[Sinn Fein]

24th April 2003

McLaughlin accuses Blair of providing political cover for the unionist veto

Sinn Fein Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin speaking following a meeting of the party s regional leadership in Dublin this morning said that Tony Blair s statement yesterday was a smokescreen designed to provide political cover for David Trimble being allowed to exercise a unionist veto over the process. Mr. McLaughlin said it was imperative that the elections went ahead as scheduled on May 29th. Mr. McLaughlin said:

``Tony Blair yesterday claimed that the IRA statement was not clear or unambiguous. This was a smokescreen. The real issue is that it is unacceptable to David Trimble. That is what Tony Blair s statement was really about.

``Mr. Blair is, in reality, attempting to get a statement from the IRA, which will satisfy the Ulster Unionist Council the same Council which moved into the rejectionist camp last year. You have to ask yourself what kind of statement would be required to achieve that task.

``This is about the exercise of the unionist veto and about unionism being allowed to dictate the pace of the peace process and also it seems the holding of the Assembly elections. It is not about moving us forward collectively. We have to be very clear. Any further delay or postponement of the election will only serve to undermine the democratic process and peoples rights and entitlements.

``People want Tony Blair to state clearly now whether there is going to be an election on 29th May or not and they want to know whether David Trimble going to commit to sustaining the political institutions of the Good Friday Agreement or not?''

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