IN TERMS of the overall party results, the recent elections in the North of Ireland have delivered few surprises. What is of significance is the lack of dynamism coming from Downing Street to move the peace process forward. It could be argued that it is still early days but the results have been a long time coming and Tony Blair has had every opportunity to implement a democratically acceptable way forward.
The sudden pressure applied on the British government by the Bush administration to hold the elections before Christmas must have come as a shock. It certainly looks like it wrong footed the pundits within the Northern Ireland Office, who appeared to be bedding down for the long term postponement of the assembly elections and possible derailment of the peace process. One would like to believe that American intervention at this stage was to assist with the democratic process. However it is probably more likely that Dublin brokered a deal with the US to use its forthcoming presidency of the EU to solicit support for America on the Iraq situation in return for early elections and whatever may follow.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, and contrary to what Paisley and the mainstream press would have us believe, the truth is that three quarters of the electorate voted for pro–Good Friday Agreement candidates and in doing so rejected Paisley's supremacist, squalid sectarian ideology. This mandate from the Northern Ireland electorate is one that Downing Street would be foolish to ignore.
Tony Blair must not allow the DUP to determine the extent and pace of change of the political situation in the north of Ireland in the same way as he permitted Trimble to do so. Pandering to a unionist agenda is no longer an option.
It must be remembered that since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, the British government has failed to create a police service acceptable to both communities, failed to establish a justice system that is accountable and representative of both communities, failed to demilitarise the six counties and failed to end discrimination against nationalists in employment.
For democrats in Britain it is time to draw a line in the sand and demand that the agreement which the British government signed up to is implemented with immediate effect.
If the British government cannot find an acceptable solution to this present impasse then maybe it is time it, in agreement with the Irish government, made a declaration of its intent to withdraw from Ireland in accordance with a mutually agreed time–frame.
Connolly Publications Ltd, 244 Gray's Inn Road, London, WC1X 8JR
Copyright © 2004 Connolly Publications Ltd