DAILY CATHOLIC    THURSDAY     September 9, 1999     vol. 10, no. 171

NEWS & VIEWS
from a CATHOLIC perspective

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GEORGE MITCHELL SEEKS TO SALVAGE NORTHERN IRELAND PEACE

Sinn Fein Insists It Is Abiding by Agreement

        BELFAST, SEP 7 (ZENIT).- Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell is asking all of Northern Ireland's parties to demonstrate their "full commitment" to nonviolence as part of his mission to salvage the Good Friday peace accord of 1998. Mitchell has been called in by Britain and Ireland to try to revive the peace process after it reached deadlock two months ago over the disarmament of Catholic and Protestant guerrillas.

        During his visit, Mitchell, who oversaw the 22-month negotiation process that produced the 1998 accord, is meeting with politicians on both sides of the dispute. A key meeting on the first day of Mitchell's mission was with Sinn Fein, which wants two seats in the envisioned 12-member Cabinet -- but whose Irish Republican Army allies have repeatedly refused to disarm in support of the agreement. The major Protestant party, the Ulster Unionists, refuses to form the Cabinet until the IRA disarms.

        "Neither I nor anyone else has a magic wand that will wave away these problems. But I believe it can be done. Whether it is done is up to the political leaders," Mitchell told reporters. "There is a chance -- the best in many years -- to set Northern Ireland on the path to enduring peace and political stability. The political leaders of Northern Ireland must seize this opportunity," he said.

        David Trimble, who would lead the government as the Cabinet's first minister, said Sinn Fein and the IRA "need to do something to prove whether they are committed to peace or not. In the present situation, words are not enough."

        Sinn Fein says it cannot force the IRA to disarm but insists it is abiding by the accord's demand that it must strive to achieve disarmament by May 2000. "We welcome George Mitchell's involvement. We welcome his independence and his good offices ... We intend to go in here with, as the Americans say, a can-do attitude," Sinn Fein Vice President Pat Doherty told reporters on arrival. ZE99090721


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September 9, 1999       volume 10, no. 171
NEWS & VIEWS

DAILY CATHOLIC

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