Irish peace process setback
Years of hard and painful political graft fashioning the Irish peace process are now under serious threat with the suspension last week of the the Northern Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly institutions and the imposition of direct rule by Westminster. The excuse for the suspension is an alleged breach of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement by the IRA which has not given up its weapons. But the timetabling of demilitarisation is not enshrined in that Agreement as the exclusive responsibility of the IRA. The Ulster Unionist Party's (UUP) demand that the IRA begin to disarm, imposing a timetable in breach of the Good Friday Agreement, excludes the overwhelming military power of the occupying British troops, the Royal Ulster Constabulary and Loyalist organisations. The Loyalist death squads have yet to decommission, and the British military have yet to begin seriously scaling down their occupation forces let alone actually to begin to decamp. In fact, it appears that the military is strengthening patrols. The hardware numbers game would hardly require a mathematician to see how grossly unbalanced the military potential is between British-backed Unionist-loyalist forces and the republican-nationalist movement. The IRA in a statement made its position clear: "The declaration and maintenance of the cessation, which is now entering its fifth year, is evidence that the IRA's guns are silent and that there is no threat to the peace process from the IRA." Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, wherever he has been speaking over recent days — on Ulster Radio and TV and on the BBC's Newsnight programme — he has given a very pointed and stark message for the immediate future. Despite two statements by the IRA over the previous fortnight to categorically reiterate its defence of the peace process, and the clear reaffirmation of maintaining the cease-fire with silent guns remaining silent, Unionists continued to push their demands. On BBC Radio Ulster [a week before the suspension] Mr Adams said that the present crisis "has to be resolved definitely and conclusively." Sinn Fein has, he said, "honoured [its] commitments under the [Good Friday] Agreement. "We have gone much further than that and there is a collective responsibility in all of this, for all of the parties and the [British and Irish] governments to sort it out." This would prevent a crisis, he said, but "if the institutions are collapsed, if we go into review, then this party and this party leader is going to sit back and reflect in a very contemplative way what role I have to play as a messenger who continuously gets shot." Sinn Fein has a democratic mandate under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement which the referendum endorsed by over 70 per cent in a cross- community vote — and it has adhered to it. The effect of taking away that absolutely legitimately attained starting block for Ireland's tomorrow, bringing both communities together, will be measured in a horrendous cost of lives yet known.
* * *Acknowledgements: New Worker