[Sinn Fein]

22nd January 2003

Dialogue crucial to resolving political crisis

Sinn Fein North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly speaking at the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation in Dublin today called on the UUP to take the political lead within unionism and re-engage in dialogue.' Mr. Kelly said:

``Today's meeting of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation provides all of us with the opportunity to hear first hand the concerns and experiences of people living in interface areas.

``Sinn Fein has always promoted and encouraged inter-community dialogue as a necessary step to resolving our differences and we believe that today's meeting of the Forum will faciliate that process further. It is however regrettable that it is now taking place against the backdrop of the suspended institutions and the recent PUP descision to end its contact with my party. 

``It is also regretable that Ann Bill of the Glenbryn Residents was unable to attend today's meeting of the Forum. But it is difficult to blame groups from within the unionist community for withdrawing from dialogue when the UUP's philosophy seems to be no dialogue.

``It is crucial to persist in dialogue and maintain contact if we are to resolve all the outstanding aspects of the Good Friday Agreement and to build inter-community relations. Sinn Fein remains committed to reaching out and engaging in dialogue with the Unionist community. We need the leadership of Unionism to do the same.'' ENDS

Equality agenda must be at the heart of inter-community relations

Sinn Fein delegate to the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, Marylou McDonald speaking at today's session dealing with inter community relations has said:

``To try and suggest that the northern statelet was some kind of benign apartheid state is to turn reality on its head.''.

She went on to say ``Intercommuity relations cannot be crudely reduced to a matter of Protestant versus Catholic, it is a matter a fundamental social rights. There is a need to embrace the equality agenda and to adopt universal rights, as the Good Friday Agreement demands, across a range of issues including policing. These rights are due to all citizens whether they are Protestant or Catholic.''ENDS

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