11 August 1998
The key word now must be `delivery' - Adams
BY GERRY ADAMS MP
It is just over one year since the IRA announced its second cessation and almost a year since the start of the multi-party talks involving Sinn Fein. It has been an eventful and in many ways an historic phase of the peace process that witnessed the signing of the Belfast Agreement, which was itself endorsed subsequently in referendum. This was followed by an election which confirmed the overwhelming desire of people in the north to embrace change. The past year has seen us take a succession of steps towards freedom, justice and democracy. But there are still many more steps to be taken before we construct a society of which we can all be proud.
Our collective task now must be to build a peace settlement. This phase must see the implementation of the provisions of the Agreement as part of the wider process of national reconciliation. That will require inclusiveness and partnership. In the short term it means this involves the establishment of the Executive in September followed by the inaugural meeting of the North South Ministerial Council and the establishment of the associated implementation bodies before the end of October.
Rights, not Privileges
The wholehearted commitment to ensuring political, social, economic and cultural rights must be realised. Inequality and social exclusion are the enemies of peace. We need a partnership, based on equality, which will empower and improve the quality of life of citizens by being open, inclusive and democratic.
Equality of treatment, and full human rights protection must be guaranteed. These are rights, not privileges.
Justice and Policing:
Having established the Independent Commission on Policing we now need to see every effort made to put in place a new policing service. The RUC is unacceptable. It is a significant part of the problem. It cannot be part of the solution. Unionist militias can be no part of a settlement.
Similarly the justice system has been abused over the years. All repressive laws have to be repealed; the judiciary fundamentally reformed; demilitarization of British military installations has to begin and conclude quickly; British troops should go; licensed firearms should be recalled, and all political prisoners have to be released.
Plastic bullets which have claimed 17 lives, many of them young children, should be immediately banned.
These killings, and indeed the other 400 killings by state forces have to be thoroughly and publicly investigated. The right to the truth demands the setting up of a full independent inquiry into collusion between the British forces and loyalist death squads. As an immediate step the Stalker/Sampson and Stevens reports suppressed by the Conservative government should be published.
The hurt and pain of these forgotten victims must be acknowledged. We need a process of reconciliation which is inclusive, bringing together the families of every victim. All of those who have died as a result of this conflict must be remembered. Their deaths should not be forgotten or airbrushed from our consciousness.
It is essential in this new era of possibilities that we all - republican and unionist, loyalist and British - address honestly and openly the hurt we have caused and begin a real healing process. Republicans want no more suffering, no more victims.
We need an all-Ireland economic strategy. It makes sense - common sense and economic sense - that this be overseen by an all-Ireland economic authority. In conjunction with this a strategy must be developed which pro-actively seeks to reverse decades of discrimination against nationalists and nationalist areas in the north. Western counties of the north, border areas and disadvantaged areas of Belfast all need to see major investment and rapid development.
Irish Language and Culture:
The N.I. Bill omitted the Irish language entirely. In our view the Irish language should have been included in this Bill. There are obviously ways in which the Irish language will be dealt with other than in the Bill and that has to be taken into account. For example the statutory duty on the Department of Education to facilitate and encourage Irish medium education in line with provision for integrated education is covered in the Education (N.I.) Order 1998 that has been enacted.
However, it is worth noting that on Monday July 27th in Westminster, during the debate on the N.I. Bill, the British Secretary of State Mo Mowlam undertook to discuss the matter further with members who raised concerns about the Irish Language. She also pointed out that other commitments contained in the Agreement on the Irish language are being implemented by administrative means.
I welcome the fact that she gave a commitment that the British government will sign the Council of Europe Charter for Regional and Minority Languages and will specify Irish for part three purposes at an early date. We hope to hear soon what that date will be.
National Democratic Rights:
But nationalists do not just have civil rights, we possess national democratic rights as well. That is to say, we consciously and willingly share in the sovereignty of the Irish nation. This needs to find concrete practical political expression. As one means to that end nationalists at every level need to press for northern representation in the Dáil. Meaningful participation in the political life of the nation is a democratic entitlement. The constitutional review of this matter set in train by An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is welcome but we must engage with that review. We must make the case for Dáil representation or it will be lost by default.
In similar vein the provision in the Agreement for the establishment of the North South Ministerial Council and implementation bodies with executive and harmonising powers provides a vehicle for the effective promotion of national and democratic rights and objectives.
But we must be sure that the Council is got up and running, that it has the real powers and functions that have been designated to start with, and that it is not frustrated by unionist obstruction. Moreover, it needs to be developed and expanded.
And that brings me to future British policy. The British government says it will not disengage from the north unless a majority here wants them to. However, that is no reason why the British should not state a positive position, on behalf of the British people, on the issue of Irish unity and its desirability. We believe that the British Labour Party should at least endorse such a policy. In the event of British policy being so formulated, the Council offers the opportunity to progress in the right direction and should be underpinned, as suggested in the Document, by a parliamentary tier.
Dialogue and Cooperation
It should be appreciated that Irish republicans have come a long distance to reach this point. Many difficulties have had to be surmounted. Traditional ways of viewing the conflict have had to be re-evaluated. Treasured positions have had to be modified. We have had to distinguish between principles and tactics, and it was not always easy to do so.
We opposed the Belfast Assembly, but we will sit in it and will take our place on the Executive. We will strive to work with unionists towards constructing a fair and just society. We want to understand their fears and aspirations. We want to dialogue with them. But as yet, they will not even speak to us. Hurt has been inflicted on everybody and we recognize that. Do they?
In all sincerity, we have extended the hand of friendship. It remains to be grasped by David Trimble and his associates.
The Multi-Party Talks are over, but the Peace Process is not. The situation which now exists must be consolidated and developed. There is a heavy onus on Mr Blair to ensure that the Agreement is not undermined. The key word now must be `delivery'. The provisions of the Agreement must be implemented.
It is essential that the Agreement delivers on the Executive, and on the all-Ireland Ministerial Council; it must deliver on the equality agenda; deliver on the release of prisoners; deliver on demilitarisation; deliver on the promised constitutional change; deliver on equality for the Irish language; deliver on a new policing service, and deliver on the other elements of the Good Friday Agreement. And all of this on the basis of equality.
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