[Sinn Fein]

21st September 2002

Sinn Fein response to UUC decision

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP commenting on the outcome of today's Ulster Unionist Council meeting in Belfast said:

``This is not a day for knee jerking. I haven't read the detail of the UUC proposal and we will give a more considered response in due course. I have to say that many people will be disappointed, though not exactly surprised, by the decision of today's UUC meeting.

``We cautioned about this development last week when we met with the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister. We also expressed concern about Dr. John Reid's handling of the situation and about the British government's failure to implement important elements of the Agreement.

``In a meeting with Mr. Trimble and Reg Empey, Martin McGuinness and I made the same points.

``Whatever other excuses may be offered, today's UUC decision is evidence that political unionism has not yet risen to the challenge presented by the imperative for change. In the absence of consistent, constant and positive leadership unionism is trying to delay, dilute or prevent change. This cannot be tolerated.

``Sinn Fein will be seeking meetings with both governments, with Mr. Trimble and with other parties.

``The two governments need to fill the vacuum that has developed. We have seen over the summer how such vacuums are exploited by anti-Agreement elements and how sectarian violence has been switched on and off to undermine public confidence.

``There is no alternative to the Good Friday Agreement and to the process of change it requires. Neither is there any excuse for the British government to continue to pander to unionism. This is the ninth UUC meeting since the Good Friday Agreement. It is the ninth occasion on which the British government has made concessions to the UUP in advance of these meetings. It is the ninth time that the UUP have pocketed these concessions and made more demands. Effectively what the UUP has signed up for is a wrecker's charter.

``Sinn Fein is totally committed to the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process. Our efforts in the time ahead will be to see that Agreement implemented. Our preference is that the unionists join with us in that enterprise. However, if the unionists refuse to be part of that process then the two governments must proceed anyway. Today's victory for the No camp will not deter us and will not stop the process of change. That will only happen if we give up and we are not giving up.''

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