[Sinn Fein]

7th June 2003

McLaughlin calls for concerted campaign to demand elections


Sinn Fein Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin speaking at the Robert Emmet commemoration in Tipperary this weekend  said that the Irish government s failure to demand to be treated, as of right, as a co-equal partner with the British government is not the action of a government that is a co-equal partner in the family of nations.   He called for a concerted campaign by the political parties in this state demanding that the elections go ahead. Mr. McLaughlin said:


The Good Friday Agreement, endorsed in referenda throughout the 32 counties was achieved after long and painstaking negotiations. It is an International Treaty between the British and Irish governments, not a British or a Unionist Agreement that can be changed unilaterally.  But despite the enormous democratic legitimacy of the Good Friday Agreement, the Irish government, as a supposed co-equal partner and guarantor of the Agreement could not or did not prevent the British government suspending the Assembly on four occasions or effectively cancelling the Assembly elections in an arrogant and arbitrary manner.


This was an Agreement that the nationalist political establishment described as the greatest act of Irish national self-determination since 1918.  Sinn Fein rejected this interpretation and events since then have vindicated our position.  If it really was the people of Ireland exercising self-determination then how could the British government, at the stroke of a pen, wipe it out and why is there not a concerted campaign by all of the political parties in this state demanding that the British government respect democracy and reverse its decision to cancel an Irish election?


Failure to demand to be treated, as of right, as a co-equal partner with the British government, in an International Treaty, which underpins the Good Friday Agreement or refusing to respect and defend the democratic decision of the Irish electorate as happened following the first Nice Treaty referendum, is not the action of a government that is a co-equal partner in the family of nations.  We need a concerted campaign from the political parties here demanding that the elections take place immediately.


Addressing the concerns of unionism Mr. McLaughlin said:


Through building political alliances with like-minded people, through dialogue and debate, through engagement with our political opponents and with our political enemies, we can persuade those that remain to be persuaded of the efficacy of Irish self determination. Properly managed, I believe that this course will lead us away from armed conflict and towards the peaceful resolution of the causes of the conflict. That is the fundamental basis of the peace process and of the Good Friday Agreement.


But we should not get smug about what we achieved and the gains we made from our own perspective in the Agreement. We must continue to point out to Irish unionism that our vision for the future, free from British dominance does not threaten or diminish their civil, human or cultural rights. No nationalist or republican in the New Ireland will enjoy one right or privilege that is not equally available to those of the unionist or any other tradition. The rights of all the people of Ireland will have to be safeguarded in a new Constitution and Bill of Rights.


Setting out the imperative for a broad coalition to deliver Irish unity Mr. McLaughlin said:


The term Irish republican is often used in a narrow sense to describe members and supporters of Sinn Fein.  But I think a broader definition is required which embraces all those who share a commitment to the complete freedom of the Irish people.


The vision of the Irish Republic which we seek encompasses all of Ireland and its people.  It involved social and economic equality, as well as political, religious and cultural freedom.  It values the Irish language and culture while embracing cultural diversity in Ireland and internationally. For this new Ireland to be achieved we need to build a real coalition in the broadest sense of the word with all those campaigning for real and lasting change in our country.

  It is when we deliver an effective strategy for re-uniting the territory and people of Ireland, that we will be able to take our place OEamong the nations of the earth . ENDS 

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