Letter: Unheard voice of the Northern Ireland peace process

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The Independent Online
Sir: In your leading article of 7 September you state that 'realists have recognised that only nationalist parties' could be expected to attend Dublin's Forum for Peace.

As far back as January the leader of the Alliance Party, Dr John Alderdice, stated that he would participate in the Forum provided that, as the Taoiseach had indicated, it was an inclusive body open to all committed democrats. On 2 September Dr Alderdice met the Taoiseach again and reiterated his willingness to take part in the Forum.

There is a great tendency in many of the British media to take a rather simplistic view of Northern Ireland as a clear-cut conflict between two mutually exclusive warring tribes. In the 1991 census, more than 11 per cent of the population refused to declare any religious affiliation. Sinn Fein, which receives huge media attention, has 51 local councillors. Alliance, a liberal and anti-sectarian party, has 46 councillors but receives much less media interest.

Nobody can deny that the two major traditions of Irish and Ulster/British nationalism are the main forces on the Northern Ireland political scene; however, it is surely perverse to attempt to write out of public life the one party in Northern Ireland which has support from both Catholics and Protestants, the only party which unambiguously supports the Downing Street Declaration and no other document.

Yours sincerely,

PHILIP McGARRY

Chairman, Alliance Party

Belfast

8 September

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