March 14th 2002
Adams challenges 'cold house for unionists' theme
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP MLA speaking in Seattle, Washington State has challenged the 'cold house for unionists' theme that has dominated British government pronouncements in recent times.
The Sinn Fein leader said "'The British government cannot dodge its obligations. Equality, human rights, justice, policing are not concessions to be doled out or with held at Londons whim. They are entitlements and rights which they have to uphold."
Mr. Adams said: "The struggle in Ireland is not about religion. Religion, rather than colour or race as in other colonial situations, has been wrongly used as the badge of identification between two different political allegiances. That is between those who support the Union because that relationship appears to guarantee their supremacy, and those who want a free, independent Ireland.
"It was the London government which created the six county state. Between them and the unionists sectarianism was built into the institutions and structures, the very fabric, of this set up.
"Even today David Trimble's Ulster Unionist Party provides 120 seats on its ruling council for the Orange Order an anti-Catholic organisation.
"All of this, the conflict in Ireland, the sectarian nature of the northern state, is I believe rooted in Britain's presence, the partition of our country, and the differing political allegiances and divisions which British policy has fostered.
"Sectarianism has played its part. Unionist political leaders have used religion and sectarian bigotry to perpetuate these divisions, whip up fears, and historically maintain their political domination and hegemony over the northern protestant section of our people. We got a taste of this again last weekend in Mr. Trimble's remarks.
"Senior members of this British government, including Tony Blair and Dr. John Reid, may be genuinely appalled at the sectarianism which underpins the activities and attitudes of some extreme unionists today. But if they are to join with the rest of us to tackle and to end sectarianism then they have to tackle its causes.
"This includes an understanding that the northern statelet was established and sustained until now as a sectarian entity. It is totally counter productive, disingenuous and wrong to lament the possibility that the north might become 'a cold house for unionists' and to place a responsibility on nationalists or republicans to prevent this by us accepting less than the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts.
"The British government continues to pander to unionism. John Reid did that again before the UUP conference last weekend when he breached the Agreement to make concessions to that party's leadership on the issue of symbols on court buildings. This has to stop.
"For our part Sinn Fein is an Irish Republican Party. Republicanism is nothing if it is not resolutely anti-sectarian.
"Republicans have a responsibility to reach out to unionists, and to others and to engage with them about the nature and form of our shared future. We seek a united Ireland and we must convince unionists that we are implacably opposed to doing to them what was done to nationalists and republicans.
"We will never ever again accept the status of second class citizens. Neither will we ever impose second class citizenship upon anyone else. But the unionists also have responsibilities. This includes the need to break with sectarian politics.
"In seeking to overcome all of these difficulties and in seeking to ensure the continued success of our peace process there is only one course open to us and that requires the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
"There is no magic formula waiting to be discovered. The next steps in this process are not secret. We know what is required.
"But the British government cannot dodge its obligations. Equality, human rights, justice, policing are not concessions to be doled out or with held at Londons whim. They are entitlements and rights which they have to uphold.
"We still therefore have a lot more to do. This includes a fundamental commitment to eradicate sectarianism."
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