Getting It Straight
I'm writing this letter to highlight to Wave readers a little information they're not receiving from the main stream press concerning the peace process in the North of Ireland. Most people watching television or reading print media will have gotten the wrong impression by the slant of the coverage concerning the suspension of the newly appointed Northern Executive, and the return of direct rule by Britain.
Once again, the media puts the black hat of "badguyism" on the Irish Republican Army and Sinn Fein. It seems like the sole reason for the collapse in the peace process is due to the IRA's refusal to decommission their arms. This narrow view of the events leading up to the British governments decision to suspend the Executive is misleading and deserves clarification.
The IRA's weapons are silent. It is now approaching the fifth year of the IRA's ceasefire, and there is no imminent danger of these weapons being used. The IRA issued a statement reaffirming their steadfast support of the peace process and further indicate that they believe it possible for political conditions which would make it possible for decommissioning to take place. The IRA will not, however, begin decommissioning their weapons in the absence of these political conditions, nor as a pre-condition toward SinnFein's involvement in the Executive.
The British government's decision to suspend the Executive has no legal basis and is not part of the Good Friday Agreement, which enacted the formation of the Executive. This decision to suspend the Executive was done to save the political life of David Trimble, the head of the Ulster Unionist Party. Trimble staked his future on a gamble that he could force a deadline for IRA decommissioning. The Good Friday Agreement enacted legislation to form the Executive almost 20 months ago. Trimble refused to form the Executive through two series of tactics designed to alienate Sinn Fein. These tactics backfired and Trimble was faced with heat from his own party as well as the British and United States government.
Trimble was attempting to change the Good Friday Agreement by trying to force IRA decommissioning prior to the establishment of the Executive. The Good Friday Agreement stated that all paramilitary groups, not just the IRA, who were involved in the peace process would decommission by May 2000. There was no pre-condition of any decommissioning prior to this date.
Trimble then played his last ace when in November he agreed to finally establish the Executive. He then signed a post dated letter of resignation dated February 19, 2000 stating that he would resign if there was no decommissioning by the IRA by February 20. This act gave Sinn Fein and the other parties involved in the Executive about two months to accomplish what had been planned to have been achieved in 20 months. It was a sham act to attempt to force the IRA to abide by conditions not set forth in the Good Friday Agreement. The British government suspended the Executive one day before Trimble's self-imposed deadline because the British government feels that Trimble is not strong enough within his own party to be able to withstand a vote of confidence by his UUP members.
The peace process is in danger not because the IRA refuses to decommission. They have not refused to decommission. They have refused to be threatened and coerced into actions they never agreed to. They have refused to surrender to political manipulation while the British Army continues to fly Army helicopters over South Armagh while British troopers continue to harass, detain and threaten citizens along the border.
Certainly, progress has been made towards creating political conditions that will allow all parties to take the guns out of politics in the north. Renaming and revamping the notoriously sectarian Royal Ulster Constabulary, reopening investigations into the slaughter of 13 innocent protestors in the Bloody Sunday Massacre, and the release of political prisoners has done a lot to foster peace and reconciliation. Hopefully, continued pressure on all parties will result in conditions favorable to creating the political will to continue the current process. Failure to do so quickly will almost certainly play into the hands of those against peace. Sinn Fein and the IRA have shown their commitment to peace. The symbolic gesture of surrender sought by Trimble will not bring peace, and is designed only for the purpose of destroying the current process. If this is allowed to succeed, there will likely be no chance of peace in the North of Ireland in our time.