Govts urged to implement the Joint Declaration
The Irish and British governments should stop rewarding
unionists for putting the peace process on hold, and declare
immediately they will press on with the full implementation of
the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel
McLaughlin said this weekend.
Speaking from London, where he lobbied British MPs and media
on how to advance the Good Friday Agreement, McLaughlin said
only the Republican Movement and General John de Chastelain,
the head of the decommissioning body, had delivered on their
commitments in an honourable fashion.
Referring to Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble's surprise
rejection of the latest deal to move to a power-sharing
executive in the North, McLaughlin said Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
and the British prime minister Tony Blair "should make it
clear that refusing to step up to the line will not be
rewarded by the two governments holding back any further on
those issues contained in the joint declaration".
"With the exception of the International Monitoring
Commission, all of the other issues reflect the failures of
the two governments to deliver on the Agreement," he said.
"We want an immediate statement from them that the
implementation of the Joint Declaration will begin forthwith,"
McLaughlin said. "Let's see no more hold up in terms of
demilitarisation, or the equality agenda, or human rights, or
policing and justice issues."
The Joint Declaration published by the two governments in May
this year set out a process for implementation of the Good
Friday Agreement's provisions on a series of key issues like
political institutions, demilitarisation, policing and
Anti-Agreement unionists should not be given the "soft option"
of allowing Direct Rule from London to continue following the
November 26 elections to the Belfast Assembly, he said.
"Sinn Fein is demanding that the Joint Declaration which deals
with Good Friday Agreement issues that the two governments
recognise have yet to be delivered should proceed immediately.
"Such actions would honour the British and Irish governments'
commitments in the sequencing and agreement of last week. In
the event of unionist obstruction of the implementation and
formation of an Executive following the elections, the Irish
government must be given a more formal role in the
implementation of all of the outstanding issues for full
implementation of the Agreement."
Sinn Fein's demands had been communicated to British Prime
Minister Tony Blair through his chief of staff Jonathan Powell
over the past few days, Mr McLaughlin said.
And he called for the Irish government in particular to take a
proactive role, not act "like cheerleaders" or observers.
For example, previous decisions on suspensions had been taken
unilaterally by London, he said. A formal say for the Irish
government would reassure nationalists that they were being
treated equally, while preventing unionists from bringing
about a return to direct rule whenever difficulties arise in
the devolved institutions.
Mr McLaughlin said: "In the agreed choreography and sequencing
that occurred on Tuesday October 21, only republicans carried
out their part in that agreement.
"Republicans acted with word and deed and in good faith in the
reasonable expectation that the other parties would follow
through on their part in that event. It is now incumbent on
the two governments to carry out their obligations by
activating the terms of the Joint Declaration. It is
unacceptable that the only aspect of the Joint Declaration to
be actioned to date is the International Monitoring
Commission, which is outside of the terms of the Agreement.
"The all-Ireland aspects of the Agreement must proceed. In the
absence of an Executive being formed, unionists should be left
under no illusion that the governments will once again choose
the soft option of direct rule >from Westminster."
Mr McLaughlin said that attempts to reach agreement with the
unionists ahead of the election had "ended for now" and made
clear he believed there was no prospect of the IRA agreeing to
lift Gen de Chastelain`' obligation of confidentiality over
the decommissioned arms.
But he stressed that Sinn Fein remained committed to dialogue
with the UUP and said he was confident that the devolved
institutions would eventually come out of suspension.
Sinn Fein also called for the expansion of the areas of
co-operation covered by the North-South Ministerial Council to
include community development, arts and heritage, economic
co-operation and public investment, as well as the enhancement
of existing areas of co-operation.
It called for the creation of nine new Implementation Bodies,
to cover justice, policing, social economy, energy, rural
development, pollution control, mental health, communications
and higher and further education.
BID TO UNDERMINE IICD
At the weekend, the SDLP's policing spokesman, Alex Attwood,
called on the British and Irish governments at the weekend to
back down from a "whispering campaign" against the head of the
International Decommissioning Body, General John de
Reports in a Sunday newspaper, apparently politically
motivated, suggested that the London and Dublin governments
were questioning the value of the body.
The arms body continues to be criticised by unionists for its
plain-manilla presentation of its verification of a third IRA
arms move, which was described as they largest and most
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble blamed the arms body for
his refusal to back a return to power-sharing. But
nationalists have been baffled by the focus on the arms body
and point out that its function and operation are clearly and
rigidly defined in legislation.
Nationalists see the report as an attempt to make the general
a scapegoat for the failure of the unionists and the British
government to fulfil their part of the deal.
"It's clear that elements in the two governments, as well as
some of the political parties, are trying to undermine and
question General de Chastelain's work. The general is not to
blame for the farce of two weeks ago when the deal collapsed,"