[Sinn Fein]

25 August 1997

McLaughlin calls for readers poll on face-to-face talks

Sinn Fein Chairperson Councillor Mitchel Mc Laughlin has called on the Editors of the Irish News, Newsletter and the Belfast Telegraph, to gauge public opinion on the need for all parties to engage in substantive negotiations on September 15, by offering their readers the opportunity to register their opinion in a telephone poll.

Councillor McLaughlin said:

``I believe if the three papers gave this opportunity to their respective readerships the result would show that the majority of respondents from both traditions would urge all parties to do what they were elected to do in the May elections- negotiate.

``The commencement of all party talks on September 15th presents the political leaders on this island with the opportunity to address in a substantive and meaningful manner the root causes of conflict in our country. It is time for the Ulster Unionist leadership to stop procrastinating, face up to their obligation of leadership and state clearly that they will be at the negotiating table.

``All the political parties fought an election last year to gain a mandate to participate in negotiations. The people who voted for the Ulster Unionists- as well as those who voted for all the other parties- voted to be represented at negotiations. The Ulster Unionists party, as have all other parties with a mandate, has a responsibility and a obligation to their electorate to exercise that mandate by engaging in substantive negotiations.

``The attitude of the Ulster Unionists to inclusive talks is totally illogical and obstructive. If the consultation process in which they are presently engaged is an attempt make progress, then it is to welcomed. But if it is another of their stalling tactics to hold up their entry into substantive negotiations , then it is regrettable. There can be no more fudging the issues. No more wrecking tactics by the unionists in order to postpone the day of face to face negotiations. Sinn Fein will be at the negotiations on September 15th. We will be ready to negotiate. The Ulster Unionists should also be there to negotiate if they are confident about their arguments.

``The days when Ulster Unionists monopolised power, occupied the driving seat and applied the brakes on progress when they felt insecure are over. Negotiations are now in forward gear and the unionists cannot be allowed to retard progress.

``The prevarication of the Ulster Unionist leadership begs the question- Are they really interested in peace ? If they are not prepared to negotiate, how do they intend to contribute to the search for an accommodation which will be acceptable to all the people of this island and bring a lasting peace? They owe an explanation to those who elected them to negotiate, as to why they are reluctant to face up to the mandate with which they have been given.''

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