27/11/2002

Cross-border peace forum is 'waste of time' says Nesbitt

The Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, which convenes at Dublin Castle today, has been slammed as "waste of time" by the UUP's former Environment minister Dermot Nesbitt.

He further accused the SDLP and the Irish government of allowing the forum to be used as a lifeline for the republican movement which has been implicated in a spy ring at Stormont that lead to the suspension of the assembly.

Mr Nesbitt said: "The Irish Government, Sinn Fein and the SDLP will likely rake over the same old ground. They will not focus on the central issue that nowhere else in the democratic world, except in Northern Ireland, would anyone be expected to have a government comprising those linked with paramilitarism."

He concluded: "Republicans are in a deep hole over the recent series of revelations, and what the Irish Government and the SDLP must realize is that by throwing this Forum lifeline to Republicans, they are merely aiding and abetting an organisation still wedded to methods and tactics that are far from democratic."

Yesterday, the SDLP Chairman of Cookstown Council, Patsy McGlone, urged all parties to come together for the forum as it "was mandated by the people of Ireland, north and south". He further said that the forum could be a tool for the collective will of political parties to call for the disbandment of paramilitary groups.

"The Forum can clarify for those who need it that an end to republican paramilitaries is not just a negative demand of unionism or an unwarranted insistence by the British Government. It is a positive requirement of the people of Ireland and the Agreement they mandated," he said.

"There is unfinished business and unfulfilled expectations from the Forum’s previous work."

(GMcG)

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