Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Nobel peace prize winners push for resolution over Catalonia dispute

By Staff Reporters

Two Nobel peace prize winners from Northern Ireland have urged mediation in the political deadlock between Spain and Catalonia.

The comments come in a letter on the eve of a Catalan parliamentary meeting in which separatist leaders want to press ahead with secession for the northeastern region.

Nobel Peace laureates Mairead Maguire and Betty Williams from Northern Ireland are among eight winners who have signed the letter.

The letter says "no side is free of errors" in this process but calls for "mediation and negotiations toward a peaceful resolution of the current stand-off".

Maguire and Williams co-founded Women for Peace, which later became the Community for Peace People, and was dedicated to encouraging a peaceful resolution of the Troubles. They were awarded the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize.

Meanwhile, Spain's ruling Partido Popular party has issued its most severe warnings to date to Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont over the consequences of tomorrow's widely predicted declaration of independence, with a PP spokesman saying he could end up like the historic Catalan leader Lluís Companys - in jail.

"Anybody that declares it could end up like the one who tried it 83 years ago," the PP's deputy secretary for communication, Pablo Casado, said, in a reference to Lluis Companys' failed bid for independence and subsequent spell in prison in 1934.

Mr Puigdemont is widely expected to declare independence in the regional parliament on Tuesday evening, nine days after the Catalan region voted for independence in a referendum dismissed by Madrid as illegal.

Speaking with 24 hours to go, Mr Casado said the Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, planned to avail himself of every means provided by Spanish law and the constitution to fight any declaration.

Although he did not say which specific charges Mr Puigdemont might face, according to El Espanol Mr Casado warned that in Spain the crimes of sedition carry a maximum prison sentence of 15 years and rebellion against the state 25 years. Mr Companys was himself sentenced to 30 years in jail.

"They [independence leaders] are going to run headlong into the [courtroom] dock," Mr Casado said. "It's going to cost them."

Mr Casado was later careful to point out that his comparisons with Mr Companys had referred to the Catalan's 1934 trial and incarceration after the independence bid, not to his subsequent capture, torture and execution by General Franco's police in 1940.

"I meant that history should not repeat itself," he explained, "and if you forget history, you're condemned to repeat it.

"In history, declarations of independence by Catalonia have fared very badly."

Mr Casado also insisted there was no room now for international mediation and that the Spanish government had "nothing to negotiate with the golpistas" - the Spanish word for conspirators in a coup d'etat.

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