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Monday, 9 July, 2001, 07:28 GMT 08:28 UK
Trimble resignation: Where next for NI?
The resignation of David Trimble as first minister of Northern Ireland has increased uncertainty about the future of the peace process.
Mr Trimble quit in protest against the failure of the IRA to meet in full a commitment to put its weapons beyond use.
His resignation comes at a time of rising tension surrounding the annual Protestant parades, which have in the past sparked sectarian violence in the province.
The parties have six weeks to resolve the crisis before new elections are called or devolution is suspended.
Do you think Mr Trimble should have resigned? Is there room for compromise? Where next for Northern Ireland?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
David Trimble's resignation was the right thing to do and an inevitable consequence of his twisting and turning over the past few years. The plain fact is that the IRA at no time gave a commitment to decommission in the manner he now claims they did. His crucial failure during the Good Friday negotiations was to allow Bill Clinton and Tony Blair to fudge and spin the issue. He should have done what Jeffery Donaldson did and walk out, having failed to secure this crucial concession.
Suzanne McMillan, Japan, (Northern Ireland)
Of course Trimble should resign. He is not able to run his own party. He is more dominated by Paisley and the Loyalist murderers than Adams ever was by the IRA. After all these years and all this misery the truth about NI still doesn't get spoken nor the right questions asked. Why are the Loyalists so interested in ensuring that peace never comes? They are allied to the ruling culture - we need questions to be asked about who benefits from the continuing violence and how? I am relieved to see that I am not the only one on this board asking why there's so much focus on IRA decommissioning when the Loyalists are committing daily acts of violence and provocation against Catholics. Now let's hear these questions being asked by the media and by the various governments.
Harry, Northern Ireland
What is called for is that the weapons be put beyond use, verifiably. This has been verified by an international commission. Trimble should return to the Assembly or retire from politics.
The plain truth is that the terrorist weapons are not silent, both Republican and Loyalist weapons are being used on a regular basis. Intimidation and violence is still being employed by the terrorists to exert their control over their so-called own areas. Trimble or any other democratic leader could not remain in leadership of any country in these circumstances, in short he had to resign.
Bill McCreadie, Scotland
It's not as though the IRA are the only ones holding on to illegal weapons in this process. I'm no fan of the IRA, being old enough to remember the Birmingham pub bombings and the other atrocities committed by IRA people over the years. Nevertheless, it is time the politicians in Northern Ireland stopped playing the "blame everyone else" game and started to deliver the kind of performance I'm sure their voters expected of them. Let them all (Unionists and Republicans alike) stop trying to push the problem on to the UK and Irish governments all the time, and start to show some willingness to tackle their own problems. After all, these problems are largely the result of past actions by these self-same political parties.
Wait a couple weeks and it will be abundantly clear why the IRA should not decommission one bullet. Everyone talks about the IRA destroying weapons. What about the loyalist terror groups? Have they disarmed? Have things changed that drastically that the Catholic community in N.I. would be willing to live defenceless in this current state? With the marching season starting shortly it will once again show the world why decommissioning should not even be a factor in the agreement. The time will eventually come but it will be on mutual terms.
Decommissioning should never have been allowed to derail the peace process. Right from the start the deal should have been political concessions in exchange for the cessation of violence. Gerry Adams has said about the IRA, "if the dog's sleeping, why kick it?". There are hundreds of people walking the streets who would be dead or maimed now if it had not been for the cease-fires. What do the extreme unionists want - return to the sickening cycle of violence that we had in the early 90s? As for the long term, the solution is obviously for permanent dual sovereignty between the UK and the Republic.
Muiris, Wales + Ireland
I don't agree with Mr Trimble resigning. I have no love for Sinn Fein or the IRA. But they have not used their guns. Guns that could be replaced the next day even if they handed them in to be destroyed.
I believe that there must not be enough goodwill to have the courage to make the executive work and let the issue of arms fall by the wayside.
I used to follow the
situation in NI intently, being a
descendant of an Ulster-Scot born in
Belfast in the 1740s. But I'm frankly
bored with it now. It's all RE-RUNS.
No wonder my ancestor left.
Thank God he did.
The only way to end all this is to show beyond a doubt that the political solution works. Trimble's resignation gives evidence that it does not work.
The Royal Ulster Constabulary recently showed itself unable to protect children on their way to school from violence. Will this sectarian outfit be able to keep order on July 12th?
The issue of the gun and the violence today is more from the Unionist community and the continued sectarian attacks. If there is a group that needs to disarm it is the Loyalist paramilitary groups first. The Republican side does need to turn over all explosives, because these are the real indiscriminate killers. They should retain the rifles and pistols as a matter of self-defence against bigoted attacks. Every man, woman or child has the right to self-defence and self-determination.
The sectarian violence must end and that people must learn to respect the differences in religion before there can be peace.
There should be another referendum in Northern Ireland, asking the question "What should be the fate of Northern Ireland? A. Join the Republic of Ireland. B. Form an independent Northern Ireland, free of both the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom." The option to remain part of the United Kingdom should not appear on the ballot, because it's obvious that that option hasn't worked and is not going to. Voting on this issue ought to be compulsory, in order to get the clearest possible view of how people in Northern Ireland feel about their own fate.
Can someone explain to me why no one is questioning the refusal of the Loyalist paramilitary groups to disarm. Their ceasefires have been shallow at best and murderous at worst yet all we hear about is the IRA. They too need to give up the gun but again, parity of esteem please.
As a resident of Northern Ireland and a supporter of the peace process since its inception, I have to say I am sad that Trimble has had to resign but I am more confident about the prospects for true democracy now that he has.
We all want peace, but the price of allowing armed terrorists to stay in government is too high.
This is about more that Northern Ireland, this is a principled stand for democracy. I am thankful that we have a man of integrity like Trimble prepared to risk all for true peace.
Why don't the Loyalist and the Republican paramilitaries hand in gun for gun and whilst we are at it why don't the police restrict the issue of "legally held" guns, 85% of which are in the hands of Loyalist supporters.
A commitment to peace shouldn't require illegal arms to be held back, just in case.
I'm really depressed after reading some of the comments in this forum. There's lots of blame being apportioned. The deep seated distrust felt by both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland seems more prevalent now than at any point in the last few years - witness the electoral success of both Sinn Fein and the DUP.
Republicans say "We can't expect the IRA to decommission - its a matter of principle". Unionists say "We must be allowed to march in Drumcree - it's a matter of principle". What Northern Ireland needs now is less principle and more pragmatism.
Too much emphasis is placed on decommissioning arms. What else have the detractors from peace talked about since the agreement? What else would they have to talk about after it. Even after they do, Ian Paisley would find some other reason to avoid "peace" and prolong his hold on Unionist sentiment.
There is only one viable and sustainable long term solution for the North of Ireland: reconciliation and re-unification. Trimble deserved to have his bluff called. His problem is that he has to deal with small-minded, intractable bigots in the UU party, whose heads are firmly in the sand, and the past, and it is time they were seen as such.
The Irish Republic is no longer the it once was. It is a vibrant, young, prosperous and self-confident country that is a pleasure to visit. Indeed, the contrast between the Republic and the grim, stubborn, old and downright boring society that is Ulster Protestantism could not be greater. The people of the North of Ireland have nothing to fear from re-unification - only the trouble-making politicians do. Sooner or later they must wake up to the fact that time and tide are against them. Ulster has remained as it is only due to the foolhardiness of successive British Governments. It is high time we stopped wasting the British taxpayers' money maintaining this archaic relic of history.
Let us live in the real world for a moment, and not the hair-splitting semantics of Adams etc al, or the vitriol and bigotry of Paisley.
For the Good Friday Agreement to have a chance then there must be an unambiguous "intention" by the IRA to put weapons beyond use. This does not currently exist.
There should be another referendum in NI. The question should be "Should the IRA and other terrorist organisations decommission now"? Would Sinn Fein be able to explain then why the IRA won't comply with the voice of the people?
Over 30 years of hatred, finger-pointing and bigotry perpetuates itself, and David Trimble's resignation and the reaction of both "Republican" and "Unionist" community leaders highlights that.
The sad thing that the Gerry Adams "wrapped in a tricolour" and Ian Paisleys "wrapped in a Union Jack" don't get the point.
Neither mainland Britain or the Republic of Ireland wants you until you can live peacefully with your neighbours irrespective of your differences.
That is a minimum requirement for a normal civilised society and apartheid divided schools, neighbourhoods and lives in Northern Ireland are a sad testament to that and the abject failure of ALL its political leaders to deliver.
Politicians and people on both sides have to live with the reality that the Good Friday Agreement is imperfect and flawed. Still, it's a lot more attractive than the alternatives. Everyone needs to grow up and realise that they might be about to throw away the best thing that ever happened to Northern Ireland.
Of course Mr Trimble had no choice but to resign. He knows perfectly well that he has lost the support of the Unionist people in N. Ireland, even those who voted for the Agreement in the first place. The IRA and Sinn Fein have made fools of the British and Irish governments, the American government and everyone else who urged this one-sided agreement from the beginning.
P. Baker, Ireland
Since the start of the Good Friday agreement there Sinn Fein/IRA have taken everything and given nothing in return. They have had prisoners released, military bases closed down, troops scaled down, reforms in policing. What have they given in return? Absolutely nothing - not even one bullet as a token gesture. Yet they still want more. Until they realise that the peace process is a 2-way thing - with give and take on both sides - the situation will be never be resolved
Mr Trimble has my sympathy, he has been banging his head against a brick wall. It seems that whatever relaxation by the Government, the IRA will never decommission their arms. I cannot see the talks being very productive.
In 1998, just before the referendum, I sent the following to a "Talking Point" Today, more that three years later, nothing has changed.
"The problem with this agreement is that once again Sinn Fein/IRA are being allowed to weasel out of giving up their weapons of mass murder.
SF/IRA was supposed to give up their weapons before being admitted to the talks. They were then supposed to give up their weapons during the talks. They are now encouraged to give up their weapons some two years after the end of the talks. They have said that they are not going to give up their weapons at all. What is to stop SF from not fulfilling this requirement by denying that they and the IRA are one or by having members of the IRA regroup with the same weapons under a different name?"
Christopher Porritt, UK
Mr Trimble should NOT have resigned. I really can't understand why he gives so much importance to the IRA's decommissioning: arms can be destroyed, but can also easily be bought again! Moreover, the IRA has been quiet for a long time. The point is whether the Unionists want the Belfast agreement, and the peace process, to survive. It seems to me that they don't.
David Cunningham, Germany
The IRA/Sinn Fein always harp on about being on ceasefire, if this is a permanent ceasefire then they have no need for arms and should have no trouble surrendering them. If they are reluctant to do this then one can only assume that they don't believe the ceasefire to be permanent. I am not a Trimble supporter and only fear his resignation is a sham.
01 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
Trimble resignation 'risky strategy'
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