[Sinn Fein]

9th May 2000

McGuinness welcomes imminent start to British Demilitarisation

Sinn Fein Chief Negotiator and Mid Ulster MP Martin McGuinness has welcomed the news that a beginning to British demilitarisation is imminent.

Mr. McGuinness said:

``I welcome the British government's imminent announcement that it is to begin fulfilling its obligations on demilitarisation. This is a result of the initiative taken by republicans in our discussions with the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair last week.

``Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement Peter Mandelson was obliged to deliver a timetable for demilitarisation last October. He failed to do so.

``I hope that this announcement will herald the beginning of a programme of total demilitarisation. It will be a welcome development for the people of Cookstown, Derry, West and North Belfast, Crossmaglen and Cloughogue.

``But if there is to be any tangible benefit to the local population it is not enough that physical military structures be closed. The military personnel inhabiting them must be removed from any contact with the public. Military foot patrols and helicopter overflights that have seen a dramatic increase particularly in rural areas of Tyrone, South Armagh and Fermanagh since the IRA cessation must also be removed.

``I believe that if carried out diligently, this programme of demilitarisation will assist in the progress of the peace process and help to crease the conditions in which we can demonstrate that politics work. We will continue to campaign until all of the British military presence is removed from our community.''ENDS

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