22nd April 2003
All statements should be published and all commitments implemented
Speaking at an Easter Commemoration in Ardoyne, North Belfast this afternoon Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP said: "Sinn Fein is certainly committed to making this process work. So too, in my opinion, is the IRA. It has demonstrated its support for the process on many occasions. That is why I say that a deal is now do-able if there is the political will and if the dealmakers are prepared to move forward now." Mr. Adams said: "It is our view, and we have stated it often, that all statements should be published and that all commitments contained in them should be implemented."
There has been an understandable public focus on the efforts to restart the political process and the failure so far to achieve this.
In the flurry of words, of claim and counter-claim, one thing has become obscured. That is that the issues which are the core of the Good Friday Agreement are the rights and entitlements of citizens.
Of course the political institutions cannot function unless the political parties are committed to them. But all the other issues, in particular the issues of equality - equality of opportunity and parity of esteem - are basic and fundamental rights to which there can be no pre-conditions or caveats.
The acknowledgement by the two governments that they have yet fulfil the Good Friday Agreement is at the heart of the current negotiations. Both governments admitted this failure and committed themselves to fully implement outstanding aspects of the Agreement.
As the Taoiseach said on Sunday, 'They impact on all the key areas - policing, criminal justice, security normalisation, (or demilitarisation as we would put it), and the entrenchment of human rights and equality at the heart of the new dispensation∑'
The governments were to publish a Joint Declaration. In negotiations with them going back to last autumn Sinn Fein made it clear that we wanted to see time-framed implementation plans which in a transparent way set out a programme for the completion of the Agreement.
In their Joint Declaration the governments also made certain demands of the IRA. Now we are told that the governments will only publish their proposals when they are satisfied with the IRAs response to them.
Our party leadership has worked with a will to bring about mutually satisfactory closure to this phase of negotiations. It is our view, and we have stated it often, that all statements should be published and that all commitments contained in them should be implemented. The governments say No. At least at this time.
But if they refuse to publish their proposals what will be achieved?
Are we being told that people rights and entitlements will be withheld?
Are we being told that the outstanding aspects of the Agreement which impact 'on all the key areas - policing, criminal justice, security normalisation, (or demilitarisation as we would put it), and the entrenchment of human rights and equality at the heart of the new dispensation∑' are not going to be implemented?
We are told that the problem lies in a lack of clarity in the IRA statement which is in possession of the two governments. There is no lack of clarity in this statement. Maybe the problem is that it does not use the exact words prescribed by the British government. But the statement is very clear about IRA intentions. It has also been welcomed by both governments as being positive and showing a desire to make the peace process work. Such an IRA statement and such a response from the two governments would have been unthinkable a decade ago. It therefore defies logic that the governments appear to be rejecting this development and the potential it contains.
There has to be common sense in these matters.
No one expects that P O Neill should write the Joint Declaration for the two governments. Alistair Campbell, the British Prime Minister's senior PR person, would not expect or be expected to act as spokesperson for the IRA.
If the problem at the moment is genuinely about the need to restore confidence in the process then in my view there is enough in all of the statements and commitments contained in them to do this. In other words there is the makings of a deal. What are needed now are dealmakers.
This brings us to the unionists. Do they want a deal at this time? Are there dealmakers in the UUP leadership?
If there is a political will, this process can be brought forward at this time, building on the progress made and creating both stability and confidence as we collectively fulfil our responsibilities.
This needs everyone. The two governments the Ulster Unionist Party and us, and the other parties working together.
I know there is a lot of unease within the republican constituency, especially within the activist constituency. There is also a lot of anger at the way in which the process has been manipulated. But this is a time for steady nerves and cool heads.
Here in the republican heartland of Ardoyne, in the hinterland of north Belfast you don't need to be told about the rights and wrongs of the situation. You didn t need a Stevens Report to tell you there is collusion. You experienced it at first hand.
In north Belfast there has been what amounts to a continuous pogrom against beleaguered nationalist communities.
Hundreds of families and homes have been attacked. Primary school girls and their parents endured months of sectarian abuse and physical attack going and coming from school.
Catholics were killed by unionist paramilitary murder gangs and some young protestant people were killed in the mistaken belief that they were Catholics.
There has also been provocation by the British Crown Forces, and the PSNI.
So no one needs peace more than the people of areas like this.
No one needs equality; no one needs their rights, more than you do. And no one has been more resilient or determined or tenacious in struggling for these rights than people like yourselves. And when we say equality we mean equality for all.
Republicans are absolutely clear about that.
We do not want to visit upon unionists what their old regime or successive British governments inflicted upon us.
The spirit and the letter of the 1916 Proclamation is about cherishing all the children of the nation equally.
That means change, real change, in the same way that real peace demands justice.
That is why in the time ahead there will be a need for continued discipline within The republican constituency especially in areas like this which are on the frontline and which are targeted on an ongoing basis by reactionary elements who are afraid of change.
They may seize upon this impasse in the process. They may be more provocative in the time ahead in their efforts to wreck the vehicle of change. They want to destroy it and their tools are bigotry and sectarianism.
They need to be starved of anything that would feed into their efforts That means that Irish republicans need a deep well of patience. We have to show by our words and our actions, or non- actions that we can advance our struggle in the time ahead.
Republicanism is a generous philosophy.
The bigots, securocrats, the unionist paramilitaries and their handlers are about trying to wreck this process.
The unionist leaderships seem to be fixated with slowing down and frustrating change. Who can blame them if the governments are holding back on measures which they admit are needed to fully implement outstanding aspects of the Agreement. The failure to move now encourages those who want to stop all progress.
They will not and they cannot succeed. Of course they can delay progress. But they cannot stop it. But they should not be pandered to. Sinn Fein is certainly committed to making this process work. So to in my opinion is the IRA, it has demonstrated its support for the process on many occasions. That is why I say that a deal is now do-able if there is the political will and if the dealmakers are prepared to move forward now.
Only the two governments have the answer to that question.
For our part SF remains wedded to our objectives. In the short to medium term that means being part of the process of change. At times indeed we are the engine for change.
The 1916 Proclamation is our core manifesto. We want a new republic on this island.
Sinn Fein Press Office, 44 Parnell Square, Dublin 1
Tel: +353-1-8726100 and +353-1-8726839 · Fax +353-1-8733074
E-mail: email@example.com · Website: http://www.sinnfein.org
Sinn Fein · Sinn Fein Documents