[Sinn Fein]

19 March 1998

Sinn Fein Commission

``Our Future - A United Ireland''

Sinn Fein Vice President Pat Doherty this morning announced that the party would be holding a number of public forums in the coming months to give people throughout the country an opportunity `to become pro-active in shaping the outcome of this phase of the negotiations and to consult with the widest possible spectrum of public and private opinion as to their vision of the future.'' The title of the hearings will be ``Our Future - A United Ireland.''

Also attending this morning's press conference were Sinn Fein Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin, General Secretary Lucilita Bhreatnach, Ard Chomhairle member Councillor Francie Molloy and peace negotiator Annie Armstrong. They will be panel members at the commission hearings.

Speaking in Dublin this morning Mr. Doherty said:

``In 1994 Sinn Fein established a very successful Peace Commission to assess the Downing Street Declaration in terms of our overall peace strategy and to consult widely on how to cestablish a lasting peace in Ireland. At that time we held five public meetings and received 228 oral and written submissions.

``Since then Sinn Fein have continued with this outreach approach through the organisation of aregular public forums, nationally and internationally and also through contact with a wide range of political, community, business and church opinion.

``One of the difficulties of the current talks process is that most people have been largely excluded. We believe that a more open process allowing for greater involvement from acommunities is critical if we are to build a lasting settlement which can accommodate the rights of everyone.

``To assist in this task Sinn Fein have decided to establish a commission under the title of ``Our Future - A United Ireland.'' The objectives of this commission are:

To allow people to become pro-active in shaping the outcome of this phase of the negotiations

To consult with the widest possible spectrum of public and private opinion as to their vision of the future

``Sinn Fein are inviting submissions from individuals, elected representatives, members of trade unions, voluntary organisations, youth groups, church groups etc. We are calling on people to cavail of what is envisaged as a platform for all those who have a view of the type of Ireland they want to see emerging in the future.

``Sinn Fein believe that we are now at the beginning of a process which will ultimately lead to Irish unity. Republicans see a 32 county republic, working through a new relationship with our nearest neighbours as the best way to eradicate the range of political, social, economic and other inequalities which affect the people of the island.

``There are other models. Which of these is to eventually replace the current failure of partition is a matter for the people of Ireland to decide. What is essential is that people are fully informed as to what is happening in the talks process and are given every possible opportunity and encouragement to get involved in the work that lies ahead in building a new, agreed Ireland.

``The first hearing of the commission will take place in the Writers Museum, Parnell Square, Dublin on 28th March. The second, for the North West, will be held in the Firtrees Hotel, Strabane on 4th April. Further hearings will take place in Cork City on the 25th April and Dungannon on 2nd May.''

Submissions can be made by e-mail. Please send to: sinnfein@irlnet.com

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