paramilitarism and the politics of exclusion.

``We tried to have this discussion within the parameters of the review but the British government ran away from the debate and cancelled a planned plenary meeting on these important matters.

The former Foyle assembly member said it was ``ironic'' that as the British government's figures for the catalogue of unionist paramilitary violence emerged, Mr Murphy appeared on the media ``threatening the rights and entitlements of the majority of nationalist voters in the six counties.

``The politics of exclusion failed us in the past and they will fail again if tried in the future.''

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will hold talks tomorrow about the review, which they insist will continue until Easter.

Unionists have in recent weeks demanded sanctions be imposed on Sinn Féin in the talks at Stormont following the alleged attempted kidnapping of dissident republican Bobby Tohill from a Belfast city centre bar.

The leadership of the mainstream IRA denied it authorised the incident but this has failed to sway unionists -- and to a lesser extent, the Irish and British governments -- who appear determined to blame Sinn Féin for the deep crisis currently besetting the peace process.

The two governments have urged an early report by the Independent Monitoring Commission, which was set up last year for the purpose of issuing sanctions against Sinn Féin and other parties. Sinn Féin has described the IMC as a `sop to unionism', and in itself a breach of the Agreement.

The commissioners indicated yesterday they may issue a report specifically on the attempted abduction of Mr Tohill.

Mr McLaughlin said today the British Government appeared ``to be scared to have the real debate around paramilitarism and the obligations we all have regarding this under the Agreement.''

The Sinn Féin chairman said: ``The British government does not want to discuss unionist paramilitary violence.

``They do not want to discuss the role of their agents in this violence. They do not want to discuss collusion. They do not want to discuss the ongoing paramilitary activities of the Special Branch or the British Army.

``People will not tolerate a one-sided approach to this issue.

``Either Mr Murphy is up for the debate or he is not. So I would repeat my challenge to Mr Murphy, is he up for an open and frank debate on these issues or is he going to continue to hide behind the IMC or the constraints of the Review?''

Mr Murphy said during a parliamentary debate that paramilitarism was paralysing politics in the North of Ireland.

``Each corrosive act of paramilitary crime or violence eats into the hope which the Agreement gave rise,'' he said.

``But I remain confident that the vision set out in the Agreement, which all those who were party to the Agreement signed up to nearly six years ago, will be realised.

``For the Government's part, I challenge anyone to show that we have not made huge efforts to realise that vision.''

The review is now taking a break for St Patrick's week as the political leaders fly to Washington and New York for a series of engagements. It will be two or three weeks before the review meets again.


At a meeting in Ballymun, Dublin today, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams warned that the Irish government was ``actively considering the exclusion of Sinn Féin from the political process in the North''.

He said: ``It is actively considering going back to the old agenda, the failed policies and attitudes of the past.''

``This, like the current negative politics, the negative campaigning, is wrong. It is destructive and it betrays an absence of real political debate on the part of the establishment. And it is something that Sinn Féin will not engage in.''

He again called on the Dublin government to fulfil its role as ``a co-guarantor of the Agreement, defending the rights and entitlement of citizens.'' But he said there was ``no real inclination by the Dublin government to resolve the current difficulties before the elections.''

He asked people to ``step back'' from the ``spin and hysteria'' of the past week, referring in particular to the ``cynical, unsubstantiated attacks'' by Dublin Justice Minister Michael McDowell, who compared Sinn Féin with the Nazi party of 1930's Germany.

``Watching and listening to all of this I had a very acute sense of deja vu. It was as if the clock had been turned back ten years - 15 years -and longer.

``It was the politics of the 1970s, `80s and early `90s resurrected - the old politics of conflict and division. Gone are the concepts of inclusivity, of dialogue, of seeking agreement and of working together.''

The Sinn Féin President called on Fianna Fail members and supporters, nationalists and republicans the length and breadth of this island, to join with his party in reasserting the primacy of the peace process.

``The peace process is more important than any party or any election,'' he said. ``I am confident that the electorate will not be conned or fooled by the negative campaigning of our opponents.''

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© 2004 Irish Republican News