ANGER AT BRITISH DENIAL OF DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS
Demonstrations are taking place across Ireland and abroad against the
cancellation of the elections in the North and to demand the right to
Today, May 29th, was the scheduled day for elections to the Belfast
Assembly but they were indefinitely postponed by the British government
earlier this month.
In Dublin, banners 12 feet high calling for democracy and announcing
details of a major protest later tonight at the British Embassy have
been dropped from all the major bridges on the way into the city
This morning, Assembly election candidates and elected representatives
handed in letters of protest to local electoral offices, while in Derry
there were protests at polling stations throughout the city.
At a press conference in Belfast, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams
handed in a letter of protest to Castle Buildings. There were city
centre and white-line protests across the North during the day,
culminating with a major rally at Belfast City Hall at 7.30pm.
A picket was held outside the Dublin parliament to highlight the Dublin
government's role in the election suspension. Throughout the afternoon,
pickets are being held at major points in the city centre. In the
evening, white-line pickets will take place throughout the city,
followed by a convergence on the British Embassy for 8pm.
At the Embassy there will be numerous speakers and the crowd will be
joined by a cavalcade travelling in on main routes from throughout
Leinster. Everybody will receive a green ribbon and a mock ballot
paper, which they will be asked to hold in the air for a minute's
silence. At the end of the night people will be asked to cast their
There have also been protests in cities and towns across Munster and
Connacht/Ulster, while in Leinster Sinn Fein has placed pickets at
major roads before heading in to meet up with Dublin activists for the
rally at the British Embassy.
Events have been organised in over 30 towns and cities across the
island, including Cork, Letterkenny, Galway, Wexford, Kildare, Athlone,
Sligo, Limerick, Tralee, Waterford, Omagh, Enniskillen, Lurgan, and
Strabane. Events are also taking place in Britain and in cities across
the United State
More protests are understood to have been planned for Saturday and for
the coming weeks.
Speaking in Dublin on Wednesday afternoon, Sinn Fein Chairperson
Mitchel McLaughlin said hundreds of thousands of people throughout the
Six Counties should be going to the polls today to elect 108 Assembly
members and a new cross-party Executive.
"Instead, the British government has cancelled the elections, shut
the political institutions and created a dangerous political vacuum.
"The cancelling of the elections is wrong and was taken against the
wishes of people across the island of Ireland. It is imperative that
the British government reverse this decision and set a date for the
Assembly elections. I am calling on people to come out tomorrow and
demand the right to vote."
"To make conflict a thing of the past and to allow politics to work
there has to be a viable political, democratic and peaceful alternative
to war," said Martin McGuinness. "The logic of this was accepted
only in the Good Friday Agreement itself, but also in the recently
published Joint Declaration.
"The British government had no right to cancel elections in Ireland
the Irish government and indeed all the parties in Leinster House were
right to oppose their decision. But that opposition can't be just token
opposition - it must be real and vocal opposition.
"The Irish government's status as a joint and co-equal partner in
Good Friday Agreement has to be restored, recognised and defended.
Accepting or meekly going along with the British decision is aiding the
subversion of democracy that their actions represent.
"The key to making politics work is democracy. That means that people
have the right to vote. It means elections and it means elections
The protests today reflect the anger and frustration felt by
nationalists, who at this point should have been consumed with election
fever, caught up in last minute canvassing and endless handshakes, and
asking people to use their vote.
In the last two weeks, republican activists have steadily upped the
ante, with activities ranging from occupations, mock auctions of the
democratic process, the chaining of members to the British Embassy, an
advertising campaign in local newspapers, white-line pickets, photo
opportunities with Assembly members, and the distribution of tens of
thousands of leaflets and erection of 5,000 posters.
ADAMS - ELECTIONS MUST GO AHEAD
Speaking today outside Castle Buildings, Sinn Fein President Gerry
Adams MP said "Sinn Fein is encouraging people all over the island
Ireland to demonstrate their opposition to the undemocratic actions of
the British government, to demand their rights and to give the British
government a clear message- the elections must go ahead. The British
Government needs to make a new alliance in Ireland - an alliance with
democracy. The elections should now be rescheduled without delay."
Mr. Adams said the British Government had created a "deep crisis"
the political process.
"The cancellation of the Assembly elections scheduled for today
a dangerous political vacuum which those who are opponents of the
Agreement will attempt to fill.
"The British Government has:
* Unilaterally suspended the democratic institutions established
under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
* Publicly accepted that, five years on, it has failed to fully
implement its commitments under the terms of the Agreement.
* Cancelled the Assembly elections indefinitely
* Ignored the Irish government's status as joint and co-equal
partner in the Agreement. Irish government opposition to unilateral
British decisions have been ignored.
Mr Adams said the Belfast Assembly derives from the Good Friday
That Agreement was endorsed by the Irish people. This democratic
decision of the electorate must have primacy. The British government
has no right to over-ride this democratic authority. The British
government has no right to cancel elections in Ireland.
"The Irish government opposed the cancellation of the elections.
every political party in Ireland opposed it. Only UUP leader David
Trimble and the British government supported this undemocratic action.
"The cancellation of elections is a subversion of democracy.
"The cancellation of the elections creates a dangerous political
"The process of conflict resolution in Ireland, as elsewhere, is
premised on the creation of a viable political, democratic and peaceful
alternative to war. In short it is about making politics work.
"The British and Irish governments accepted this logic in their
published Joint Declaration when they said,
'The best way of ensuring that peace remains permanent is by
demonstrating that politics work.'
"How then does cancelling democratic elections demonstrate, in any
that politics work?
"No party should have a veto over fundamental rights, equality or
of esteem It is critical that politics is allowed to work.
"Today, Sinn Fein is encouraging people all over the island of Ireland
to demonstrate their opposition to the undemocratic actions of the
British government, to demand their rights and to give the British
government a clear message - the elections must go ahead.
"The British Government needs to make a new alliance in Ireland
alliance with democracy. The elections should now be rescheduled
OGRA OCCUPIES BELFAST ELECTORAL OFFICE
Up to 20 members of Ogra Shinn Fein staged a sit-in protest at the main
Belfast electoral office in Church Lane in Belfast City Centre last
week. As the group forced their way into the building, they were
confronted by a staff member, who warned them that he would call in the
Undeterred, the activists took over the entrance hall of the building,
where they staged their peaceful protest. When the PSNI did come on the
scene, the protesters told them they would continue the protest but
that they would not hinder anyone with business in the electoral
The protesters left after 45 minutes.
MARCHING FOR ELECTIONS IN LONDON
Several hundred people marched through central London on Saturday last
to protest the British government's cancellation of the election due to
have been held in the Six Counties today. They were joined by Sinn Fein
Assembly member Dara O'Hagan, who handed in a letter of protest at 10
Downing Street as the march made its way down Whitehall. The march and
the rally that followed, was organised by the Wolfe Tone Society as
part of its annual James Connolly/Bobby Sands commemoration. The
speakers included a young nurse from Palestine, Ghada Al-Najjar, who
gave an emotionally-charged account of the horrors the Palestinian
people face under Israeli occupation.
Labour MP John McDonnell urged those present, in the short term, to
direct their efforts towards campaigning for the reinstatement of the
elections. "The Good Friday Agreement was a breakthrough in the
negotiating period of the struggle, but what we mustn't do is allow the
gains that we made through negotiation to be lost," he said. "That
why we have to wholeheartedly condemn what Blair has done in denying
the Irish people in the Six Counties the right to vote.
"There is no point in being a hypocrite, sending troops around the
world to bomb people into subjugation and saying it is in the name of
democracy when you undermine democracy 350 miles from here.
"Our focus of struggle in this country at the moment should be about
the restoration of those elections. We have got to break the unionist
veto. Every time Trimble has pleaded with Blair to save his skin, Blair
has jumped. What is the next demand? How many more assurances does the
IRA have to give?
"We are in a period of peace which many people in this audience only
dreamed of 15 years ago, which was unimaginable 20 years ago. And yet
Trimble puts all at risk to save his own position within unionism as it
disintegrates. To save his own political skin, he puts peace at risk
and lives at risk. And at the same time, he strengthens the hands of
the real thugs in unionism; the opportunists who are quite happy to see
war break out again to further their own political position."