I profoundly object to and refute The Washington Post's accusations that Sinn Fein members are "apologists" for those who bombed Omagh. T. R. Reid's Aug. 13 news story and The Post's Aug. 15 editorial attempt to turn Sinn Fein's attitude toward the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) into support for Omagh. This is out of place and furthers the agenda of those who seek to collapse the Good Friday Agreement, including the bombers.
In the immediate aftermath of the Omagh bomb, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams condemned it and those responsible without equivocation. For more than 10 years, Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and the Sinn Fein leadership have worked consistently to build the political ground for a democratic and peaceful resolution of the long conflict in Ireland. We have carried on in spite of rejection, broken commitments and exclusions in the early years of the peace process, and obstruction, missed deadlines and continuing attempts to exclude Sinn Fein in the latter.
Through all of this, Sinn Fein has been assiduous in trying to ensure that we brought the republican constituency with us. We assisted in bringing about the IRA cease-fire and secured our party's support for the Good Friday Agreement in spite of serious concern for the compromises we have made. Unfortunately, we were not able to bring all republicans with us. A small number rejected the Good Friday Agreement. The actions of some of these republicans, the worst of them the bombers in Omagh, are not condoned in any way by Sinn Fein and the majority of republicans.
The RUC was identified in the Good Friday Agreement as one of the causes of conflict. Sinn Fein is obligated to work for the disbandment of the RUC and is not afraid to say so. We will not be hypocrites and pretend it is okay to simultaneously prop them up with propaganda coups at this delicate time.
The RUC was created after the 1922 partition of Ireland for the explicit purpose of maintaining a "Protestant state for Protestant people." The RUC is 93 percent Protestant. It continues to see its mission as keeping the 47 percent of the population that is Catholic in their place. The RUC is the armed wing of unionism, and its record one of bigotry and sectarianism.
Only last week it was revealed that the RUC paid 50 percent of liability awards made to the families of two Catholics killed by loyalist death squads in 1989. It was further revealed that the RUC will not even tell Northern Ireland's Police Authority why they agreed to pay, asserting the information is "too sensitive." Time will expose the reason. Undoubtedly, we will learn of yet another of the many instances of collusion between the RUC and the loyalist paramilitary groups.
The RUC's history, makeup and role as a sectarian force have been documented by internationally respected organizations such as Amnesty International. In the 1970s, the U.S. Congress enacted a ban on the export of weapons to the RUC. As recently as July of this year, the House of Representatives passed a provision that suspends FBI funds for training the RUC.
Clearly, not just Sinn Fein holds the view that the RUC is unacceptable and part of the problem. Nor is the demand for a new policing service made solely by Sinn Fein. Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, a commission was set up to examine the RUC and report on a new police service. The commission has received thousands of written and oral submissions. The report, a key element of the agreement and the peace process, is to be published in September. Not surprisingly, elements in unionism and the British system oppose the commission and have tried to stop the report.
The people of Omagh and all the people of the six northern counties and of Ireland deserve a peaceful future. This can be achieved only by ensuring that the provisions of the agreement that identified the causes of conflict and negotiated their resolution are implemented, including those related to the issue of policing.
A political vacuum has been willfully created. It must not be filled by those intent on wrecking the peace process, whether they are republican or unionist. The British government has the main responsibility to move on with the implementation of the agreement. Tony Blair has the power and responsibility to face down those in the British government's own structure who have undermined the potential for a new era in the north of Ireland. Change must come. It is inevitable. The best way forward is for all the political representatives to work together to manage that change.
The writer is Sinn Fein's representative to the United States.