Irish Republican News · March 16, 2006
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Exclusion not an option - Hain

Britain’s Direct Ruler in Ireland, Peter Hain, has made it clear that he will not bar Sinn Féin from a restored Belfast Assembly or power-sharing administration.

In exchanges in the London parliament, Mr Hain said the DUP that “sooner of later” it would have to talk directly to Sinn Féin because it is the second largest party in the Six Counties.

The comments have been welcomed as a belated British government attempt to put pressure on the DUP to shift its hard-line position against Sinn Féin. However, it is still not clear if the change of tack will much impact on Mr Paisley’s stance.

The Belfast Assembly and power-sharing Executive were set up under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. However, they collapsed following a unionist withdrawal of support in 2002.

Mr Hain has indicated to all parties that time is moving on and decisions have to be taken on the restoration of the political institutions.

He told Ian Paisley, the leader of the hardline unionist DUP, that he was not prepared to freeze out Sinn Féin and that republicans had committed themselves to a democratic, peaceful political path.

Speaking at Westminster, Mr Paisley insisted that Sinn Féin was not committed to peaceful and democratic means, despite last year’s statement by the Provisonal IRA declaring an end to its armed campaign and disarming.

But this was rejected outright by Mr Hain. “If you are saying that... I don’t think you are actually judging the evidence that’s been presented to us,” he said.

Sinn Féin vice-president Pat Doherty described Mr Hain’s approach as “common sense”.

“The politics of exclusion are the politics of failure, and this is the message which we have been pressing home for well over ten years,” Mr Doherty said.

“Those of us who wish to see progress made in the coming weeks can only hope that today’s intervention by Peter Hain is the start of the two governments ending the pandering to the DUP and getting back onto the agenda of the Good Friday Agreement. It has long passed the time when Ian Paisley should have been debunked of the notion that there was any possibility of political progress which did not involve Sinn Féin.

“Any notion which the DUP may harbour of pressing ahead towards some sort of majority unionist rule is a fantasy and simply will not happen.”

The West Tyrone MP said Mr Hain’s remarks must “now be backed up with decisive action from the two governments through injecting momentum into the process and setting a speedy time- frame for the lifting of suspension and the restoration of the political institutions”.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News