Category: Archive

Ambassador’s visit to Sinn Fein angers UUP

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

DUBLIN – A senior unionist has criticized the U.S. ambassador to the Republic, Richard Egan, for attending last weekend’s Sinn Fein Ard Fheis.

“It amazes me, to be perfectly honest, how the diplomat concerned is going to be able to square that with the president’s onslaught on international terrorism,” Sir Reg Empey, the Ulster Unionist Party acting first minister.

Empey said there was no fundamental difference between an attack on the Sept. 11 attack World Trade Center in New York or Canary Wharf in London.

“There now appears to be a sort of artificial differentiation between terrorism and international terrorism,” he said.

Empey also said a significant amount of the IRA’s arsenal came either from the U.S. or was financed by American fund-raising efforts. “I will be looking forward with interest as to how that particular circle is to be squared,” he said.

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Egan was in the audience for Gerry Adams`s presidential address on Saturday. Representatives from Euskadi Herritarok (the political wing of the Basque separatist group, ETA), the Palestinian Authority`s representative in Ireland, and an ANC MP from South Africa also attended the two-day event.

Meanwhile, a DUP resolution to exclude Sinn Fein from the power-sharing executive at Stormont moved closer on Monday when a dissident Ulster Unionist assemblywoman signed up to support the issue being debated.

Pauline Armitage, a former supporter of the UUP leader, David Trimble, but now a staunch opponent both of his leadership and the Good Friday agreement, became the 30th assembly member to support a debate on excluding Sinn Fein.

Her decision to support the DUP resolution rather than her own party leader’s was embarrassing for Trimble and highlighted the lack of support he now commands within his own party.

It means the DUP resolution is now technically “competent” and can be debated in the Assembly, once it has been time-tabled by the Business Committee. Should the SDLP oppose it, however, it will not pass the cross-community threshold and will fail, even though a majority of members vote for it.

In that event, Trimble has already signaled that he will order the withdrawal of his ministers from the Executive (having resigned himself already) — causing the Executive’s probable collapse.

The mood at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis was defiant and businesslike, with many younger delegates looking forward to the next general election in the Republic. Sinn Fein electoral hopes were boosted by an opinion poll, taken after the World Trade Center/Pentagon attacks, giving it an extra 2 percent support.

Adams told the Ard Fheis that republicans respect unionist wishes to retain their British identify as an “entitlement.” He also said the paramiltary arms decommissioning issue could be solved to the satisfaction of all the Northern parties, including the UUP, but that would not happen as the result of threats, ultimatums or on unionist terms.

Referring to unionists, he said: “They should not be compelled into acknowledging what they do not want to, and we accept that narrow green conservatism has contributed at times to their sense of alienation from the community of Ireland which we desire them to embrace.”

Adams said “only the UN can give global legitimacy to the struggle to eliminate terrorism,” which he said was ethically indefensible. “Those responsible for the atrocities in the U.S. must be brought to justice,” he said.

“Progressive struggles throughout the world have been set back by the attacks in the USA. There is no excuse, no justification for those types of actions. The real challenge is for dialogue, not retribution.”

He said Sinn Fein was “working for the day when all the armed groups, including the IRA, cease to be. But we will not be part of any effort to criminalize or to deem as terrorists those men and women who fought when they considered they had no other choice.

“We know the difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist. I am sure that even at this serious juncture America is not going to apologize for George Washington. Who would expect them to? Neither should the Irish nation apologize for Wolfe Tone, or Padraig Pearse or James Connolly, or Maire Drumm, or Mairead Farrell or Bobby Sands or Kevin Barry.”

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