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Wednesday, 24 October, 2001, 08:33 GMT 09:33 UK
Were the Ulster Unionists right to resign?
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble is withdrawing his party from the Northern Ireland Executive at Stormont.
Mr Trimble said they were resigning because republicans had "done nothing" on arms decommissioning since the establishment of the locally elected power-sharing administration.
The unionist resignations went ahead despite widespread speculation that the IRA was on the verge of making a significant move over the issue of paramilitary weapons.
Mr Trimble said he had heard such statements before, but now was the time for action.
The Northern Ireland Secretary, John Reid, must now decide whether to suspend the devolved administration or call fresh elections.
Were the Ulster Unionists right to resign? What should the UK government do now? Where does this leave the Northern Ireland peace process?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
T. Reynolds, USA
What is the point of democratic government if half the population are determined to undermine the laws it passes? Democracy only works if people accept the law otherwise it's just the law of who can make the biggest terroist threats that prevails.
David Trimble seeks only to obscure the issues. Give all the people in the North of Ireland the same rights. The catholic community has always been discriminated against. Trimble has always been lukewarm regarding the peace process, perhaps it is time for him to resign and let someone who is committed to it take his place.
The "politicians" in Northern Ireland such as Trimble, Adams, McGuiness and all the other mediocrities couldn't run a tea shop in Bangor without "talks about talks about talks about talks". Walkouts. And disputes. They are all publicity seekers. They all want a place on the world stage. They all want to call in to Downing Street. And to jet to the White House.
The issue of decommisioning is nothing more than a Unionist ruse to destroy the peace agreement. The British government should call his bluff and replace any Unionist ministers who resign. They will come running back to the "trough" if they see that their power play isn't working.
David Trimble has done the right thing. This Government's Republicanist agenda has led to UUP doing all the giving way and compromising for far too long. Believers in justice everywhere should stand and applaud him.
Alan Murphy, USA
Decommissioning of weapons is irrelevant. Both sides in this argument are behaving like the stupid idiots they have been for years. The Loyalists demand that the Republicans decommission, the Republicans demand that the British decommission, by removing the 'occupying' army. The truth is that if the British Government want to put the army into Northern Ireland it will take only a few hours. By the same token if the IRA want to buy new weapons it will take a few days only. What is really important is demonstrated intent. When the various IRA splinter groups stop their shootings, beatings and other Terrorist actions, AND the Loyalists do the same, then and only then will real progress be made. AS it is the decent majority in Northern Ireland will continue to suffer the actions of idiots.
Why doesn't Mr Trimble now go the whole hog and join the British Conservative party. His political oblivion will then be complete. Good riddance to another spineless unionist so-called leader!
John of the UK (An honest broker) thinks that the IRA has a gun to the head of Trimble. The very reason why the IRA has managed to exist is the gun being held to Nationalist heads for 400 years
If the IRA gives up it's weapons then the only ones with weapons will be Unionists, RUC, Loyalist death squads, the British Army.... Hmmm they are all trustworthy people now aren't they? They would not do anything to harm Nationalists now would they?
Have Tony Blair and the Irish PM get the NI leaders in one meeting and settle this once and for all. Otherwise, someone (from either side) may make a mistake and upset the whole apple cart. An example would be the errant missile that knocked down the Russian plane. If that were to happen, trust would never be regained from either side. Both sides are so close to the answer, it's unbelievable that the two PM's can't sit down and talk to them as a group. The reason I mention Tony Blair specifically is he now is seen as a world figure rather than just the British PM. Ref. his talk a few days past regarding terrorism. Not only would NI Peace stand a good chance with his prodding, but I think Tony Blair would enhance his own image! And rightly so. He could then use this "NI Peace Process" success to further the world's cause in stopping terrorism. Next would be to have him get deeply involved with George Bush in the Middle East solution.
I am by no means a fan of David Trimble, but I can understand his frustration. The IRA and others have been talking about decommissioning for far too long without actually giving up a single bullet, and the government is more interested in fighting terrorists in Afghanistan than in sorting out problems in it's own back yard. As a result the process in N. Ireland seems to have reached a sort of 'halfway house' ceasefire - the bombings may have ceased but the riots and the kneecappings go on. What sort of peace is that?
I have no sympathy for either the Unionists or Republicans in this. The constant bickering, posturing and mistrust has put Northern Ireland in a ridiculous situation - where else in the world is there a requirement that all parties must be represented in a government, regardless of who won the most votes? To quote WS Gilbert, "A plague on both your houses!"
I despair of the Unionists - David Trimble is obviously a puppet of the hardliners in his party, worried too about the even bigger headbangers in Ian Paisley's DUP. I wonder how many of them realise just how offended much of the rest of the UK is by these so-called "loyalists" - particularly when you see the disgraceful scenes at Drumcree and that Belfast Infants' School. It is quite clear that the most active terrorists are now so-called "loyalist" groups and you hear very little from Trimble, Paisley and co about them decommissioning. I have a great deal of sympathy with the mainland politicians who have and are trying to bring the sides together and achieve a lasting peace. There must be times when they are sorely tempted to give Trimble and co a real piece of their mind.
I can see why the Irish Republic renounced its constitutional right to Northern Ireland - they decided it was more trouble than it was worth. Can we in the UK do the same, now? Let's leave the petty-minded, blame-pushing, leaderless people of Northern Ireland to sort out their own problems, instead of constantly foisting them onto everyone else.
These people were elected to represent the voters in government. By resigning they are refusing to do their jobs. The voters deserve better than this. Let them go, do not have new elections, government should carry on without them. They are refusing their voters a voice, and the voters should hold them accountable.
Of course they were not right to resign. This petulant action just shows a lack of real commitment to peace and is serving the interests of nobody in his camp save those opposed to a lasting peaceful solution. The loyalist paramilitaries have not only done very little to hand in their weapons but are still actively using them. I don't hear anything like as much wailing and gnashing at that rather stark fact.
Sue, UK- The difference between loyalist paramilitaries (and their political representatives) and Sinn Fein/IRA is that they are not represented in governmental positions. Why? Because they are not supported by the vast majority of Protestant people in NI. SF may be democratically elected, and I have no problem with their aspirations to a "united" Ireland through democratic means, but it is totally unacceptable in a democracy for a party to be backed by its own private army (silent guns or not).
People, especially the broadcast media, seem to have forgotten that there are two sides to the conflict in Northern Ireland. The UVF issued a statement two years ago saying that they would put their weapons 'beyond reasonable use' - yet have done nothing since. The IRA issued the same statement, yet demands are made that they start decommissioning within a week or else.
Where is the logic in this? The Unionists' attempt to get Sinn Fein excluded from Stormont were beyond comprehension; they are democratically elected by the people of Northern Ireland, those people have the right to have the choice over who represents them. There will never be peace in Northern Ireland, the divisions in society are too deep-rooted to be overcome by political rhetoric. Just look at the events happening daily in the Ardoyne - sectarianism is not just alive and well, there are far too many people who thrive on it.
Trimble has made a very large mistake, both personally and politically. A dissolution of devolution would be a huge step backwards, and one from which the peace process would not be able to recover.
One fact is now looking everyone in the face. Ian Paisley was correct all the way through this sorrowful process. All those who suffered rejoice this morning and look forward to the day when an Ulster Assembly will come into being that can look the rest of the world in the eye with honour and respect for what they are meant to be as a people who do not reward evil deeds with positions of power. Adams & Co are finished in the U.S.A. and they well know it. The Ulster people must ensure that their demise continues by ensuring that this corrupt system is gone forever.
Tony Blair must be relentlessly sought out to define if the I.R.A are freedom fighters, or terrorists. We already know the answer to that question, as to what he truly believes. But, he must be pursued to state it in public. Then all those who have doubted what has been really going on will learn the full truth.
Does anyone in Ireland know why they're fighting (for the record, I do, as an American of Irish descent)? Ah, gentlemen, it's the 21st century. Don't you think it's time you joined it?
One sided. That is the issue. The Unionists rant, rave, preach, and threaten folks about the IRA decommissioning their weapons. What about the Ulster Volunteer Force and other Unionist Paramilitary organizations? What the devil does David Trimble think removing his party from Stormont is going to accomplish? You can't run a country unless you're communicating about the every day issues. Why is it, then, that in the British Isles politicians can't see beyond the end of their party's noses long enough to realize that making excuses for not working on a problem such as whether or not one side or the other has access to weapons is comparable to school children who refuse to get along with each other on the playground because one or another of them might have a rock in their hand? For the life of me I can't understand why the concept of mutual compromise is so difficult for politicians in Ireland/Éire. I would say that in order for any possibility of these concepts to manifest themselves, the Ulster folk should get rid of Ian Paisley and David Trimble just right at the outset. Never before have I heard such hate-mongering twaddle in the words of a "Man of the Cloth". But I digress.
Martin, England, UK
Resign? I wish they'd give up. Their fatuous notion that Westminster rule would be any better than (or different to) Dublin rule has cost enough of our taxes as well as enough of their own lives.
Yes, he was right. We're all fed up with the IRA's constant gaining of political advantage by promising to give up weapons and then breaking that promise. It is no longer enough for them to promise - until we see action we should not bribe them any more. No more releasing of prisoners, no more funding from the US. Yes, let them sit in Stormont while the IRA ceasefire holds, but don't give them anything else until they act.
Francis O'Brien enjoys exactly the same rights in London as anybody else living within the borders of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, something he appears to hate but he is a freeman to do so. He appears to advocate an Irish Terrorist Revolution, that however he is not free to do so.
Trimble is a poseur. He seeks only to obscure the issues. He should resign, once and for all. Let someone committed to the peace process take his place. End all this posturing about the IRA arms. Disarm the unionists, the police and get the British army out. Give all the people in the North of Ireland the same rights. It started with British imperialism and will end with national liberation.
Francis, how on earth would disarming the police aid peace in Northern Ireland? I don't know about you, but I don't quite remember the police planting bombs in busy streets, or kneecapping petty thieves or terrorising entire populations for money, drugs or weapons. Do you?
It seems that those who are so wedded to their outdated ideologies have learnt nothing from the WTC. Those that use murder to advance their cause are the enemies of democracy and we should have nothing to do with them. Those that seek to defend them are nothing better than the Taleban government itself.
The comments of Francis O'Brien perfectly illustrate the problems of Northern Ireland. Until both communities can accept that there are faults on both sides of this conflict, we will never find peace.
Unfortunately there are too many people who are more interested in points scoring, rather than making progress through compromise.
Lynn, Northern Ireland
Some commentators seem to forget that there ahs been a notable lack of bombings since the peace process started. The only people who are seriously undermining that process appear to be the loyalist gunmen; and have we heard a word from David Trimble et al regarding them giving up one bullet. As they say the silence is deafening.
David Trimble was right to resign. It's a shame he had to though. He has waited three years for the IRA to dispose of their illegal arms, and they have failed to give an inch. The focus should be clearly on republicans to decide between terrorism and democracy. Trimble is a good man who wants the agreement to work - can the same be said for the others?
Steve McKeown, UK
He was right to quit only in the sense that it may free the way for those actually committed to the peace process to take his place. The man is a sham and his shameful delay tactics have prolonged the violence in N.I.
The body appointed to do so should handle decommissioning. It should not be a political football.
In one respect David Trimble is right, the IRA have been dilly-dallying about for too long. And probably from his point of view, resigning is the only weapon he has to get some action. However, I personally think that it does little to help the peace negotiations. Maybe Tony Blair and company should apply the same fervour towards solving the Northern Ireland situation as they have in trying to solve the Afghan situation.
David Trimble has always been lukewarm regarding the peace process, perhaps it is time for him to resign and let someone who is committed to it take his place.
Did Trimble have any choice in the matter? The answer is not at all. Those that criticise Trimble should look a bit a harder and they might see that it is pressure from hardliners such as Donaldson that caused this. Trimble and his fellow ministers entered the executive on the basis that the IRA would start some form of decommissioning. The IRA has given nothing and neither have the loyalists.
Trimble's most important role, which I believe he has been good at, is keeping both moderate and hardline unionists on board. No Ulster Unionists - no peace process. Who would Shaun have as leader instead- Donaldson? That would really be the final nail in the coffin.
I suggest to our rebel commander, Mr O'Brien, look to the future as opposed to the past.
Is there anyone out there who really cares any more? The Unionists and Nationalists are like a group of people who have been invited to the best restaurant in the world at great trouble and expense but refuse to start eating because they're quibbling about the colour of the tablecloth. It's like Groundhog Day without Andie MacDowell or Bill Murray.
Andrew C, England
Yes they are right to withdraw from the executive. Over the last few years the IRA have not moved an inch on destroying their weapons. Why should the unionists continue to take part in this peace process when one side continually refuses to honour the principle of democracy?
Trimble's actions are, and have been, childish and self-aggrandising. The lot of them should be replaced.
He had no choice, he only preserved his party's share of the vote at the last election through a promise to resign if there was no IRA decommissioning.
If he had not made that promise Ian Paisley's DUP would now be the largest unionist party in Northern Ireland. Can anyone imagine the DUP and Sinn Fein making an effective government together? Unionists are becoming increasingly disillusioned with a process where all they ever seem to do is give and receive nothing but broken promises in return.
This has been the pattern for the entire process. Does anyone remember Tony Blair's fine words about terrorists in government? Most unionists do.
I'm glad that the UUP resigned. Now we can have new Assembly elections with Sinn Fein beating the SDLP the way they did in the Westminster elections back in June. I wonder how Trimble will feel when Gerry Adams becomes the next Deputy First Minister.
Peter C Kohler, USA
Mr Trimble as a representative of the Unionist people has been left with no choice but to put an end to Sinn Fein's games. These people deal with known terrorists that would feel naked without their weapons.
Yes, Trimble and his men could have stayed in their ministerial offices longer but sadly, their action now is merely a reflection of both hard line and moderate unionist opinion which has increasingly hardened in the face of IRA inactivity over arms. No doubt there has been much movement and debate within the republican movement. It appears that despite Martin McGuinness's pleas earlier in the week the hard line republican elements have won out so far. The affront that unionists have increasingly been feeling probably leads them to conclude that despite the popularity of devolved government in Northern Ireland, it is not something the IRA has a real interest in. I would like the unionists to stay longer but I understand their position. The IRA needs to help now by making a move on arms for everyone's sake.
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