[Sinn Fein]

Dy February 1996

Blockade Must Be Lifted

Following his offer to talk to and listen to the grievances of unionists and loyalists in North Belfast, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP MLA has repeated his view that ``there is no justification for protests aimed at school children.''

The Sinn Fein President called on the protesters ``to immediately lift the blockade on the Holy Cross school.''

Mr Adams said:

``While it is entirely legitimate and indeed necessary that society repudiate and stand dogmatically and determinedly against the blockade of the Holy Cross school, there is also a need to listen to those unionist and loyalist voices who are telling us that they have concerns and grievances.

In my view all working class people share a common experience in a lack of jobs, too few decent homes, social inequality, poverty and a lack of opportunity. There is a need for us to identify these common concerns and seek to work together to bring about improvements in the quality of life.

The current crisis within unionism, which the Holy Cross blockade is one manifestation of, and which the UDA bomb and gun campaign is another, arises because of a deep rooted fear of change.

We have to constantly remind ourselves that the northern state was created as a unionist orange state in which unionists had a position of power and a perception of privilege and nationalists were second class. The reality is also that for working class unionists the living conditions were not radically different from those of nationalists.

As an Irish republican I believe that the political leadership of unionism has over a long period mislead and misinformed the unionist people in order to maintain a system of ascendancy rule that has exploited the ordinary unionist people almost to the same degree that it has exploited nationalists. Sections of that leadership have repeatedly used sectarian scare mongering to whip up fear and prevent any rational, reasoned debate.

They have sought to condition the unionist people into believing that this privileged position is under threat from nationalists and republicans. That we covet their jobs, their homes, and want to smash their way of life. They have also been repeatedly told by most of their political leaders that they are being sold out.

Is it any wonder then that many unionists are frightened? Is it surprising that many unionists view the peace process, which at its core is about change, as a threat?

It is also true that some unionists have been subjected to sectarian attack and Sinn Fein has spoken out forcefully against such actions. But the fact is that there is no planned co-ordinated campaign by any section of nationalist or republican opinion against unionists. There is ample evidence of just such a campaign against Catholics and nationalists right across the six counties, from Larne to Ballymena, from north Belfast to Ballycastle.

How do we end this? How do we achieve a situation in which the people of Glenbryn live side by side with their neighbours in Ardoyne, working together to bring jobs and improvements to that area that will create a better future for the children of that area?

There is no easy way. No easy answer. But it has to begin with each of us recognising that we are all human beings, and that we each have a right to expect fairness and equality and justice in this society.

My office has been in contact in recent days with many unionist and loyalist representatives and groups in north Belfast. I do want to listen to what they have to say but whatever the outcome of those efforts I will continue to try to speak directly to unionists through the media. I will continue to seek to persuade unionists that Sinn Fein is not interested in domination. We do not want to inflict on unionists and loyalists what has been inflicted on nationalists and republicans. That is the road to the past.

Sinn Fein seeks a lasting, permanent peace, in which there is real equality and justice for all. I believe that the Good Friday Agreement, fully implemented, presents the best opportunity for all of us to achieve these objectives. The Agreement must not be seen as a benefit to one section of the community alone, but a benefit to us all.

Unfortunately there are those who oppose these basic democratic principles, who oppose the peace process and who want to turn the clock back.

This approach has perpetuated a cycle of division, instability, unrest, bitterness and violence. It is undemocratic, wrong and must stop.

I would appeal to unionists to speak out against those who want to destroy the progress we have made. I would hope that the picture of young terrified catholic children walking along Ardoyne Road while a young protestant stands at the side of the road blowing a rape whistle will act as a spur on the conscience of those who know this blockade on Holy Cross is wrong. And that the process of talking and listening which I have spoken of can play its part in ending this nightmare for all the people of north Belfast.'' ENDS

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