[Sinn Fein]

3rd September 2002

Unionists Creating Crisis

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP this afternoon said:

`` Once again elements within the Ulster Unionist party seem determined to create another crisis within the peace process. The latest episode of this is being flagged up for yet another meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council later this month. It may be that this will become a real crisis. In fact those involved have made no secret of their determination to get rid of the Good Friday Agreement.

`` This is not a time for pandering to the NO men of unionism. It is a time for democrats, including YES unionists, to assert the imperative of that agreement. Given the nature of society here there was always bound to be difficulties about creating the conditions for the changes that are required and which should be the birthright of all citizens.

`` The responsibility of all the pro-Agreement parties, and this includes both governments, is to manage this process of change in a way which minimises the difficulties and avoids the potential for crisis. Unfortunately despite some good and positive work neither the unionist parties or the British government have adopted this approach with the consistency that is required .

`` The result has been that difficulties for unionists have become a crisis within unionism which regularly threatens the over all process. The problems in the time ahead for the process are rooted firmly in the divisions and the power struggle within the Ulster Unionist party. If these problems grow into crisis proportions it will also be because the British government has failed to honour commitments it made both in the Good Friday Agreement and just over a year ago in the Weston Park talks. This has created the space within which the crisis within unionism is has festered.

`` The vacuum, which has accompanied this, has been filled by sectarian violence from anti-agreement elements within the loyalist paramilitaries, not only in Belfast interface areas, although this has been a main focus, but in other parts of the north as well.

`` The failure of David Trimble to lead a united pro-Agreement campaign against this has been a failure of his position as First Minister. I have made a number of suggestions and proposals to him in this regard, going back over some time. He has failed so far to respond positively. Despite this I and all Sinn Fein representatives are prepared to work with the other pro-Agreement parties and to support Mr. Trimble in his capacity as First Minister in putting in place strategies and structures to calm the situation and to confront sectarian divisions.

`` Republicans have not been involved in orchestrating or fomenting violence at the interfaces or anywhere else for that matter. Our opposition to sectarianism is absolute. All of our efforts have been to try and end the totally intolerable situation for the benefit of all the people who are victims of these attacks. Given the failure of the First Minister to act we have also made a big effort to get the British government to ensure, as the Agreement asserts, that people have the right to live free from sectarian harassment.

`` It may be in the weeks ahead that there will be another frenetic round of crisis management meetings to deal with whatever obstacles unionism tries to invent. It could also be that we will see yet another round of the blame game unfolding. No one really knows how the crisis within unionism will play out but I want to make it very clear that the Good Friday Agreement will be implemented in full because the principles that underpin it are the minimum entitlements for all citizens. So, whether or not the anti-agreement camp realises it at this time, the truth is that the No-Camp can only delay, but they cannot stop the changes that are coming.

`` None of us can evade our responsibilities as political leaders in these difficult times. The Sinn Fein party is wedded to this process. We have a long term and strategic view which sees beyond the current difficulties. Bringing about change was never going to be an easy enterprise. Positive elements within unionism need to assert themselves in proclaiming, defending and promoting the Good Friday Agreement.

`` There is also a primary responsibility on Mr. Blair to implement the commitments of his government. Unionism needs to be encouraged that there is only one way forward. They need to know that here is no alternative. Only the British Prime Minister and his government can deliver that message. That means delivery on the Agreement.''

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