8th March 2003
Adams - Negotiations are a work in progress
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP addressing party activists and elected representatives in Dublin City this afternoon, following a special meeting of the party's Ard Chomhairle to discuss the current negotiations said that ``While substantial progress has been made on a range of issues substantive gaps do remain. Discussions are continuing with the two governments and the other parties in a sustained effort to close these gaps. This is very much work in progress.''
Mr. Adams said:
``Last May I predicted that the story of the General Election would be the story of the rise of Sinn Fein, and that Dublin was key to this. Next year, I believe the story of the European elections will again be the story of Sinn Fein, especially here in Dublin.
``Last May we took two Leinster House seats here and came within less than a hundred votes of taking a third in this constituency. The hard work, the long hours and the dedication each Sinn Fein activist put into the campaign gave us a vote of 40,000 across Dublin city and county. And it is the same people, the men and women gathered in this room who have the potential to make Sinn Fein the story of the European elections next year, to lead us into Europe, to fight for independence and socialism in a whole new field of struggle.
``The huge vote we got in Dublin is something we can build on, but we all know we have not reached our potential in this City. We saw in the Nice referendums how many people share our concern at the pace of European integration. People are worried about our loss of independence, the erosion of our sovereignty and the disappearance of Irish neutrality. A couple of weeks ago the AIB announced record profits of 1.4 billion Euros but Sinn Fein's proposals to increase tax on banks cannot be implemented, because Europe says so. We are restricted in the taxation rates we set, the amount we can borrow and the policies we can pursue.
``The Convention on the Future of Europe has been drafting a European Constitution that will be the subject of the next major EU treaty. The text of the proposed EU Constitution could be ready by the end of next month. We could be voting on the new EU Treaty the same day as we go to the polls to elect our MEPs. Make no mistake, it is a battle for our future. The proposed EU constitution would take precedence over the 1937 constitution.
``Republicans have to get our heads around these issues now so we conduct an even stronger campaign than we did for Nice I and II.
``We will lock horns with those so-called ``supra-nationalists'' who believe that national sovereignty is an outmoded hindrance, and who seek to build an EU superstate. We will face down those militarists who want to build an EU Army. We will offer a progressive alternative to those who would make social progress, equality, civil and human rights subservient to the needs of big business.
``Many years ago James Connolly wrote an article about Home Rule entitled `What is a free nation?' which proved that under a Home Rule government, we would not have freedom, we would not have independence. It makes interesting reading decades later to discover that after achieving the limited measure of independence republicans were able to achieve in the South, we have given it away for a diluted version of Home Rule. And being ruled from Brussels is no better than being ruled from London.
``We have seen the dissatisfaction in the communities right across this City at the actions of this government since it has been returned to power. Community Employment schemes have been axed. We had a Budget that has left the poorest in Irish society less well-off. The number of homeless is continuing to grow. Children are still trapped in poverty and going to schools in buildings that are a danger to them.
``There is an anger out there on the streets of Dublin, an anger at the glaring inequalities in Irish society. Some of the TDs have spoken to me about walking out of Leinster House every night and not being able to go a hundred yards before meeting the first homeless person on the side of the street.
``In the very heart of the capital city in what is still a growing economy, our people are still living a hand to mouth existence and the government seems unable, or unwilling to do what is necessary to deliver real change in this society.
``Sinn Fein is not a party of narrow nationalism, as many strove to portray us during both Nice campaigns. We are conscious of the role that Ireland must and should play in the world. Sinn Fein a truly international party working for equality and justice in Ireland and throughout this planet.
``We have presented our vision of the role Ireland can play on the international stage. Our commitment to neutrality, affirmed again by our team in Leinster House a couple of weeks ago when they presented a Bill to enshrine neutrality' in the constitution of this state, is a commitment to positive neutrality. It does not mean isolationism. It means being a positive force in world politics, encouraging dialogue instead of warfare.
``We need a voice in Europe for the people of Dublin that will represent their views at a European level, The Irish working class need proper representation in the European Parliament and they are not going to get it from any other party in this state. James Connolly wrote, ``There can be no perfect Europe in which Ireland is denied even the least of its national rights.'' It is that Europe, the Europe James Connolly envisaged, which we want to build today, and next year you will immeasurably advance that struggle by returning Dublin's first Sinn Fein MEP.
Peace talks - a work in progress
``I would now like to talk to you for a few minutes about the current negotiations and where we see things going over the next few months. But I would like to begin by taking you back almost ten years to within days of the IRA cessation in 1994 when Albert Reynolds, John Hume and I met in this city. After years of private contact and negotiations this was the first public coming together of the various strands of nationalism on this island and its significance reverberated far beyond these shores to London, Washington and further afield. Central to what we were about at that time was the need for a peace process based on the principles of inclusion and democracy. These principles which we have stood by have in many ways helped create the progress achieved so far. If the last ten years, or indeed the last thirty years or the entire time since partition has proved anything it is that exclusion, discrimination and inequality do not work regardless of whether it is pursued by state, politicians or indeed elements of wider society.
``As we move to conclude this phase of negotiations these basic principles remain central to our approach. In the tactical thrust of negotiations it is crucial to actually remember what all of this is about and what we are trying to achieve - ending conflict and division on this island and building a new Ireland which is inclusive of all.
``This is the goal which guided us in the negotiations, which led to the Good Friday Agreement and it is the goal which is guiding us today. Of course, five years ago. we knew that the Agreement would not be implemented overnight. We knew that it would be more difficult to get it implemented than it was to achieve it. Especially if the governments did not stand by their obligations.
``It is unacceptable that the British government have unilaterally suspended political institutions at the behest of unionism on four occasions. It is unacceptable that they have now postponed the elections at the behest ofunionism. And it is unacceptable that they are now attempting to make the entire Agreement subject to sanctions demanded by unionism.
``This is not just bad for democracy, it is putting in jeopardy much of the work that we have achieved in recent weeks and months. And this should be reflected upon by those parties who have for whatever reason supported the sanctions position or acquiesced to it.
``This current negotiation actually commenced in December, picked up pace in January and became more intensive over the past few weeks ending up of course in Hillsborough this week.
``I have to say that we did succeed in making substantial progress over all of the range of issues, which we had been pressing the British government on. These included:
- New legislation on Policing and Criminal Justice
- Human Rights
- Irish Language Rights
``However substantive gaps do remain on important issues. Discussions are continuing with the two governments and the other parties in a sustained effort to close these gaps. This is very much work in progress.
``We have met with and will continue to meet with the UUP to try and resolve issues such as the sustainability of the political institutions and the All-Ireland Parliamentary Forum.
``Next week many of the Sinn Fein leadership are going to the United States. We will be engaging with the Administration at the highest levels in addition to our ongoing engagement with Irish America, which has played a valuable role in the enhancement of the peace process.
``On our return we will be facing into the Ard Fheis at the end of the month. I think it is worth noting that this will be the first Ard Fheis to be broadcast live on RTE - ten years after the disgraceful and petty decision of the establishment parties here to ban us from the Mansion House.
``So this is not a time to become spectators. It is a time to build alliances and forge new relationships. Our party is the engine of the process of change on this island. We have a lot of work to do. A lot of people are depending on us. In the weeks ahead we have to secure commitments from the two government for the completion of the Good Friday Agreement.''
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