what we think
Bowing to Unionists threatens the peace
THE BRITISH government has allowed the Ulster Unionists to take the Northern Ireland peace process to the brink of collapse.
Labour's Northern Ireland secretary, John Reid, suspended the Northern Ireland Assembly for 24 hours last weekend.
He claimed this was to give the peace process "breathing space". But the suspension was a capitulation to Unionist demands for the decommissioning of IRA weapons.
The British government has allowed David Trimble's Ulster Unionist Party to have an effective veto over the whole peace process. Trimble's party has used the call for the decommissioning of IRA weapons to block any progress.
Half of Trimble's party oppose the peace process altogether. Last week Trimble rejected the IRA offer to put its arms "completely and verifiably beyond use".
This is despite the fact that the IRA offer satisfied the international decommissioning body. The IRA has reacted to the suspension of the assembly by withdrawing this offer.
The Unionists are risking a return to war in Northern Ireland because they want to see the total surrender of the Republican movement.
Hardline Unionists do not even want Catholics to play an equal role in any institutions in Northern Ireland.
They oppose even mild reforms to the sectarian RUC police force. These Unionist politicians give credibility to Loyalist groups like the Ulster Defence Association which are waging a terror campaign against Catholics in Northern Ireland.
At the beginning of this week most of the British media focused on the story that three alleged IRA members had been arrested in Colombia in South America. But on that same day gangs of Loyalists terrorised Catholics in north Belfast. Loyalists pelted a bus carrying Catholic schoolchildren with bricks and bottles, and threw a blast bomb into a garden on a Catholic housing estate which injured a 14 year old boy.
These Loyalist thugs are a tiny minority who do not represent most Protestants in Northern Ireland.
The majority, both Catholic and Protestant, want peace and an end to sectarian violence. The British government's capitulation to the Unionists makes those hopes less rather than more likely to be fulfilled.