Where can we go from here?

A deadly blast, a devastating announcement. That was Friday. The weekend has brought intense speculation, debate and reflection. We present five views from across the spectrum of Northern Irish politics on how to salvage peace from this tragedy; No more delay: hold elections now

Share
Of course the return of IRA violence is a major setback to the peace process in Northern Ireland, but I believe there is still hope. The SDLP and the Dublin political parties trusted IRA-Sinn Fein that the ceasefire was permanent. They ridiculed the parties in Northern Ireland who asked the IRA to confirm a permanent ceasefire. Those who trusted the words of Gerry Adams, including President Clinton, have been proved wrong.

Sinn Fein is clever. The organisation will now arrange for a further temporary IRA ceasefire and will once again be embraced and trusted by those same people who have already been proved wrong. The greater number of people in Northern Ireland will not be so easily fooled. As Dick Spring, the Irish Republic's foreign minister, once said: "You cannot expect Unionists to sit down at the negotiating table with a 1,000lb bomb in a van outside."

But dialogue there must be! As one who suffered severely from an IRA attack, I know the suffering of the people of Ulster, London and Dublin (and Dublin was not immune) from terrorist attacks. These attacks, and the reasons for them, must be ended.

All-party talks will not be easy. Already we have seen that all the nationalist parties from Ireland - talking to each other for six months at the Dublin Forum for Peace and Reconciliation - have recently failed to agree a common position. It was Sinn Fein that refused to reach agreement. If Sinn Fein failed to agree with the other nationalists in Dublin, it will be even more difficult to get agreement within all-party talks in Northern Ireland. But the effort must be made.

At the outset, all parties must approach such talks on an equal basis. There cannot be some who have bombed their way to the negotiating table while retaining their illegal armaments in order to use them to influence such talks; and others, totally unarmed, who simply abide by the accepted European democratic process. Accordingly, all must either proceed to these talks without illegal armaments - ie, decommissioning of arms - or alternatively proceed on the basis of being exclusively committed to peaceful methods.

The Ulster Unionists have recommended the latter process as a means of overcoming the obstacle created by Sinn Fein-IRA that they would not decommission firearms before the beginning of the all-party process.

No more time must be lost before having an election in Northern Ireland. Already valuable time has been wasted as Dublin has opposed the election in favour of haywire ideas such as a Dayton conference. They seem to forget that the Bosnian Serb paramilitaries and their mandated politicians were excluded from the Dayton conference - instead they were represented by proxy by President Milosevic of Serbia. Does Dublin want to exclude Sinn Fein-IRA on the same basis from Northern Ireland talks?

Today, Dublin is using the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement to veto democratic elections in Northern Ireland. Her Majesty's Government must now make it clear that it is the constitutional authority in Northern Ireland; and its decision, supported by the Labour and Liberal Democratic parties, to hold elections for an elected body in Ulster cannot be vetoed or delayed by Dublin on the basis of its role under the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

The elected body should be in place as quickly as possible. Then, that body, having no powers of administration or legislation within Northern Ireland, should proceed to appoint all-party committees to investigate and report upon the various main relationships that require attention in order that peace may be permanent.

These include Belfast-London relations; the internal administration of Northern Ireland; scope for realistic co-operation along the border; an enhanced relationship between Belfast and Dublin; and UK-Republic of Ireland relations.

This would involve the Dublin political parties having an input into several of the subcommittees, and it would probably result in all parties sharing in the administration of Northern Ireland and the Unionists taking their seats on the UK-Irish Parliamentary Body.

Let men of goodwill give the electoral process a chance and not delay peace further.

The writer is MP for Strangford and Deputy Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

Andrew Grice
 

When a small amount of desk space means the world

Rebecca Armstrong
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own