The Guardian March 29, 2000


Ireland:
Sinn Fein moves for peace

by Steve Lawton

Suspending the Northern Ireland Assembly dealt a serious blow to the Irish 
peace process, which the British government shows no sign of rectifying. 
Consequently, Sinn Fein are mobilising for the struggle to regain their 
rights.

The destabilising Unionist tactic of insisting the IRA begin 
decommissioning its weapons, in breach of the Good Friday Agreement, has 
been bolstered by the failure of British demilitarisation of its occupation 
forces and apparatus to date.

Martin McGuinness MP, Sinn Fein's chief negotiator, says: "It is almost six 
years since the IRA cessation, yet we still have military bases on top of 
people's homes in Belfast."

Since suspension, Britain's Northern Ireland secretary Peter Mandelson has 
been making a central point of decommissioning, albeit couched in terms of 
all paramilitary weapons. Persisting on that line ignores the reason why 
the peace process is taking place and why there is a long, deep conflict 
that has divided Ireland.

Mandelson says that one "confidence building measure after another" needs 
to be set in train on decommissioning. Strange that he doesn't think that 
applies to British military occupation. Where's the confidence in crudely 
severed towns with demarcation walls, watchtowers and spymasts over 
Catholic and nationalist homes and menacing patrols?

Harassment

Addressing the Australia-Ireland Fund in Melbourne the Irish Premier, 
Bertie Ahern said: "a return to an armed campaign is not an option" and 
conceded that the presence of British Army forces in south Armagh is the 
root of "harassment and annoyance". 

He pointed out the necessity for "de-scaling of military dispositions by 
the [British] security forces as provided in the [Good Friday] Agreement" 
and said Republicans have "suffered greatly from coercion."

Demonstrations organised by Sinn Fein have taken place in Randalstown, 
Country Antrim and Derry. In Belfast protesters converged on the huge 
British Divis Tower and spy centre from several locations. "There is anger 
within republicanism that once again we get a situation that Ireland votes 
and Britain vetoes", Gerry Adams said.

The South Armagh Farmers & Residents Committee said: "People are becoming 
more vocal [against] the continued military build-up and are demanding the 
immediate withdrawal of all the British and RUC paraphernalia."

Calling on Republicans to make the 1916 Easter Rising commemoration the 
largest ever, Adams declared: "Tell those that are trying to deny us our 
rightful place of a free Ireland that they are not going to win."

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