MITCHELL RETURNS FOR PEACE TALKS
Former Irish peace talks chairman Senator George Mitchell is due to
meet politicians in Ireland during a crucial week for the peace
Senator Mitchell, who chaired the talks which led to the 1998 Good
Friday Agreement, will hold meetings in Belfast tomorrow.
His visit will coincide with the start of a week of intense lobbying
within the Ulster Unionist Party in the run up to the party's latest
confrontation between rival wings next weekend.
The twelfth such meeting of the party's ruling council, the Ulster
Unionist Council (UUC), was given the go-ahead last week.
Ulster Unionist leader Mr David Trimble is facing a challenge from
supporters of three rebel members of parliament - Jeffrey Donaldson,
David Burnside and Martin Smyth - over attempts to discipline them for
their protests against party policy.
They want their party to completely reject proposals drawn up by the
British and Irish governments for the continued implementation of the
Good Friday Agreement -- including a new monitoring body to be set up
to impose sanctions against parties and paramilitary groups who breach
The body is opposed by nationalists who view it as a sop to David
Trimble and a potential device to casually exclude Sinn Fein from
There is also increasing concern at reports that British Prime Minister
Tony Blair will throw Mr Trimble a lifeline ahead of next Saturday's
meeting of the 900 member Ulster Unionist Council, by announcing that
the Irish government would not have any role on the sanctions body.
Under the British and Irish government proposals, four nominees would
be appointed to the monitoring commission. Two of them would be
British, one would be nominated by the Irish government and a fourth
would come from the United States.
Ulster Unionists hope that the British government will separate the
functions of the Irish and US commissioners from any matters affecting
the "internal affairs of Northern Ireland".
Unionists have argued that the sanctions should be purely a matter for
the British government and the parties in the Six Counties.
Sinn Fein Vice President, West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty has warned the
British government against once again undermining the agreement ahead
of next week's Ulster Unionist Convention.
"The British government know exactly what is required to get the
process back on track," he said. "They need to set a date for
and they need to get the political institutions back up and running.
"It is perfectly clear that going down the road of undermining the
agreement to support David Trimble is a failed strategy. The peace
process and Good Friday Agreement cannot be reduced to an issue of
David Trimble's leadership of the UUP.
"The British government know it is wrong to attempt to step outside
the terms of the agreement when what is required is the full
implementation of the Good Friday Agreement."
Meanwhile, North Belfast Sinn Fein representative Gerry Kelly has
warned that the UUC must not be allowed to have a veto over the peace
"Over the past five years, the continual pandering to negative unionism
by the British government has resulted in the peace process becoming
stalled and many aspects of the implementation of the Good Friday
Agreement remain outstanding," he said.
"Internal difficulties within the UUP are no excuse for the continual
stalling of key aspects of the Equality and Human Rights agenda, which
is at the core of the Agreement.
"People did not vote for the implementation of the parts of the
Agreement which elements of the UUP are comfortable with. They voted
for the full implementation of the Agreement and these rights and
entitlements cannot be contingent on the outcome of a UUC meeting."