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Tuesday, 7 November, 2000, 13:32 GMT
Did the Ulster Unionists make the right decision?

The Ulster Unionist ruling council has voted to impose sanctions on Sinn Fein members in Northern Ireland's power-sharing executive.

It wants to bar Sinn Fein ministers from meetings of the north-south ministerial council until the IRA restarts talks with the body overseeing the removal of paramilitary weapons.

It is a move which has infuriated both nationalists and republicans. What do you think? Have Ulster Unionists made the right choice, or will their decision only make things worse for the peace process?


The sell-out of Ulster must not be allowed to continue!

Daniel Lewis, England
Time and time again the Unionists have made concessions to these murderers without so much as a bullet in return. When will Sinn Fein/ IRA grasp the fact that political parties cannot have private armies if they wish to participate in the democratic process? Well done David Trimble for standing up to these thugs. The sell-out of Ulster must not be allowed to continue!
Daniel Lewis, England

Trimble and co have shown that the Assembly and Executive can work and work to the advantage of all. The fact that SF does not want to be excluded from the action is positive and shows the extent of their agreement with it. Everything is in place for good and effective government. Now let's walk this new road together, without any prejudice and without any baggage from the past. Dispose of the arms and people will be even more accommodating than they have been. It is in everyone's interests. This is the new Millennium we all want and deserve.
W. Hamilton, Northern Ireland

They cannot force decommissioning to take place with threats and deadlines

K Sloane, Ireland
History tells us that once assimilated into mainstream politics the military faction will wither away. Why are the unionists not content to let history takes its natural course? By constantly demanding surrender of weapons they are ensuring no decommissioning will take place. If decommissioning had been insisted upon in the Irish free state of the 1920's it would never have become the peaceful society it is today. The decommissioning crisis is more to do with a unionists desire to score a victory over Republicans than their genuine fear of a return to violence, they cannot force decommissioning to take place with threats and deadlines.
K Sloane, Ireland

Once again we see a Unionist agenda. They believe that they are the only ones who have made any sacrifices and they never did any wrong during the last 30 years. When we have a truly neutral police force which both communities can put its trust in, then we will see the arms relegated to history, dumped and destroyed. Do the Unionists want this, if yes, support the changes to the RUC recommended.
Muiris, Wales

Let's at least stop the rhetoric

Simon, Norway
Everyone, including the Nationalist community and its leadership, knows that the IRA's refusal to decommission has nothing whatever to do with the concept of "surrender". It has everything to do with their ability to threaten the democratic process with a return to violence, if they don't get exactly what they want. As Gerry Adams has said: "..they haven't gone away, you know". Let's at least stop the rhetoric.
Simon, Norway

I heartily agree with Michael's comments listed earlier. The whole process cannot succeed without reconciliation between the two peoples. At the moment each political party is motivated by unseen, unflinching motives. These may be seen as admirable political traits but they are unhelpful in helping to form lasting, meaningful peace. The process will never advance beyond a certain point unless people surrender their pride.
Paul Hurst, UK

I feel that David Trimble has made the correct decision about Sinn Fein. The 'Guns No Government' statement should be upheld. I do feel however that David Trimble also has to look closer to home and make loyalist paramilitaries also decommission their weapons.
Clare, Northern Ireland

Does Mr Trimble not realise that in a generation the likelihood is that the majority of voters in the North of Ireland will be Catholic?

Alex, Scotland
Does Mr Trimble not realise that in a generation the likelihood is that the majority of voters in the North of Ireland will be Catholic? Surely Mr Trimble has to start trying to make his party appeal to that section of society in order to ensure the survival of his party and the status of Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom.
Only by taking the inclusive approach espoused by the Good Friday Agreement can he stand any chance of doing this. To do otherwise and follow the hard line as he us currently doing is madness and surely paints a bleak picture for the future long term political and cultural aspirations of his party and the people they represent.
Alex, Scotland

While the Irish government, Sinn Fein/IRA and the SDLP are busy getting legal advice as to whether or not Mr. Trimble has the right to select which ministers go to the north-south council, perhaps they could check with their lawyers as to the legality of a political party haviing a private army holding huge amounts of killing equipment.
Alan Murphy, USA

I am suffering from NI Fatigue Syndrome

Albert, UK
I am suffering from NI Fatigue Syndrome. I couldn't care less any more... bombs or no bombs, peace or no peace.
Albert, UK

It's all that anyone can do to stop themselves from laughing out loud when they hear Northern Irish politicians, trembling with moral indignation, castigate their opponents. And those fingers that they shake at each other may not have pulled any triggers but God knows how many their rhetoric has. If only they were as intransigent in their insistence upon peace as they were in their condemnation of violence then we might see some progress. No as they each stand on their molehills it's not possible to determine that any have the moral high ground.
Iain Macintosh, UK

David Trimble has dug himself a hole, and is danger of burying not only himself but also the peace process. He needs to lead his party, not try constantly to appease the Donaldsons of this world. That means getting out and selling the GFA, including Patten, as the best hope for a peaceful and equitable future.
Of course the IRA should disarm, and it would be perfectly possible, with a little imagination, to do so in a way that is clearly not a surrender. But decommissioning should never have been allowed to become the stumbling block that it is: the guns are mostly silent and that is what counts.
Bass, Ireland

All the Unionists are asking for is a genuine commitment to democracy and the rule of law

Alex Swanson, UK
I can't believe I'm reading criticism of Unionists here. The vast majority of Unionists oppose violence from whatever quarter and vote for politicians like David Trimble who are prepared to say so clearly and unequivocally. It was the Nationalists who insisted that terrorists should get early release from jail, and it's the Nationalists, even the "constitutional" ones, who continue to insist the IRA has the "right" to keep the weapons it used for thirty years to kill and maim.
All the Unionists are asking for is a genuine commitment to democracy and the rule of law. What problem does anybody have with this?
Alex Swanson, UK

This is an entirely right and proper decision. We have seen all too often that the Republicans have been the only ones benefiting from this Peace Process through the erosion of the British identity of Northern Ireland. This is the price which we are being asked to pay for peace, however we are not getting anything in return.
If the IRA do not begin their decommissioning then we will see this Process grind to a halt, with all the give on the Unionist side and the only beneficiaries of this system being the Republicans.
Andrew Cromwell, UK/Northern Ireland

This move by the Ulster Unionists marks a dangerous turn in the peace process

N. Evans, UK
This move by the Ulster Unionists marks a dangerous turn in the peace process. Just as progress was being made and the IRA was starting to inch forward towards considering decommission, the Unionists decided to put the boot in. The fact that the IRA is still armed and dangerous is a considerable worry as they have shown that they are amongst the most ruthless terrorist organisations in the world. If peace is to come to Northern Ireland, patience and pragmatism must be applied.
N. Evans, UK

The UUC should have forced Trimble to come out of the Executive altogether. The party remains mired in a policy of appeasement and surrender.
Allan Robertson, Scotland

There was a 'deafening silence' from the Unionists during the loyalist feud yet IRA guns which remain inactive and disused seem to be the Unionist stumbling block to peace. The real problem for Unionists is that they do not want to share power or have equality in Northern Ireland and this is their exit strategy.
Conor, Northern Ireland

Let the Executive fall but implement the Patten report in full.
Hugh Higgins, Ireland

Both sides must be made to give up their arms

George H. Boyle, Northern Ireland
How can anyone say there is any semblance of peace when there is the continuing threat of terrorism in any shape or form? What right do the troublemakers have to decide where or when they will not give up their weapons? I feel that keeping powersharing was the right decision, although both sides must be made to give up their arms.
George H. Boyle, Northern Ireland

I am so sick of the Irish hate the British, the British hate Irish legacy. When will we just quit as all it has ever done for both sides is bring grief and sorrow? I get as angry over terrorist atrocities as anyone on these islands, but how can they build a future when one side is not even allowed to participate??? The stupid thing is that most of this hatred is inherited and not earned.
Michael, Ireland

Hardly a week goes past and we find the "Good Friday Agreement" under threat. The Unionists make concessions and the thing rolls on. And still we have had nothing like a concession from the Nationalists. They might have inspectors confirming that their arms dumps are secure, but they still find the weapons to shoot people as part of their "housekeeping". There is not a politician in Ireland capable of re-selling the agreement to the public, so the only alternative we have for peace is for the Unionists keep on conceding over and over again.
Roy Chapman, UK

The only right thing that the Unionists can do is to dissolve themselves. The same could be recommended to Sinn Fein.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland

Democracy involves compromise

David Kemp, UK
If the IRA are really committed to the democratic process, then they should be prepared to decommission their arms. What have they got to fear? They are more concerned about keeping hard line republicans 'on board' than in furthering the development of a truly democratic society. Democracy involves compromise, no one party or view can have its way all the time.
David Kemp, UK

The Ulster Unionist Council's decision is too little, too late. The electorate of Northern Ireland can see that they have sat down in government with armed terrorists and will not forget that in a hurry. The decision by David Trimble to exclude SF ministers from North-South meetings is meaningless to a large extent. He should have moved immediately to have them removed from the Executive.
Clive, Northern Ireland

If the IRA decommissioned every weapon tomorrow morning, it would still not be enough for the Unionists. They are simply not interested in sharing power with nationalists and I do not see many on that side with the vision to move towards a pluralist society with equality for all. Donaldson and Trimble are now singing from the same hymnsheet. They should understand that you cannot give ultimatums in such a delicate process. Would the Unionists be keen to give up their so-called "legally" held weapons as part of the decommissioning process?
Tony Holmes, England

Like the Balkans and South Africa, Northern Ireland's winners will be the leaders who grasp the opportunities of the European and Global economies in redressing the terrible social wounds of the past. Trimble owes it to his people to show them how they can share the future, instead of blaming an enemy which understands the big picture so much better.
Vivian James Rigney, Germany

Nobody seems to be requiring the Loyalist paramilitaries to disarm or put their armaments out of action. Why not? They are the only ones who are using guns in the current feud.
Valerie, Australia

How can Trimble be expected to represent such a disparate Unionist agenda other than by siding with the most extreme Protestant/Ulster groupings

James, UK
How can Trimble be expected to represent such a disparate Unionist agenda other than by siding with the most extreme Protestant/Ulster groupings for they are the ones that control the streets and, presumably, the votes! Trimble has been badly let down and is having to buy time until he can see calm water beyond the current storm. To such an end, Adams and his people should, for a change, show tolerance, calm the inflammatory rhetoric and accept the difficulties of their titular head. Either that or make preparation for a bloody altercation that will solve nothing.
James, UK

In my opinion, adding pre-conditions at such a delicate stage of the peace process is unhelpful, if not highly dangerous. I doubt whether Mr Trimble would have proceeded with this call if his position within his party had been more secure. To speak of ending appeasement of terrorists, or adopting a harder line against them, is completely counterproductive. Both because previous measures in this direction, like internment, have only served to swell terrorists ranks due to public sympathy and also because this conflict will only be resolved through agreement of the parties involved, not through any one party trying to impose their will on the others.
Rod Lyons, Ireland

Are the Unionists seriously suggesting that a return to the situation before the Good Friday Agreement is preferable to sitting in government with Sinn Fein while the IRA still holds weapons? Surely, the important thing is that there is now relative peace in Northern Ireland. The violence which still exists there can now be seen by everyone to have more to do with gangsters than with political idealists. This at least means that it will be tackled as it should be, rather than being excused by some as political protest.
David Hazel, England

It's about time that the Unionists started to think to the future and see that their old attitudes do not belong on a modern democratic society,

Alec O'Donnell, NZ
It's about time that the Unionists started to think to the future and see that their old attitudes do not belong on a modern democratic society, they always find something wrong that stops them going forward.
Alec O'Donnell, NZ

The Unionists were only being reasonable in asking for more commitment from nationalists on decommissioning. From this side of the Atlantic, it seems that the Unionists have made tangible concessions throughout this process without very much from Sinn Fein/IRA in return.
Jonathan, New York, USA

I think the Unionists have made the right choice. It sounds like the IRA have simply shown a relative few outdated, minor weapons, whilst hiding the many more modern and effective ones. Gerry Adams was right - 'they haven't gone away', and of course many 'provos' are now free to train and advise a new generation of republican terrorists.
Matthew, Britain

On balance, for once, I'm inclined to favour the Unionists on this one. Yes, their stance does make the Peace Process harder. However, the IRA's stance makes the Unionists' position (and hence the Peace Process) almost impossible. And the Loyalist paramilitaries aren't helping either.
Mick, UK

It is now time for the terrorists to give up their weapons if they no longer wish to be considered the enemy

Chris Klein, UK
As a retired British Army officer who has does time in Ulster, I agree with the UUs' line. It is now time for the terrorists to give up their weapons if they no longer wish to be considered the enemy. However, it is not Trimble who should be worried, but Tony Blair. One day his appeasement of the terrorists will almost certainly return to haunt him.
Chris Klein, UK

If Trimble wants to see Provisional IRA decommissioning then he should push for the full implementation of the Patten report. Only when there is a police force that represents both communities can the Nationalist community feel safe with IRA decommissioning.
Diarmid Logan, USA

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30 Oct 00 | Northern Ireland
Premiers discuss NI sanctions rift
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