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Reply by Mr. David Trimble to a letter from Mr. Gerry Adams, 3 February 1998

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Reply by Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) Leader Mr. David Trimble (3 February 1998) to a letter from Sinn Féin President Mr. Gerry Adams (28 January 1998). Mr. Trimble's response was published in the Irish Times on 4 February 1998

The suggestion that the Ulster Unionist Party is not engaged in the talks is false. We entered into full negotiations with all the political parties from Northern Ireland, as well as our Government and the Irish Government, across the conference table at Stormont.

Consent - These talks are about the principle of consent and the reality that the Union will continue for as long as that is the wish of the greater number of the people in Northern Ireland. Consent is the fundamental bedrock of the talks; a reality accepted by both Governments and all the parties at the talks, with the exception of Sinn Fein-IRA. The constitutional future of Northern Ireland is entirely a matter for the people of Northern Ireland and must be fully respected by Sinn Fein-IRA, constitutional Nationalists and the Irish Government.

It is for the people of Northern Ireland to consent to any change in Northern Ireland's constitutional status as part of the United Kingdom and we do not consent to any such change.

The real border is not the line on a map but the mental border between the British people of Northern Ireland and the rest of the island. Northern Ireland is not an artificial entity: rather the artificiality is the idea that the geographical landmass called Ireland should equate with the Irish political nation. We do not and will never accept that Northern Ireland can give up its right to self determination.

Identity - This is a denial of a basic human right - the right of a community to define itself. The British people of Northern Ireland are not a minority within the Irish nation. The British in Ireland are not merely the British troops and administration; it is the greater number of the people in Northern Ireland who consistently exercise their democratic right to retain their British citizenship through the ballot box. Nearly 30 years of attempts by Sinn Fein/IRA to bomb and shoot them into a United Ireland have failed to dislodge them from their place in the United Kingdom. It is not the British government which stands in the way of a united Ireland, it is the British people of Northern Ireland.

Confidence-building Measures - By attending these talks the Ulster Unionist Party is determined to challenge the sincerity of Sinn Fein-IRA in its commitment to peaceful means and the democratic process. We view consent and actual decommissioning as a test of Sinn Fein-IRA's commitment to exclusively peaceful means as required by the Mitchell Principles. Terrorists must not be allowed to use or threaten to use their weaponry in order to extract concessions at the table. If Sinn Fein/IRA is truly committed to democratic and exclusively peaceful means of resolving political issues then they no longer need to retain their murderous arsenal.

They should deal with us on the basis which we deal with all the talks participants - by the force of argument. Furthermore, Sinn Fein-IRA has never apologised for the thousands of Protestant and Catholic deaths for which it has been directly responsible: nor has Sinn Fein/IRA eased the pain of the bereaved by revealing the secret graves of those missing persons within the Roman Catholic tradition whom it has murdered over the past 28 years. It is for Sinn Fein to build confidence in their commitment to exclusively peaceful means by addressing these issues. Ulster Unionists have shown their commitment by staying in the talks when Sinn Fein joined last September. It is time for Sinn Fein to reciprocate that gesture.

Heads of Agreement Document - As we have seen this week, with their refusal to engage in Strand One, Sinn Fein has shown no evidence of compromise at the talks. Sinn Fein must face up to the realities of the situation and engage in meaningful dialogue in the presence of all the other participants, instead of submitting fanciful presentations which argue that a united Ireland should emerge from the talks. As both Governments and all the political parties at Stormont, with the exception of Sinn Fein, admit any settlement arising out of this process will be a partitionist one based on the principle of consent. The Britishness of the Unionist community in Northern Ireland lies at the heart of the matter. If Sinn Fein-IRA accept that it is for the people of Northern Ireland to determine the constitutional future of Northern Ireland; and if Sinn Fein-IRA are prepared, as all the other talks participants are, to negotiate on the basis of the Propositions on Heads of Agreement, including the creation of a Northern Ireland Assembly and a Council of the Islands, then the UUP will welcome their conversion from violence to democracy and full engagement in the talks process.

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