[Sinn Fein]

20 February 1998

Sinn Fein Response to the Decision by the British and Irish Governments

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams in an initial response to todays decision by the two governments to expel Sinn Fein from the talks process said:

``I am seeking urgent meetings with the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, and the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to discuss with them the crisis caused by today's decision. There is clearly a crediblity problem with the talks process. The exclusion of Sinn Fein on the word of an RUC man underlines the serious flaws in the process which the two governments set up. It is up to the two governments to rectify the situation urgently.

``The decision to expel Sinn Fein by the two governments is disgraceful. The process by which this decision was reached lacked any notion of natural justice. At the stroke of a pen this decision attempts to silence the voices of 175,000 people who vote for our party nationally. It is undemocratic and an attack on the democratic rights of the tens of thousands of people who vote for Sinn Fein.

``The British government indictment was without foundation. Sinn Fein has no case to answer. There is no just or democratic basis for the exclusion of Sinn Fein.

``During three days of intense discussion in Dublin the British government failed to produce any evidence to support its indictment. Sinn Fein has worked tirelessly with others, to build an effective peace process. Sinn Fein has honoured, absolutely, every commitment given.

``Today's decision makes no positive contribution to the collective search for peace. It is a step backwards. It can only damage and undermine the potential of the talks process.

``It benefits only those who seek to prevent change and who have sought from the beginning to subvert this process and the hopes for peace.

``It should be remembered that the indictment was initiated by an assessment from the RUC which is still wedded to the old agendas and mindsets. A major influence in the determination was the implicit threat from the UUP to withdraw from the talks if Sinn Fein was not excluded.

``The two governments have once again bowed to the threats of David Trimble and the Ulster Unionist Party and the ploys of the securocrats.

``The events of recent days have highlighted the double standards of the British government. There is no consistency in its position. Political expediency rules. It raises the question of who is in charge - the securocrats or the governments.

``We are absolutely determined to defend the democratic rights of our electorate and the integrity of the peace process. Sinn Fein is committed to our peace strategy and to the search for peace.

``The anger at the British government's indictment of Sinn Fein is palpable, particularly in nationalist areas of the north and is evident throughout Ireland. I appeal to everyone to channel their anger and frustration at today's decision into peaceful and disciplined protest. It is our democratic right to protest. Now is the time for people to exercise this right and to do so, and I emphasise this point, in a peaceful and democratic manner.

``Sinn Fein's peace strategy has been about resolving conflict. Everyone has a responsibility to avert any slide back into conflict and to ensure that the opportunity for peace is built upon and not wasted.''

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