Address by Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP
Opening of new assembly
1st July 1998
Sinn Fein is an Irish republican party. We are going into the new institutions established under the Good Friday Agreement intent on removing the border which has institutionalised division and fostered sectarianism. We want a new beginning for all of the people of this island.
Nationalists and in particular republicans, have always sought to deliver on our commitments and responsibilities. We have always sought to move forward on an inclusive basis with generosity and magnanimity. To date there has been little reciprocation from Unionism. Any movement has been begrudging, belated and reluctant.
This has created many difficulties for Irish republicans but it is Sinn Fein's intention to play a full and constructive part in relation to the Good Friday Agreement and to ensure that all aspects of the agreement are implemented.
The Ard Chomhairle of Sinn Fein met yesterday. We reiterated our support for the right of the largest party and the second largest party to take up the position of the First and Deputy First Ministers. That is their entitlement. We expect that our electorate will also be accorded its entitlement. We believe in proportionality.
The Agreement provides the formula by which the Executive is established. Save for the requirement of a cross community vote in determining the First and Deputy First Minister it is the electorate, through the mandates that it conferred, which determines the compositin of the Executive.
Given the closeness of the voting strength between the SDLP and the UUP these two parties may also consider a voluntary rotation of these positions between themselves. But this is a matter for themselves. It requires goodwill.
Goodwill is also required for the successful establishment and functioning of the Executive, the cross border bodies and the all-Ireland Council of Ministers. These need to be established without delay. The agenda for change needs to be implemented without delay.
The acceptance by Sinn Fein of the rights of the first and second largest parties to take up the positions of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister is a concrete example of a good will engagement by Irish republicans especially and particularly given the attitude of the UUP. But we also have rights and more importantly our voters have rights. To date the designate First Minister has shown no sign that he accepts this. Despite this we will uphold his rights and the rights of his voters.
This means Irish republicans trying to have a far sighted and strategic view of what is happening within unionism. Sinn Fein is mindful of the difficulties for Mr. Trimble.
A Sinn Fein vote for Mr. Trimble would do him no favours. In fact it may assist his enemies within his own ranks and within the ranks of unionism and orangeism to bring him down. So while placing fairly and positively our support of the UUP's right to take up its entitlement as First Minister we will be abstaining in the vote on that decision.
We have no doubt that the Deputy second Minister, Seamus Mallon, will fulfil his responsibilities and we welcome the historic nature of his appointment.
We intend to ensure that the essential elemetns of the Agreement, the designation of Ministers to the Executive, the all-Ireland bodies, and the implementation of the agenda for change proceed without delay. The First Minister's responsibilities in this regard are obvious and we wil hold him to them.
The election results show clearly that the majority of people who voted last week, like the majority throughout this island who voted in the referendum, are for change. The election also saw an unprecedented vote for the main nationalist parties. I want to congratulate everyone in all of the parties on their performance but I especially want to single out John Hume who has played a pivotal role in creating this opportunity for progress towards a peace settlement.
I also believe that Mr. Trimble is in a very strong position indeed to fulfil his responsibilities. I wish him well.
Everyone here understands the difficulties which lie ahead. This is another first step. There will be many more to follow. Our task is to build an inclusive process and work for the construction of a democratic settlement which celebrates the diversity of all of the Irish people. A peace settlement which will make the next century, unlike the previous eight, one in which there is no more conflict, no more division and no more fear.
We want to make friends with our unionist neighbours. We want to work with you in the time ahead to make a better future for ourselves but especially for our children.
This means upholding the rights of all our citizens.
Sinn Fein is pledged to uphold the rights of all citizens. We uphold the right of the marching orders to parade. There are over 3,000 such parades each year. Nationalists resond to these with generosity and tolerance. There are however a small number - less than one per cent which are contentious. The loyal orders and the unionist party to which they are inexticably linked should enter into a dialogue with the host nationalist communities to find an accommodation.
This is not about eroding or undermining the rights of the loyal orders or of unionists. It is about equality. It is about the right of all citizens to be treated fairly, justly and equally. I would appeal to Mr. Trimble to meet his constituents on the Garvaghy Road.
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