[Sinn Fein]

8th March 2002

Republicans would welcome engaging with unionists on their vision for the future

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams speaking in Dublin today, where he is attending an International Women's Day event at Government buildings, has said he "looks forward to discussing with unionists their vision of the future" following remarks by UUP Minister Reg Empey.

The Ulster Unionist Party Minister spoke yesterday of the need to launch a counter-offensive against Sinn Fein's efforts to engage with unionist opinion on the desireability and nature and form of a united Ireland.

Broadly welcoming Reg Empey's statement Mr. Adams said:

"Irish republicans are convinced that Irish unity, in the context of clear legal, constitutional and institutional guarantees to protect the rights and entitlements of every citizen on the basis of equality, offers the best future for all the people of this island.

"There is an imperative, a responsibility, on republicans to spell out to unionists what sort of united Ireland we seek. We need to look at ways in which the unionist people can find their place in a new Ireland. We need to look at decentralisation. We need to look at what they mean by their sense of Britishness and how we can accommodate and embrace that. All of this requires a willingness on our part to explore and to be open to new concepts.

"In this context several weeks ago in a speech in Wexford I urged unionists to put forward their vision for the future and to consider, discuss, and engage with nationalists and republicans about the nature and form a new and acceptable united Ireland might take.

"Republicans are happy to engage with unionism on their vision for the future. We're open to listening to unionism about what they believe the union offers citizens. While at first glance a counter-offensive by unionists to the republican arguments promoting Irish unity may appear to make progress more difficult, the reality is that this should be seen as a positive development and the opening up of a public debate around these key issues."

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