30/07/2003

Robinson calls on nationalists and republicans to 'wise up'

Nationalists and republicans need to "wise up" over their support of the Good Friday Agreement, DUP deputy leader, Peter Robinson has said.

In a statement issued from DUP headquarters, the east Belfast MP said that unless nationalists and republicans face up to political realities Northern Ireland may be set for a further lengthy period of direct rule from Westminster.

He added: "It would appear that nationalists and republicans are frozen in a time warp back in 1998, failing to recognize that things have changed since then. It is time for them to face up to the challenges of today rather than seeking to cling to a failed agreement which offers no hope for the future."

Mr Robinson also said that nationalists and republicans needed to realise that the DUP was now the dominant unionist party and that his party would not be conned as the UUP had.

He continued: "[Mark] Durkan and [Gerry] Adams both parrot the contention that there will be no re-negotiation of the Belfast Agreement and that the Agreement is the only acceptable way forward. If nationalists for thirty years would not accept an agreement which did not command the support of the minority community then how can they justify continuing with an agreement which does not command the support of unionism?

"The reality is that unless any agreement has the support of both unionists and nationalists it will not survive. That has been shown to be the case over the last thirty years and is equally true today."

However, Mr Robinson's views were challenged by SDLP leader, Mark Durkan who claimed it was the DUP, and not nationalists, who are out of touch in relation to the Good Friday Agreement.

He said: "It is the DUP that needs to face up to facts. As the party that did more than any other to negotiate the Agreement, the SDLP will not renegotiate it. We will not in any way dilute its principles.

"The SDLP put inclusion into the Good Friday Agreement. It includes those who have voted yes and those who have voted no. It includes the DUP in government every bit as much as any other party. The SDLP has never sought to write off DUP participation in government. And we are entitled to demand that the DUP not write off the Agreement."

Mr Durkan countered Peter Robinson's claim that the Agreement had failed saying that in actual fact it had it had been the local political parties who had failed the Agreement.

He continued: "Unionists are not against the Agreement, as much as they are disappointed with the failure to deliver the end to paramilitary activity that it promised.

"The truth is that continued IRA activity has turned pro-Agreement unionists off, and given a penalty kick to the wreckers in the DUP. That is why instead of talking of a Plan B to replace the Agreement, Sinn Fein should be doing more to play its part in ending paramilitarism.

"The agenda is the Agreement and the Agreement is the agenda. It is time that everybody faced up to that fact and got down to the business of implementing it fully and developing its true potential," he concluded.

(MB)

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