[Sinn Fein]

27 May 2003

Contribution by Martin Ferris TD to Sinn Fein Private Members debate on Cancellation of Elections in the Six Counties

This  morning in Belfast Sinn Fein launched a document ``Who sanctioned Britain'sDeath Squads? - Time for the truth''.  A copy of it if not already available willbe  distributed to all members of the House over the next two days.  I would askDeputies to read it carefully.

While  not  directly  related  to  the  issue  we  are debating here today - thecontents  of  this  document will give people an understanding as to why so many northern  nationalists and republicans are alienated from and mistrustful of theSix  County  state  and  those  who  run  it  - and  also why they are becomingincreasingly angry and disillusioned with the so-called `democratic process'.I don't need to rehearse the arguments here today but it must be remembered thatthe nationalist/republican population of the Six Counties never asked to be partof  that  Statelet.   They  never  asked  to  be  abandoned  by successive Irishgovernments.   They  never asked to be treated as second-class citizens in theirown  country.   It  was  something  foisted upon them without even the slightestreference to their consent - and then they were left to struggle on their own inthe situation in which they found themselves.

In  that  situation they were at best ignored and disenfranchised by the Britishstate  in  terms of social and economic opportunities and resources and at worstconsidered  a  threat  to  Unionist dominance that could and should be dispensedwith.   The  recent  limited Steven's report, which is strongly referenced to inthe  document  launched  this  morning,  estimates conservatively that since the1980s  up  to  80  citizens have been set up for targeting by the British State. Twenty-nine of those were shot dead or blown-up.

Bearing   this  in  mind  there  is  nobody  here  that  could  argue  that  thenationalist/republican   population   of   the   Six  Counties  hasn't  absolutejustification  for distrusting the intentions of not only the British Governmentand the Unionists but of the 26 County Establishment as well.  However, they didthrough  the  peace  process and the Good Friday Agreement try to understand andreach a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict.

And  so  following  over a decade of an intensive peace process ? the signing ofthe  Good Friday Agreement, the establishment of the Assembly, the election of across-party  Executive what do we have.  The Good Friday Agreement still waitingto  be  fully  implemented.   The  Assembly suspended.  And democratic electionscancelled.   The  British  Government  at the behest of the Unionists did all ofthis.

Republicans  have lived up to all of our responsibilities under the terms of theGood  Friday  Agreement.  Indeed we have gone way beyond our responsibilities inthe  interests  of  making  the  Agreement work, while others have been activelyengaged in trying to wreck it.  We have stretched ourselves to breaking point toensure that the Agreement doesn't unravel.

We  have  reached  out to Unionism.  We have sought to accommodate them where wecould.    We  have  made,  to  what  is  to  many of our supporters, painful andprofound  compromises  to  reassure  Unionists  of  our bona fides.  But to manynationalists  and  republicans it seems that this is all one-way traffic.  Thereis no evidence from either the British Government or the Unionists that they arereally  interested  in  bringing  about the changes that are necessary to ensurethat the Agreement not only survives but also flourishes.

The  recent actions of the British Government have compounded the sense of angerand  frustration  that  exists within nationalist and republican communities notonly  the  Six  Counties  but throughout the island of Ireland.  It is extremelyironic  that  for  years and years Sinn Fein was being constantly lectured at bynot  only  parties  in  here  but  by  the  British Government about putting ourarguments  to  the test and standing in elections and getting a mandate from thepeople.

Of  course  these  arguments  were  being  promoted in the misguided belief thatRepublicans  had not got widespread or popular support.  The steady rise of SinnFein  both  north  and  south  has  exposed  that  as  nothing more than wishfulthinking.

Now  the  rules,  according  to  Britannia, are to be rewritten to suit this newreality.   Elections  can  be  cancelled.   Institutions  suspended.   Democracydenied.

It  is  not good enough to declare that you are opposed to the activities of the British  Government.   It is not good enough to say that it is wrong.  There hasto  be  a  vocal  and  physical  manifestation  of that opposition.  The BritishGovernment  cannot  be  permitted  to  continue to just walk over the democraticrights and entitlements of Irish people, living north or south.

But to force the British Government to live up to its responsibilities the IrishGovernment must fulfil its own responsibilities under the Good Friday Agreement. They  must  repeal  their  draconian  and  repressive  legislation that has beenintroduced  during  the  course  of  the  conflict.   They must also release allqualifying  prisoners  still  detained  years  after  they  were  supposed to bereleased.

For  our  part  in  this  House we have this evening and tomorrow evening in thecourse  of  this debate an opportunity to put some of the wrongs that this State as  responsible for right.   We can state in unequivocal terms, on an all-partybasis,  our  opposition to the anti-democratic actions of the British Governmentin  unilaterally  cancelling  the  May  29th elections.  We can demand that TonyBlair  re-enfranchise  the  people  of  the  Six  Counties  by re-scheduling theelections  for the earliest possible date in June.  And we can ensure that thosepeople  in  the  Six  Counties  who aspire to representation in an Irish electedforum  rather than Westminster can speak and take part in debates in this House.I would urge deputies of all parties to support the motion before us today.

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