15 November 2000
Legal Action Imminent
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP, MLA speaking at a press conference today said:
``As you are aware, following David Trimble's recommendations to the UUC conference on October 28th, he refused to nominate Sinn Fein Minister Bairbre de Brun to attend an all-Ireland Ministerial Council meeting, effectively disenfranchising the two Sinn Fein Ministers.
``This effectively means that Mr. Trimble has fractured the all-Ireland leg of the institutions and commenced a process to collapse the Good Friday Agreement.
``Following the UUC meeting the Ard Comhairle of Sinn Fein authorised us to initiate court action in defence of our rights and those of our electorate.
``Since then I have been involved in lengthy and detailed discussions with the two governments. This has included meetings and phone calls with Mr. Ahern and Mr. Blair, as well as with senior officials from the two governments.
``For the past 12 days I have been trying to ascertain whether or not the British government has the political will to resolve this crisis.
``In my view the British government at this time is more concerned with its management of unionism and with pandering to rejectionists within its own system, than it is with the full and proper implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and of the commitments it entered into in May at Hillsborough.
``The reality is that David Trimble is in breach of his obligations under the Good Friday Agreement and Mr. Mandelson is refusing to use his authority to defend the Agreement.
``Mr. Trimble outlined his game-plan in a comprehensive way in a letter to UUC delegates when he set out his objectives as:
- To increase pressure progressively on republicans and nationalists by creating a crisis around the Executive and Assembly
- To achieve the suspension of the Agreement
- To place responsibility for this on republicans
``For his part the British Secretary of State claims that he does not endorse Mr. Trimble's position but yet he refuses to intervene. This is at odds with his record so far, when he abused his power at the beginning of the year, unilaterally and illegally, to collapse the institutions and more recently in contradiction of the Good Friday Agreement when he ordered the flying of the Union flag.
``Sinn Fein is not prepared to tolerate this emasculation of the Agreement by the First Minister nor acquiesce in the progressive termination of the All-Ireland Ministerial Council.
``We have tried to resolve this matter politically. We will continue in contact with both governments, but I have little confidence in the British government's management of this process.
``To be quite frank at this time there is little room to manoeuvre. Mr. Trimble is set to scrap another North/South Ministerial meeting set for Friday next and I am also very conscious that the policing debate is drawing to a conclusion and that it appears that the British government, despite to its protestations to the contrary, has overturned the recommendations of its own commission on policing. Only yesterday another member of the Patten Commission attacked the British Police Bill and accused the British government of having ``gutted'' the Patten recommendations.
``The British government has a statutory obligation to act as a guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement. The responsibilities and obligations of both governments in this respect derive from the British/Irish Agreement, from the Good Friday Agreement itself, from the all-Ireland referendum vote and from votes in the British Parliament. The British government has a responsibility to effectively address the threat to the Agreement posed by David Trimble's disenfranchisement of the two Sinn Fein Ministers, as well as his other demands.
``The Irish government has a similar responsibility. It has attended to this in a responsible way. The British government and First Minister's actions have undermined the work of the government considerably. This is especially pertinent when one considers how a government led campaign brought about very significant constitutional change, endorsed overwhelmingly by citizens in the south. The Good Friday Agreement is not a northern issue. Every citizen on this island has a stake in it.
``The people are the real guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement and I call upon all those who voted for the Agreement, whether unionist, nationalist, republican, loyalist or people without party politics, to defend the Agreement.
``I warn those who seek to prevent the changes involved in the Agreement that they will not prevail. The Good Friday Agreement will be judged, and is being judged, on whether it delivers or not. As we have seen the Agreement itself cannot deliver of its own accord. It is a charter or a vehicle for change and it needs to be driven forward of it is to achieve its potential.
``This process was always going to be difficult. It is, as I have said before, a battle a day for those of us who are wedded to the primacy of politics and conflict resolution.
``So Sinn Fein is not giving up. Our decision to take legal action, despite the lack of confidence by nationalist and republicanism the legal and judicial system here, is an indication of our grave dissatisfaction at how this British government, which promised so much has pandered to a unionist veto.
``We have a number of legal options open to us about how we can proceed from this point.
``For example, as a party, or our party officers, or our elected representatives can take legal action.
``It is also open to either of the two Ministers most directly effected by David Trimble's decision to take legal action. That is obviously a decision for them.
``However, whatever legal direction is pursued I think you can reasonably assume that it is imminent.''
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