1/14/2006

Sri Lankan peace role for Sinn Féin

I see that Senior Sinn Fein negotiator Martin McGuinness is to travel to conflict-torn Sri Lanka next week in a bid to shore up the country’s troubled peace process. He is traveling to the Island nation at the invitation of internationally-respected Sri Lankan peace group, the Institute for Political and Conflict Transformation (Inpact).



Sri Lanka has been caught in the grip of a bitter conflict since 1983 when Tamil separatists demanded autonomy. Almost 70,000 people have been killed in the region as rebel Tamil groups and government soldiers clashed with violence breaking out again recently. The largest Tamil group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers, called a ceasefire in 2002. They are now being urged to follow the example of the IRA and lay down their weapons.

During next week’s four-day visit to the region Martin McGuinness will meet with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse and Tamil rebel leaders. The Sinn Féin leader met the Sri Lankan president last year when he visited Ireland to study the Irish peace process.

“I have been asked by a respected peace organisation to
travel to Sri Lanka to share my experience and encourage the two sides not to
allow this ceasefire to break down completely. “My message to all parties will
be simple – that accommodation can only come through dialogue, that’s been the
lesson of the Irish peace process. “I will impress upon them that there can’t be
a military solution.“Inclusivity is the way forward when those involved in the
process have divided loyalties and allegiances.”
The irony of the situation was not lost on Martin who also said

“At international level, people involved in conflict
resolution people are seeking the advice of Sinn Féin, but in Ireland we have
the paradoxical situation where the DUP refuses to speak to Sinn Féin. “This
goes against what’s happening on the international dimension. “We are conscious
that our own process of conflict resolution and that has to be our primary focus
and priority, but while we have an opportunity to contribute elsewhere we will
do that.”


Unionism will need to come to the realisation that it can not put off dialogue for ever. The British, as evidenced by the Anglo-Irish Agreement will no longer pander to Unionism and if needs be will ignore them completely. In the next few months the pressure will turn on the DUP in a big way. They have seen from the Review of Public Administration that the British will ignore them if it decides to.

Unionists have said that they can live with Direct Rule, I am not so sure. If they are not interested in the GFA anymore then they should say so.

The alternative is Joint Authority and I have no problem with that, I suspect however that Unionism will.

So will Unionism cut off its nose to spite its face or will it engage in positive politics?

That remains to be seen, it is the only unanswered question left to be answered.

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