Blueprint for peace with democracy: David Trimble argues that change in Northern Ireland must now be mandated through an elected assembly

Share
Related Topics
PARAGRAPH 10 of the Downing Street declaration refers to the need for a permanent end to paramilitary violence. What is important is not a word, but the intention. Is the Sinn Fein/IRA 'cessation of military operations' intended to be a change of strategy, or is it a tactical manoeuvre? This question is reiterated later in the same paragraph in a more important form. The British and Irish governments state that participation in the democratic process is limited to 'parties which establish a commitment to exclusively peaceful methods'.

One does not expect such a commitment to be demonstrated overnight. So London's acceptance that the cessation is permanent will not conclude the issue: the commitment to exclusively peaceful methods will have to be established by deeds, not words.

In the first instance, those deeds may be just the continued absence of violent actions; before too long they must include dismantling the paramilitary machine. You are not committed to peace if you maintain a private army. You cannot expect to be part of a serious dialogue if there is the implicit threat that you will revert to other methods when you do not get your way. The best way of proving that there is a permanent cessation is to dismantle the war machine. This issue of verification must be sorted out as soon as possible.

The judgement of Ulster Unionists is that the Sinn Fein/IRA ceasefire is tactical. This view is based on the actions of Sinn Fein/

IRA as well as its prevarication over the permanence of the ceasefire. Far from dismantling the war machine, we understand that recruiting continues; the search for fresh intelligence continues and targeting continues. There are indications that no-go areas might be recreated.

Furthermore, Sinn Fein/IRA declares that it does not accept the Downing Street declaration, but believes that the nationalist parties, together with the Irish government and Irish diaspora, have sufficient weight to compel the British government to make concessions. It is in this area that I believe a deal has been done, which includes the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams; the SDLP leader, John Hume; the Irish Prime Minister, Albert Reynolds, and Bruce Morrison's Irish-Americans.

This deal is demonstrated by the way Hume and Reynolds have brushed over the IRA's failure to declare a permanent cessation, and their abandonment of the timetable and procedures in the Downing Street declaration in an indecent rush to embrace Adams. The pan-nationalist deal has serious implications for the UK government and its relationship with Dublin. Where once the British and Irish governments stood together against terrorism, the Irish government, in return for a temporary ceasefire, has switched to join forces with Sinn Fein/IRA in a political fight against the British.

This is an enormous gamble for Reynolds. He may believe there can be no return for Adams, now that he has been manoeuvred into a cessation of violence. But Reynolds is tolerating the existence of a private army which, through the murder of the underworld figure known as The General, has declared an intent to take over Dublin's criminal rackets. There may be implications for the health and stability of Irish democracy.

Reynolds's gamble is heightened by the fact that two wheels have

already come off the nationalist bandwagon. Bill Clinton has declared his neutrality and Tony Blair has changed Labour Party policy to declare that a Labour government would not be a persuader for a united Ireland.

Paragraph 10 of the Downing Street declaration also refers to democratically mandated parties. Hitherto, Sinn Fein obtained votes on the basis of being a terrorist support group. They will need not just a new manifesto, but a new mandate. The Secretary of State could call an election to a Northern Ireland assembly at the drop of a hat, which would give Sinn Fein an opportunity to gain a new mandate.

Elections would serve another important purpose. For years the greater number of the Ulster people (of all religious persuasions), who eschew violence, have been spectators while power is exercised by governments and terrorists. The people must cease to be spectators and become actors.

Moreover, the creation of a genuinely representative institution would be a continuing expression of the popular will. I am not, however, suggesting another constitutional convention, as in 1975. All the signs are that such a body would not be successful. Rather, I am suggesting a working body such as we proposed in our Blueprint for Stability, which, based on the principle of proportionality, would enable all parties to participate fully. As well as debating the constitutional issues, it would start to reduce the democratic deficit and show that the only failed political entities within Northern Ireland are certain political parties that are not prepared to co-operate in an administration based on an elected body in Northern Ireland.

This would leave the issue of human and minority rights. Ulster Unionists tabled papers on these matters in inter-party talks, but, regrettably, nationalists were very reluctant to discuss them, preferring to follow their overriding territorial ambition. Our papers were based on the accords of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE), which makes extensive provision for minority rights. There is much we can learn from that, and from those areas in Europe that have successfully coped with national and ethnic tensions. Indeed, it will be necessary to ensure any new agreement is compatible with the standards and mechanisms that have been agreed should apply throughout Europe.

But this would not preclude creating a mechanism specific to the British Isles. This could take the form of a sub-group within the CSCE, or it could be a purely British Isles forum in which all interested parties could discuss the relevant human and minority rights issues. In these ways we believe that the basis for an equitable outcome exists and should be pursued, whatever the outcome of the Sinn Fein/IRA manoeuvres.

The writer is UUP Member of Parliament for Upper Bann.

(Photograph omitted)

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The final instalment of our WW1 series

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Simon Usborne: The more you watch pro cycling, the more you understand its social complexity

Simon Usborne
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice