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Disbandment a logical step

(Editorial, Irish News)

The suggestion that Sinn Féin should automatically be included in any devolved administration in Northern Ireland while at the same time ruled out of consideration as a coalition partner in Dublin is a contentious one.

Republicans believe that their mandate, which they expect will continue to grow, across Ireland means that they are fully entitled to hold office on both sides of the border.

Unionists would prefer to see Sinn Féin out in the cold in each jurisdiction, and believe the main southern parties are guilty of blatantly maintaining double standards over the issue.

The taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, moved to clarify his position through his comprehensive interview in The Irish News last week.

He said he believed that Sinn Féin could not enter government in the Republic as long as the IRA still existed, as in those circumstances the party was unable to fully subscribe to the Irish constitution.

While he did not feel that he needed to spell out his precise attitude towards a revived Stormont administration, the clear implication was that the absence of a written constitution in Northern Ireland was a crucial factor.

The reality is that nationalists look to Dublin while unionists value their London links, and both traditions tend to regard the Northern Ireland

Assembly as something of a compromise.

With constitutional questions put to one side, at least temporarily, the priority must be to ensure that devolution provides a fair and effective system of government for all sections of the community.

The SDLP and the Ulster Unionists have important contributions to make, but, as the most recent elections have underlined, Sinn Féin and the DUP have become the majority voices in nationalism and unionism respectively.

Any deal which the two largest parties cannot endorse is almost certain to collapse, so in real terms Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley can either reach an accommodation or exercise a veto over any return to Stormont.

There is all to play for, and Mr Ahern has optimistically predicted that the assembly could be in business again by next summer.

He has also effectively left the door open for Sinn Féin eventually assuming Dublin ministerial posts in the event of the IRA following its decommissioning with a formal disbandment.

This would present all sides with a range of challenges but there is no compelling reason to prevent it happening.

An end to the IRA, together with all the other republican and loyalist paramilitary groups, is the logical conclusion of the Irish peace process.

In the best interests of all the people of Ireland, it should be brought about sooner rather than later.

November 22, 2005
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This article appeared first in the November 14, 2005 edition of the Irish News.


This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News



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