The Guardian August 29, 2001


Australian MPs and trade unionists support Irish Peace process

"We are writing to express our concern that the peace process in Ireland 
should not be held hostage to the unilateral demands of Unionist political 
leaders. As supporters of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, we believe that 
it alone provides the framework within which the peace process must be 
implemented and the present crisis resolved", began a letter to British and 
Irish Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern.

"We are concerned that the present crisis has been deliberately contrived 
by the Unionist forces to frustrate and undermine political reform. We note 
that the trigger for the present crisis was the resignation of Ulster 
Unionist Party leader, David Trimble, as First Minister."

The letter was signed by Tony Maher, General President of the Mining and 
Energy Workers' Union on behalf of a number of leading trade union 
officials, NSW MPs and Australian Aid for Ireland.

"We urge your governments to honour all the commitments made in the Good 
Friday Agreement and not allow the Unionists to continue to act in a 
unilateral manner exercising a veto that they have no right to", the letter 
continued.

For too long now, Unionists have hidden behind the issue of Decommissioning 
as an excuse not to proceed with agreed political reforms. The recent 
statement by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning 
that the IRA had begun a process of putting it's arms "completely and 
verifiably beyond use", exposed the spurious motives of those who have 
hidden behind Decommissioning as the basis for opposing political reform.

The courageous initiative by the IRA on decommissioning greatly enhanced 
the peace process. It provided the historic opportunity to remove the gun 
from Irish politics if it is reciprocated by all other parties. This 
requires a similar commitment by the loyalist paramilitaries and their 
involvement with the Independent International Commission on 
Decommissioning (IICD).

At present, in attempts to destroy the peace process, loyalist para-
militaries are engaged in murderous sectarian attacks on the nationalist 
population.

"We urge both your governments to come out firmly and demand that the 
loyalist para-militaries match the IRA'S commitment to the Independent 
International Commission on Decommissioning. The loyalist para-militaries 
must also commit to, and engage in, a process with the IICD to put their 
arms 'completely and verifiably beyond use'."

Saving and developing the peace process is a collective responsibility. The 
immediate reform of the RUC, at least in line with the proposals in the 
Patten Report, is an urgent requirement for the future of the peace 
process. So too, is the British Government's commitment to a timetable for 
the complete demilitarisation of its Armed Forces and facilities in 
Ireland.

"Prime Minister Blair and Taoiseach Ahern, we believe that there is an 
historic opportunity to resolve the conflict in Ireland by political means 
if all the parties to the Good Friday Agreement have the will and 
determination to see it through. The world is watching and we urge you not 
to let this chance slip.

"In the event of continued Unionist stonewalling of the peace process, we 
urge you to put the issue directly to the people by calling an election for 
a new Assembly. And we urge your governments to firmly support those in 
both communities who are genuinely bound by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement 
and who continue to promote a resolution of the conflict through political 
reforms and the peace process", their statement concluded.

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