News from Ireland

reproduced from RM Distribution, with thanks.


Ethnic cleansing ‘must end’

The two loyalist pipe bomb attacks in Randalstown, County Antrim on Wednesday [April 14] are only the latest in a long list of attacks which,

“amount to nothing short of a sectarian pogrom against Catholics in the South Antrim since the beginning of the year”,

said the area’s Sinn Fein representative Martin Meehan. In the latest attacks devices were pushed through the letterboxes of two Catholic homes.

These attacks come after the appearance of UVF graffiti threatening Catholics close to one of the houses which was attacked.

Meehan said,

“for some time now there has been a concerted sectarian campaign to force nationalists out of the Randalstown area. Last night’s double attack is a sinister escalation of this campaign”.

He also criticised the muted response of leading unionist politicians saying that it

“sends a negative message to nationalists with regard to their commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict”.

These two attacks bring the tally of gun, bomb, petrol bomb attacks, attempted abductions, threats and assaults carried out by loyalists against nationalists to almost 100 for this year alone. This does not include those suffering from nightly loyalist attacks and harassment in areas such as the Garvaghy Road.

“This process of systematic harassment is occurring in areas where people are particularly isolated and vulnerable. The political vacuum created by the unionist failure to implement the agreement is, in part, fuelling the attacks”, stated Meehan. Concluding Meehan, said,

“Wednesday night’s attacks by anti-agreement forces should act as an incentive for those of us in political leadership to ensure that the Good Friday Agreement is implemented in full. Unionists who support the Agreement should now defend it in the face of these attacks”.

Blair and Ahern dig in as peace fears mount

A day of intense discussions in London yesterday has seen no sign that the collapse of the Good Friday Agreement can be prevented. All parties have agreed to meet again next week in Belfast and are insisting that the Agreement should not be “parked”, suspended or reviewed.

Sinn Fein negotiators were grimly sanguine after their meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at No. 10 Downing Street.

Despite a lengthy engagement, Sinn Fein’s chairman Mitchel McLaughlin said that there was no reason to believe that the two governments have any intention of proceeding with the next step of the Good Friday Agreement, the establishment of power-sharing political institutions.

“The unionists have trapped the two governments into their present positions, i.e., that the IRA must move on decommissioning before political institutions can be established. This is unacceptable. It is not in the Agreement and it is not what the people voted for.”

Few believe there will be progress by next week [the end of April] , with Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble on his way to Rome and Tony Blair heading to the US to discuss the NATO war campaign.

Although the two governments are still presenting their role as ‘referee’ in a dispute between Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionists, fears are growing among Republicans that they may be planning to jettison Sinn Fein and the Good Friday Agreement in favour of scaled-down political reform and a heavy security clampdown against Republicans. Those concerns were reinforced by their ‘Hillsborough Declaration’ on decommissioning, which Mr Ahern recently admitted he knew would be rejected by Sinn Fein. These fears were not allayed by Ahern’s comments yesterday, that that no one wanted to see Sinn Fein “left behind”.

Monica McWilliams of the Women’s Coalition said there was a growing feeling among the parties that the Good Friday agreement was going to be ‘parked’ or else ‘reviewed’ for the summer. Joining Sinn Fein, she called on the governments to “come clean” and establish the power-sharing Executive by the agreed d’Hondt procedure.

” ‘Parking’ leaves us in no man’s land,” she said.

“At least by triggering D’Hondt we will have a clearer picture if this can work or not.”

Attention is now beginning to focus on the nationalist SDLP, who will be required to support any move to assist in the exclusion of Sinn Fein from new political structures. Such a move which would infuriate their nationalist constituency.

Clearly frustrated at the turn of events this week, the SDLP Leader Seamus Mallon, said the Good Friday Agreement was being “held to ransom” by both Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionists.

Asked whether Sinn Fein should be left behind if the deadlock was not resolved, Mr Mallon said:

“I think it is time for everybody, actually, to properly get on the train, not to be leaving people behind. This is an inclusive agreement and what is happening is people are staying off the train rather than getting on it.”

Weighing on everyone’s minds is that fact that the north is facing its most incendiary time of year, the marching season, in a climate of gravest political uncertainty.

Mitchel McLaughlin said his party had raised its concerns with the two Prime Ministers at the increasing numbers of attacks on Catholics. But last night [April 19], another nationalist home was targeted by loyalist bombers. The so-called ‘Red Hand Defenders’ left a bomb outside a house in Greencastle, on the outskirts of north Belfast, but it failed to detonate. Local assembly member Gerry Kelly pointed out there had now been over hundred such attacks on Catholic families in recent months.

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