SADLY, THE farcical charade witnessed yesterday will further erode public confidence in the political process and in politicians. It raises serious doubts about the intentions of Unionists, whether they will ever agree to share power with nationalists in a spirit of mutual trust. The way forward is no longer clear cut. With the IRA refusing to disarm until the Good Friday agreement is fully implemented and Unionists adhering to their no guns, no government policy until weapons are decommissioned, the fundamental dilemma remains unresolved. They have yet to cross the Rubicon.
TRIMBLE HAS to use his new-found strength within Unionism to drive home the message that the agreement is the best way forward. He now has a brief moment of opportunity; he has withstood massive pressure from two Prime Ministers and a US President, combining, of course, with the massive pressure within his own being, to implement the agreement. He is
clearly not a soft touch.
But the authority he has won will be worthless if he does not prepare his people for a real historic compromise in September with nationalism and republicanism, a compromise all the more viable because it will have to be based on cold-eyed rationality about the intentions of one's opponents and not a tide of empty spin doctor's slogans. But then that is how the original Belfast agreement was brought about on Good Friday. (Paul Bew)
WHERE DO we go from here? It was reassuring to hear Gerry Adams stress the opportunities which still existed, and to speak of his desire to live on an island free from violence and sectarian hatred. The review of the Good Friday agreement confirmed yesterday afternoon may not take place until October, and there is an obvious danger that the momentum of the process will be lost in the interim period. It is difficult to forecast what form the review will take, but it is vital that all our politicians throw themselves into the challenge with renewed vigour. What can be said with certainty is that violence does not provide any section of the community with an option. The past use of the gun and the bomb has been nothing less than disastrous for all the people of Ireland.
HE MUST answer to the Irish people, North and South, for his defiance of their clear will as expressed in last year's referendums. But in the task now facing the two governments, picking up the pieces, blame and punishment will serve no purpose. The assembly can be dissolved. Cross- border bodies can be instituted. The governments, however, must look above and beyond. The Good Friday agreement was the best deal for both nationalists and unionists in this century. It was based on justice and equality. Any replacement must not only be founded on the same principles, but replicate it in detail. The roof has fallen in, but we know the only possible shape for the ultimate edifice.
Dublin and Belfast
ULSTER UNIONIST leadership has attempted to accomplish in the past few days what it failed to achieve during the negotiations of Good Friday 1998 and in the most recent Stormont discussions. The amendments put into the legislation by British Prime Minister Tony Blair undermine the Good Friday agreement. The legislation itself is a sop to Unionism and clear evidence that the Orange card is once again being played with success. On the basis of ever more strident unionist demands, Mr Blair headed down the path of exclusion. But even Blair's best efforts at appeasement may once again not be enough for the insatiable no men of Unionism.
The Irish Times
MR BLAIR'S "absolute deadline" failed to resolve the relationship between the establishment of the Executive and the decommissioning of paramilitary arms. It did produce a commitment from Sinn Fein for the first time, however, that the IRA was obliged to decommission its arsenal and that it could be convinced to conclude that process within eight months. The two governments failed to have a cross-community Executive formed but they forced the pace by triggering the D'Hondt system. The antagonism displayed by members towards each other at the Assembly meeting visibly highlights, once again, the level of distrust to be bridged in the politics of Northern Ireland. A period of reflection is needed now before attempting a further step forward.Reuse content