[Sinn Fein]

22 February 1997

`Opportunity to rebuild peace process still exists' - Adams

In a newspaper article, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams today outlined Sinn Fein's position on the peace process and the shape of an agreed political settlement.

Full text of article:

It remains my firm view that an opportunity to rebuild the peace process and secure a permanent peace still exists. In seeking to break through the current impasse and to move the situation forward I would like to set out clearly Sinn Fein's view of the issues, which we believe are central to the creation of a credible and meaningful process of negotiations.

I think that it is also important, in the interests of clarity, that I set out clearly Sinn Fein's view of how these issues can be resolved and the approach which Sinn Fein will take on entering inclusive and credible peace negotiations.

Sinn Fein wants to see an end to all armed actions and our party is committed to work for an end to conflict regardless of the difficulties involved. Our peace strategy and our commitment to peaceful and democratic methods is the cornerstone of our party policy.

Sinn Fein is committed to inclusive democratic negotiations. These will best be conducted in a wholly peaceful environment. But even if there was such an environment at this time, no one knows when Sinn Fein will be admitted into substantive talks. The British government has retained a veto over our entry into substantive negotiations and neither myself, John Hume nor the Irish Government has so far been able to elicit a direct answer from London.

When a meaningful and inclusive process of negotiations is genuinely being offered we could, with credibility, seek to persuade the IRA to restore the cessation of August 1994. In our view, this is the only effective way to proceed.

With this objective in mind Sinn Fein has identified, both publicly and privately, a number of key issues which we feel need to be dealt with, adequately and unambiguously, if we are to make a credible argument that an inclusive and meaningful process of negotiations is on offer.

The issues are:

  1. The removal of preconditions to, and in, negotiations.
  2. The issue of a timeframe for the negotiations.
  3. Confidence-building measures on the part of the British government.
  4. Sinn Fein entry into dialogue.

1. The removal of preconditions to, and in, negotiations

Given that preconditions to negotiations caused the collapse of the peace process last February, it is clear that, if the peace process is to be rebuilt, then preconditions need to be removed. In particular, given its destructive effect, the decommissioning precondition needs to be removed and in a way which prevents the erection of this obstacle again at some point in the future.

The removal of the gun from the political equation in Ireland is a clear objective of a lasting peace settlement.

Given the importance of this objective, the approach should be one which is most likely to succeed, rather than one which blocks and disrupts the wider negotiations which are based on the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. The issue of disarmament needs to be resolved but without blocking the negotiations.

Sinn Fein has already stated its willingness to address all aspects of the Report of the International Body in the context of our participation in inclusive negotiations.

Sinn Fein is prepared to consider any proposals which address the need to take all the guns out of Irish politics and we will be putting forward, for consideration, our proposals on this issue.

2. The issue of a timeframe for the negotiations

The need for a timeframe to generate and sustain momentum in the negotiations is obvious. A realistic, indicative timeframe is the only way to create the necessary urgency and momentum towards agreement. The two governments clearly need to take a lead on this crucial issue, a point which our party has made consistently over the past two years.

The two governments should, therefore, agree themselves and then propose to the participants a concentrated timeframe. The alternative, as we have seen since June 10th, is endless stalling, obstruction and stalemate.

3. Confidence-building measures

Sinn Fein believes that an unequivocal restoration of the IRA cessation would represent the most important confidence-building initiative on the IRA's part.

For its part, and as part of an initiative to rebuild the peace process, the British government should outline, clearly and in detail, the substance of a programmatic approach on issues which will generate confidence. Sinn Fein endorses the suggestions on confidence building made by the International Body in Chapter VII of its report. The British government, as the International Body pointed out, needs to take action on prisoners, emergency legislation, policing and on social and economic issues.

In particular, issues of equality which are democratic or human rights matters do not require any negotiation. The British government could and should act on these issues immediately if it wishes to demonstrate a real interest in building confidence in its approach to the search for a lasting peace.

The issues which should, in my view, be addressed as part of a programme of confidence-building measures are:

    1. Those issues which fall into the equality and democratic rights agenda and which address political, economic, social and cultural discrimination. These issues can and should be addressed immediately.

      The principles of equality of treatment, equality of opportunity and parity of esteem should apply across the political, cultural, economic, social, legal and security spectrum. These include:

      • Equality of opportunity in employment;
      • Equality of treatment for the Irish culture and identity;
      • Equality of treatment of elected representatives;
      • Equality in the provision of education, specifically through the medium of Irish;
      • Equality of treatment in economic development.

    2. Both governments also need urgently to address a demilitarisation agenda dealing with issues such as political prisoners; emergency legislation; and policing.

Sinn Fein's entry into negotiations

Sinn Fein will approach the negotiations on the sole basis of our democratic mandate. We are totally committed to peaceful and democratic means of resolving political problems and we will endeavour to build confidence in the search for agreement through our unremitting efforts to promote dialogue.

Sinn Fein's efforts to rebuild the peace process thus far have been on the basis of the position of the two governments, as outlined in the Joint Communiqué of February 28th 1996, that Sinn Fein's ``participation in negotiations requires the restoration of the ceasefire of August 1994''.

Sinn Fein has the democratic right to be involved in negotiations and to represent our electorate on the basis of our established electoral mandate. We reject any preconditions to our involvement in dialogue and negotiations. But we accept that inclusive democratic negotiations will best be conducted in a wholly peaceful environment.

Sinn Fein believes, therefore, that any restoration by the IRA of its cessation of August 1994 will be genuinely unequivocal, containing a clear and unambiguous commitment to enhance a genuine peace process.

Sinn Fein has already publicly made clear its commitment to the Mitchell Principles and we will do so formally when we enter negotiations. Sinn Fein can only speak for itself and on behalf of its electorate. Sinn Fein is not the IRA. But we recognise and acknowledge the IRA's stated intention of enhancing the democratic peace process and the IRA's definitive commitment to its success.

Sinn Fein is wholly committed to democratic negotiations and to a democratic outcome of those negotiations.

Equality of treatment is an essential ingredient of any process of democratic negotiations. Sinn Fein wholly endorses an approach where all parties are subject to the same rules and procedures in the negotiations. It is self-evident that threats of any description from any quarter have no role to play in such a process of democratic negotiations.

I firmly believe that if clear assurances are given by the British government that a negotiations process which is both viable and credible will be put in place, then the peace process can be restored and that the opportunity finally to resolve the conflict can then be brought to a successful conclusion.

The need to address these issues should not be put off until after the British general election. Sinn Fein has attempted to clarify its position on the issues of concern to the British government and in a way which allows space for the British to respond positively.

If the British government is serious about peace in Ireland, if John Major is honestly offering to deal with the outstanding issues of concern, then electoral considerations should be set aside and this should be done without further delay.

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