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Should the Ulster Unionists say yes?

If the IRA do not have the guts to be seen publicly putting their guns down, then there is no reason to negotiate with a bully.
Ian Greenfield, UK

Yes the Unionists should say 'yes'. Much has been said about IRA decommissioning but little has been said about Unionist groups doing likewise. The peace has been kept long enough to show that the IRA mean peace and the weapons will come in due course.
Paul Hatch, UK

Just two of the comments Talking Point has received so far. Take part below.

Background ¦ Vote ¦ Your reaction ¦ Have your say

The Vote:
Should the Ulster Unionists say yes?
Yes No

Background ¦ Vote ¦ Your reaction ¦ Have your say

The Background:

Peace in Northern Ireland is on a knife-edge - there have been crunch moments before, but this weekend could be the defining moment for the Good Friday Agreement.

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has held a series of meeting with his colleagues in a bid to get them to sign up to a deal tabled by Sinn Fein.

The week has been a rollercoaster ride for the parties, with the IRA reportedly making a fresh statement on the peace process as hopes of an agreement rose.

But Mr Trimble's Ulster Unionist Assembly members were not all convinced, with deputy leader John Taylor insisting the Sinn Fein proposals were "nothing new".

Now peace review chairman George Mitchell has called the talks off for the weekend, calling on the parties to reflect on the magnitude of the moment and warning the process is at "the final and most critical phase".

What do you think? Has Sinn Fein moved far enough on the crucial point of arms decommissioning? Are the politicians forgetting the Northern Ireland people's "yes" vote for peace? Should the unionists make the final jump in the push for a lasting peace?

Background ¦ Vote ¦ Your reaction ¦ Have your say

Your Reaction:

Why should Northern Ireland be allowed to hold this (disproportionately large) Sword of Damaclese over either Britain or Ireland? Perhaps the British and Irish Government could make the ultimate offer - if the Unionists or Loyalists don't agree the British should kick Northern Ireland out of the Union - conversely if Republicans or Nationalists don't agree then the Irish Government should not accept Northern Ireland into the Republic. Maybe handing the province over to the UN or the European Commission might be the answer.
Alister McClure, GB

Of course they should, but I doubt they will. It's difficult to believe that they really want any progress. However, one feels for David Trimble, caught between so many stools. What's needed is real courage, David - I wish you luck!
Rowley Newton, Germany

With less than 50 days left until the new millennium, perhaps the cries of Ulster says no will be heard no more. This is Ireland's Berlin Wall. It's time to stop merely peeking over to the other side. Knock it down once and for all. Confine the likes of Paisley, Robinson, Donaldson etc to the dustbin of history. Jonathon Swift once wrote "Vision is the art of seeing the invisible." I pray Mr. Trimble is wearing his glasses this weekend.
Brownie, USA

As a moderate Protestant, I like most of my Friends, voted for the Good Friday Agreement and cannot understand the need for such lengthy talks at this time. The Assembly needs to get going to prevent our Province descending into anarchy and to allow us to move forward with hope and optimism into the 21st century.
J. Cunningham, N. Ireland

I see the vote is higher for NO at the moment. Don't these people want peace? We have to at least give it a try, for our children's sake.
Patrick Clarke, Ireland

As a person from the Republic I disagree with most of what unionism stands for, however, I accept the right of the unionist people to maintain the union by constitutional means as I would hope people accept the right of Irish nationalists to some day create a 32 county republic through constitutional means. Its the method that people use to achieve these political goals that is important. Unionism and some, though not all, sections of the British establishment has been quite happy to use mass unrest (i.e Drumcree, Suningdale) and dubious police methods when it suited them. Northern Ireland is a political problem of which violence is only a symptom. The guns and weapons of both sides, and their willingness to use them, are only an expression of the hatred and fear they feel for each other. So does removing the guns solve the problem? NO!
Paul Galbally, Republic of Ireland

Of course they should. They have absolutely nothing to gain in this stalemate. I was born and bred in Northern Ireland, am a Protestant and a unionist (with a small u), and certainly not an Orangeman. My childhood was punctuated by the unionists saying no to just about everything. This no turned itself, for me and others, into a massive YES for leaving the country. It should be pointed out that the "Protestant people" have a major advantage over the Catholics as far as arms are concerned. The RUC is in Protestant hands, as indeed are the guns. These guns were sometimes used in the past by zealous RUC and UDR henchmen for missions not really pertaining to their function. Any decommissioning could only be demanded if the RUC were completely overhauled. The catholic population has little confidence in the RUC and I can understand them.
Michael Pakenham, France

As far as I know the agreement meant that an elected government would be set up and that decommissioning would follow. The Unionists have reneged on this. They now want decommissioning to begin before a government is set up. It strikes me that even if decommissioning began the Unionists would still object to Sinn Fein being in government. They will start saying things like 'The IRA are only paying lip service to decommissioning and aren't decommissioning enough. 'The unionists don't want to give power to Sinn Fein full stop.
Jim Catney, Ireland

Why is it always the mainstream Unionists who are portrayed as the bad guys in Northern Ireland? What is so wrong about requesting decommissioning (or merely abiding by the law of the land as normal, peace-abiding people would see it)? People go on about Trimble having to make concessions to show good faith, but other than temporarily stopping their violence (whether for tactical political reasons or military - they still import arms, we still free terrorist murderers) exactly what concessions have the IRA made? And let's not forget they have only stopped that violence which is not "internal housekeeping" - that is to say kneecapping informers etc.
George, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Has everyone forgotten the Good Friday agreement? In which the IRA agreed to decommission it's weapons in return for terrorists being released early. As I recall, the British government kept it's side of the bargain, and yet not one IRA gun was handed in. No, the UUP should not budge any further until the IRA have begun decommissioning its weapons.
Simon, UK

The Unionists should say yes if only once, to show 'yes' appears in the English languge. They have been saying no all throughout Irish history so just say yes once for the world to hear
Derek Harte, Belgium

The Unionist have dug themselves into this hole. They tried to play tough, but it now shows that unionists have made the situation more difficult for everyone. It shows the Globe that the UNionist have made the matters worse by playing up on the subject of decommissioning. We all read the agreement and voted on it. The Unionist party knew themselves when they signed the agreement that there was to be no decommissioning prior to the setup of the executive. This is just typical of Unionism - preventing Catholics from having any say. Holding everyone up. Frankly I don't know how the unionists will be able to run the counrty when the executive is setup, because at this stage their decision making tactics does not fit the job as minister. But history will tell the tale.
Dave McCullough, Ireland

I think that the Ulster Unionists should go with what the NI Secretary was telling them. Peter Mandelson is saying just try ruling with the Nationalists and see if they give up their arms. Go for it and see if Sinn Fein are lying or not. If they aren't then there is a chance of peace in Ulster. If they don't start decommissioning then throw them out of Assembly. Someone has to take a chance on the terrorists, otherwise the road to peace in Northern Ireland will be permanently congested.
Ollie Cochran, England

"A bad piece is better than a good quarrel" (Russian proverb)
Ilya Girin, USA/Moldova

The Ulster Unionists signed off on the Good Friday Accords in 1998. They since refused to participate in the newly created Parliament, thus giving Sinn Fein and the IRA a major disincentive to implement their part of the Good Friday Agreement-- decommissioning their weapons. The only chance now for peace in Northern Ireland is for the Ulster Unionists to say yes to the current agreement. If they do, the IRA and Sinn Fein will be likelier to decommission. By voting 'yes' to the Good Friday Agreement, the people of Ireland and Ulster sent a clear message to their leaders, that they have had enough of the violence and want to live together peacefully. If the leaders of Ulster continue to bicker and refuse to carry out agreements, then they are doing their people a great disservice.
Jeff, USA

I would say 'Yes'. Call Sinn Fein's bluff. If there is no decommissioning within a couple of months, for example, then the UUP (and the SDLP for that matter) should resign from the Assembly.
Dave Moore, Bournemouth, UK

Am I the only person who is fed up with ill-informed American correspondents who no nothing about the situation in Northern Ireland and see Sinn Fein/IRA through rose-tinted spectacles as heroic freedom fighters. There is nothing heroic about putting bombs in shopping centres as they discovered in Oklahoma.
Jason Thomas Williams, UK

If Unionists say 'No' it could result in more deaths. If they say 'Yes' it could result in peace. They must put people before party.
Tony O'Connell, Ireland

Well, Loyalist paramilitaries have been pipe-bombing and terrorising Catholics over the period of the so-called cease-fire and yet the onus seems to be on the Nationalists to capitulate. Any rational observer would find this odd.
Richard Swain, UK

People forget that the reunification of Ireland will be decided in Westminster, and not Stormont. By saying 'No', the Unionists will ensure this happens sooner, rather than later.
Andy K, UK

The terms of the 'Good Friday Agreement' were the subject of a plebiscite-resulting in a majority of the people of Ireland accepting these terms. According to democratic principles the terms of the 'Good Friday ' Agreement having been so ratified should be implemented. Second 'bite' opportunism by the 'Loyalist/Union' faction supports, sadly, the enduring view of weary participants in the overall 'process' that the elitist dogma of the prevailing orders have little or no intention of establishing a society suitable for respectable adults and their children to live in. The actions of the IRA have been 'justified' over these many troubled years on the basis that armed struggle is the only alternative. The British/Unionists are not inclined to any other remedy.
Edward Gaughan, Germany

Surely whether the decommissioning of the IRA's weapons was part of the Good Friday Agreement is a simple question of fact which should be easily resolvable by examining the document signed by all parties? If it was included, then the IRA must comply with it and the Ulster Unionists should not say yes until they do; if it wasn't included, then they should stop asking for it and say yes if the Agreement has been complied with. If the question of fact is not resolvable, because the Good Friday agreement document is vague on the point of decommissioning, then Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern should come clean about this and admit that the agreement was not worth the paper it was written on.
Patrick Lee, UK

To some extent a leap of faith is required on the Unionist side, and they may be correct in being tentative in making that move. However, there is no alternative save for preserving the status quo or returning to the violence. Peace is always about compromise, and this is what is required from Mr Trimble Party. Intransigence on the Unionists' behalf for 25 years has got us no-where, time to move on and join the world.
Seamus Dylan, England

Of course the Unionists should say 'yes'. In light of the fact they were indeed not only party to the negotiations of the agreement but they supposedly and democratically represent that majority of citizens who overwhelmingly voted for the GFA, this question itself seems absurd. And in as much as no amount of decommissioning will ever truly satisfy while the ability to re-arm ever remains, why risk this historic opportunity for a lasting peace?
M_e Kelly, US

If the IRA do not disarm before being let into government then the IRA can again take up the use of arms whenever it feels like over any issue it feels like. This is it's classic tactic for peace in Northern Ireland, but if the IRA does not disarm there will be no peace.
Tom Draper, UK

I suppose so, because as someone else here said, silent guns are better that nothing. However the fact that the IRA will not give up it's guns just goes to show what sort of people they are. When they get in government, I hope the people of Ireland will be sensible and vote such people out of office, regardless of their personal political orientation.
Steve N, UK

It takes two to tango and i think what's needed is for the respective leaders to drop their personal opinions and listen to the people who so desperately want peace in Ireland.
Joel Bramwell, Wales

The Unionists are living in the past. A democracy compromises daily and lives in peace with all their constituents.
George Morrissey, USA

The Unionists have been living a lie for decades. They always said 'if only the men of violence would stop' we would have negotiations with them. Now, they are caught in their own trap! They invented the decommissioning argument as a delaying tactic and as a diversion. Sad thing is, the media bought it!
Ray Kelly, USA

The Unionists can't stall forever; some shift in the status quo has to happen, however much they may fear it.
John Greally, USA

The Unionists should make a real effort to bring the political institutions to fruition. They have to start beginning to stop saying No. They often give the impression that without the word NO in the English language they would be stuck. Say yes now and then if the IRA do not decommission take action then, risks sometimes have to be taken.
Ray Nugent, Ireland

I believe the Unionists should agree to the original terms of the GFA which they signed. It seems that their goal is simply to maintain the imbalance that appears so pervasive in the Northern Irish society. One need only to recall South Africa, Bosnia, Rwanda and other areas across the world and the results of attempting to maintain an unequal society.
Edward Doyle, USA

As a Unionist I still say the Unionists should say yes to the deal. The only way now to cement the peace is to bring the Republicans into the mainstream. There will always be Republican radicals who want the mythical Irish socialist state. This is the only way to marginalize them.
Tom Campbell, USA

My ancestors are from Ulster - proud members of the established Church of Ireland. Put simply, it is time to find a way out of the impasse of Northern Ireland. The political facts on the ground were created after WWI only because the British Government didn't have the political will to push through home rule for all of Ireland. That having been said, the UK and Europe have moved far beyond the parochial hatreds that have produced violence, hatred, and bloodshed in NI down the generations. There will never be a better time than this. There will never be a clearer commitment from the IRA on decommissioning. The politicians are set to make a mess of the peace process once again. If the politicians in NI can't resolve this by themselves, then the current British Government should do it for them. Unfortunately, both groups probably lack the political will to do so.
Richard La Belle , USA

Unionists should say yes, participate in the Executive. Then wait for a year. If no disarmament by IRA, resign from Executive, on point of principal. Then the world will see if Sinn Fein/IRA are serious about democracy!
Frank Whelan,

I am saddened to see that 65 percent of those casting votes think the UUP should go against the wishes of the people in both Northern Ireland and the Republic who overwhelmingly favour peace and implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. That is so sad.
Joseph Sims, USA

The Unionists should certainly not let this opportunity slip. It is unlikely to be repeated. Better to take a leap of faith and trust, with the possibility that they might later be proved wrong, than to throw away this opportunity - and lead Ireland back into violence.
Gareth Lloyd, UK

The Ulster Unionists have just said "NO" for too long a time.
Jay, USA

I think that this is taking too long. We need to get the Good Friday agreement complete
Giles, UK

The question should be "Should the people of Northern Ireland be allowed to determine their own destiny?" The answer must be "Yes!" The Good Friday Agreement was accepted by the people of Northern Ireland without the recent conditions imposed by the Ulster Unionists who fear a further reduction in their powers to maintain the imbalanced society that has existed for 400 years. They can resist if they want but change is coming and it is a change demanded by the majority. The lessons learned by the British Empire in the colonies, the Soviets in Russia, and the US in Vietnam may have to be learned again in Northern Ireland. And it is no surprise that the opinion of the BBC respondents favours the Unionists. British foreign policy has only inflamed the situation Northern Ireland in the last 100 years.
N. Murphy, USA

Of course he should say yes - he should have said it months ago - he's simply calling Sinn Fein's bluff - if they don't deliver, they're out - what could be simpler???
M O'Neill, Ireland

How do you sit in government with a party, knowing that if they don't get their way, they may decide to bomb your community and shoot your family? This isn't an easy question to answer, but it's at the heart of the matter.
As to the other question, the answer depends on what's on offer from Sinn Fein/IRA and the SDLP. If Sinn Fein/IRA guarantee immediate and total decommissioning once the executive is set up, and the SDLP pledge to continue without Sinn Fein/IRA if this doesn't happen, I think the answer should be a very cautious yes.

The only thing to say yes to, is arms and guns being handed over for good. Sinn Fein have no place in any form of government until they realise this. Enough words, and meetings, its simple, action of substance is the requirement. Just get on with it.
A McCabe, USA

Logic demands that the only way to obtain peace in Northern Ireland is to take a chance that the IRA is sincere. Any other choice dooms another generation in Northern Ireland.
Robert Keogh, Republic of Ireland

How can you possibly ask folks to vote when no one has an idea what they are saying yes to? Wait till the deal is made public.
Linda Merle, US

It's about time unionism loses the delusion that they're God's Holy Orange Anointed on Earth, and agree to live with their neighbours, to share possibilities and aspirations.
Jeanie, USA

Silent guns should be good enough. Guns will always be available if terrorists want them so decommissioning seems futile, and an unnecessary obstacle. Why should the foolish egos of some old minority ruin the chances for the masses? Answer¿they should not!
Richard Dekkard, UK

Yes, it is time that Ulster Unionists grew up and enter maturity, Many of us here in mainland England are tired of their 16th century mind set. We must move forward any move to permanent peace should be welcomed with open arms. Perhaps it is time for the UK to threaten an end to the billions being wasted to preserve unionist sectarianism.
Roger Strudwick, UK

The UUs must say yes! The only refinement might be to ensure that come the decommissioning deadline, any party representing terrorist factions who have not decommissioned from either side of the divide, can be swiftly ejected. Ejected to watch the rest of the long term peace loving parties and some new converts carry on with out the defaulters.
The politicians must remember that the large mandate voted for by the People of Ulster is binding on the politicians to act upon and made to work. If there is no new Local Government soon in Ulster, the UU's may well have to take the majority of the blame for not enacting the clear wish of the peace loving democracy of Ulster
Andrew Walker, England

Short-term quick fixes that leave the guns in Irish politics are not the answer here. Whatever deal the two communities come to has to last for decades, otherwise a new generation of young heroes will just start the fighting all over again.
Both communities have to feel secure when this deal is done. Pleasing the Press and Senator Mitchell is not the goal. A long-term guarantee of peace is the goal, and you can't have that by allowing the two sets of paramilitaries to keep their arms. Either Ireland becomes a truly civilian society, or it doesn't. No amount of short-term window dressing will substitute for that.
Jon Livesey, USA

Sinn Fein and the IRA have not lived up to their side of the peace agreement, what can the Unionist expect if the let them take over the country?
Richard T. Ketchum, USA

It would be nice to know to what they are being asked to say 'Yes' before judging whether they would be right to do so.
Mick, UK

I am NOT pro either side in this process, however, I think that this poll is extremely unfair on the UUP because no member of the public knows what the IRA have said. The process needs resolving by fair means so that both sides are happy, not by outside media and public pressure from people who are bound to want the UUP to say Yes just to move towards peace. If the UUP are not happy and give in then there will be tensions for years to come, and UVF may then start having the same role as the IRA over the previous 25+ years. Let the negotiators decide don't put pressure on the representatives who are doing their best.
Kieran Bush, England

the UUP should make the final jump and meet Sinn Fein half way. It is up to Trimble to be a leader and lead his party. He should be firm with dissenters and make his policy clear. That way everybody will know where the UUP stands. He should stop playing party politics and do what should be done.
Hugh McFadden, Netherlands

Background ¦ Vote ¦ Your reaction ¦ Have your say

Should the Ulster Unionists say yes?

Votes so far:


> >
Yes: <% =percentyes %>% No: <% =percentno %>%

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