Category: Archive


February 15, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Jack Holland

As the fateful day of referenda approaches, the battle within the Unionist community over the Belfast Agreement has assumed the nature of struggle between those who stress law-and-order issues and those who are in favor of a more political approach to the Northern Ireland problem.

The No campaign, led by the Rev. Ian Paisley of the Democratic Unionist Party and Bob McCartney of the United Kingdom Unionist Party, has highlighted Unionist anger over the release of paramilitary prisoners and the proposed reform of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. It has also revived the old decommissioning controversy, with rejectionists arguing that Sinn Fein members might be allowed to sit in a new Northern Ireland assembly without the IRA handing over any weapons.

The Yes campaigners, led by Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble, have emphasized the constitutional issues, arguing that the agreement strengthens the position of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom.

Ironically, this argument, which many thought would be of primary importance to Unionists, has not inspired the Yes campaign the way the sight of the welcome given to former IRA and UDA gunmen has galvanized the No campaigners, turning this into a burning issue.

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