INTERESTING piece overshadowed by other events from Brian Walker in yesterday’s Tele on the (latest) Ulster Unionist (official) position. Since exclusion from Executive office in the event of a breakdown in trust is written into the Northern Ireland Act, the legal manifestation of the Agreement, UUP leader David Trimble believes that recalling the Assembly in order for the Secretary of State to exclude Sinn Fein would be compatible with the GFA. Arguably, Unionists could say that the Government is in breach of the Agreement by refusing to exclude Sinn Fein, since the Government has stated its belief that the IRA was involved in the Northern Bank raid. Such a move also gets the SDLP off the hook, since they wouldn’t have to vote for exclusion.
Since a temporary exclusion from office was what the IMC recommended (if the Assembly had still been functioning), it will be very interesting to hear what Paul Murphy has to say in the Commons on Monday.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern still opposes exclusion, despite ruling out Sinn Fein in his own coalition government until the issues surrounding the IRA are resolved. Such double standards make you wonder why exclusion was ever written into the Agreement…
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Trimble wrote:
âThe government clearly has a duty to act on all the Commissionâs recommendations. It also has power both under the Suspension Act and the legislation governing the International Monitoring Commission to enable such action. It would be utterly perverse to use the fact of suspension, itself a consequence of earlier republican wrongdoing, to frustrate a clear recommendation of the Commission and prevent the resumption of the institutions created by the Belfast Agreement 1998.
Government must send out a clear signal that the biggest bank robbery in British history and the political fallout it has caused carry a price for republicans. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has said that he will make a statement to the House of Commons next week. That statement should set in motion the procedures under the Agreement of April 2003 and the above-mentioned legislation in fulfilment of the pledges made by the Government.
Recalling the Assembly and excluding Sinn Fein is the entirely the right course of action. This would bolster the democratic parties who feel they are being punished for the actions of others. The Agreement of April 2003 was a joint effort. It has only been objected to then and since by Sinn Fein and the DUP. It ought, therefore, to be the basis for a consensus between the parties responsible for progress over the last number of years. Failure to implement that Agreement, endorsed by the governments and those parties, will be a signal from the Government that it is not yet prepared to defend its own agreements and the democratic process.
Proceeding along these lines would also administer a shock to Sinn Fein which might result in it taking seriously the calls which we have all made repeatedly over the last two and a half years. It would show that we were indeed moving on from the fork in the road, where we have all been marking time since October 2002.â