Letter: Unionist worries

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Steve Wallis's letter (16 July) concerning David Trimble's refusal to nominate ministers to the Northern Ireland Executive is misguided.

To suggest that the Ulster Unionist Party will not share power with Catholics is simply Sinn Fein propaganda. The UUP would share power with John Hume's SDLP tomorrow. However, they will not share power with a party that is inextricably linked to a terrorist organisation.

Unionists have moved much by saying they will share power and that they will work with new all-Ireland institutions with executive powers. They have watched as 250 terrorist prisoners were released from prison, and they have agreed to a whole new equality and human rights agenda. The only part of the Good Friday Agreement where no progress has been made is on decommissioning. The people need to see that Sinn Fein is totally committed to, as the Agreement provides, "exclusively peaceful means" before entry to government.

Day by day there are beatings, shootings and punishment attacks in Northern Ireland. Is it unreasonable for the UUP to want to see some evidence of the republicans' commitment to peace?

David Trimble is the most radical leader of Unionism since partition. Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern are to be congratulated on their efforts to build peace in Northern Ireland, and I am deeply grateful to them. Mr Blair has given so much to this process, and is bound to be discouraged by recent developments.

But it is in the very history of Ireland to take three steps forward and one back. We have stepped back, but we will move forward. We, the Northern Ireland people, will expect nothing less. It is now up to the republicans to convince the sceptics they are serious about peace, and the way to do that is for the IRA to say once and for all, "The war is over." Then we will get there, get it right, and build a new future for all the people of Northern Ireland.

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