February 1, 2000
Today, Mr. David Trimble, Ulster Unionist leader and First Minister of the newly formed Belfast Assembly in Northern Ireland, announced withdrawing his party from the newly formed Belfast Assembly and the power-sharing Executive. This was in response to his expectation that the just released report from the de Chastelain Commission would indicate that the IRA had not begun disarming by January 31st. a deadline that Mr. Trimble personally set and without the consent of all parties to the recently signed Belfast Agreement.
In a press conference today which triggered a series of developments this afternoon, Mr Trimble said he had dropped a motion at the Assembly calling for debate on decommissioning because the report by the de Chastelain Commission on arms had not yet become available. Trimble said his party and Ministers would cease participation in the Executive and the other new institutions, the North-South bodies and the British-Irish Council.
In responding to today’s developments, J. Terry Ryan, Chairman of The Children of Ireland Group, indicated, "The actions of Mr. Trimble individually and the Unionist Party as a whole today are outrageous and very disappointing for the future safety and welfare of the Irish children! Two months ago, U.S. Senator George Mitchell helped conclude the review of the Good Friday Agreement which led to the formation of the Belfast Assembly and the appointment of the power-sharing Executive. Many historic achievements have been accomplished in the ensuing six week period to the betterment of the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and, most especially, the betterment of the Irish children in terms of health and education programs.
However, by Mr. Trimble setting an ARBITRARY deadline of January 31st for disarming to begin was outside ALL agreements made by participating parties and undermines the entire peace process. His power to refuse to participate in the Belfast Assembly constitutes, therefore, a blatant continuation of one-party rule which defeats all peace accomplishments and progress toward a democratic Irish society of the last three years! His actions today, therefore, increase the danger, both psychological and physical, that the Irish children will most certainly face in the weeks and months ahead. Mr. Trimble should sincerely re-consider his and his party’s actions today. "
ABOUT THE CHILDREN OF IRELAND GROUP
The Children of Ireland Group is an international organization formed in 1999 with the aim of helping needy children in Ireland affected by the on-going conflict, especially in Northern Ireland. Its purpose is to help provide recreational and educational resources to children and community centers there as an alternative to joining gangs, participating in violence, and as a last desperate measure: suicide. During 1997 and 1998, for example, there were 20 suicides in an area of only 80,000 people. The Group works with other organizations in Ireland in identifying appropriate community centres and then working closely with them in identifying their needs in working with children.