27 March 1999
A solid record of commitment to peace in Ireland
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams MP, speaking at todays meeting of the party's Ard Chomhairle in Dublin has welcomed the British Secretary of State's commitment today to trigger D'Hondt next week. Mr. Trimble muist now implement the spirit and letter of the Agreement, and work with Sinn Fein, the two governments and the other parties, to overcome outstanding problems and to move into the next stage of the peace process- the establishment of the Executive and all-Ireland bodies. this is the next staging post.''
Speaking at the Ard Chomhairle Gerry Adams spelt out Sinn Fein's record of achievement and good faith in the search for a democratic peace settlement. The Sinn Fein leader also restated his preparedness to ``stretch Republicans further but we want the UUP and the other parties to stretch with us and to work in partnership with us to move the peace process forward.''
Mr. Adams said:
``Sinn Fein's peace strategy, and our constructive and flexible approach to overcoming difficulties, have played a crucial role in the evolving peace process. In 1991 in our document `Towards A lasting Peace' we argued for the creation of a peace process and identified measures capable of developing success.
Throughout this period, and indeed pre-dating it, Sinn Fein has established an indisputable record of total commitment to the peace process and to the consensus objective of removing the causes of conflict in Ireland.
Most of the numerous political initiatives in the recent past have been taken by Sinn Fein unilaterally or as part of the wider political leadership of nationalists Ireland.
When the IRA announced their first cessation in 1994, the response of the then British Government was to demand the decommissioning to prevent the commencement of inclusive negotiations in the full knowledge that the IRA would not surrender.
Unionists seized on this demand as a tactical means to obstruct and delay the process of change which has flowed from the peace process itself.
It should also be remembered that if the unionists had had their way, their demands for decommissioning would have prevented the second IRA cessation, would have prevented inclusive negotiations and would have blocked the Good Friday Agreement. The response of the political leadership of Unionism throughout has been variously obstructive, negative and reluctant.
For over 10 years now, Sinn Fein's primary focus as a political party has been , our peace strategy and the development with others of a process to resolve the causes of conflict and deliver a lasting peace settlement. Since the first joint statement by Gerry Adams and John Hume in April 1993, which publicly kick started the peace process, we have collectively made significant progress towards that objective. Who could have imagined then that we would have had the IRA cessations and inclusive negotiations, much less an agreement and its endorsement by the vast majority of the people of Ireland. The progress we have made resulted from hard work and determination, and a willingness to take risks and initiates.
Along with other leaders of nationalist Ireland Sinn Fein played a pivotal role over a period of years in creating the conditions which allowed us to persuade the IRA to call a unilateral cessation of military operations in 1994. Sinn Fein played a key role in securing the total and unequivocal cessation by the IRA in July 1997. The disciplined maintenance of the IRA cessation made the negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement possible.
In September 1994, before the Mitchell Principles were conceived our party President Gerry Adams pledged, in conjunction with John Hume and the then Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, our total commitment to democratic and peaceful methods of resolving political problems.
We engaged positively with the International Body on Decommissioning in 1995 and 1996 in an attempt to resolve the impasse created by John Major's demands for an IRA surrender.
Despite the self- evident bad faith of the Major government we used our influence to sustain the first IRA cessation for a full seventeen months up to the rejection by John Major of the report of the International Body on Decommissioing.
Republicans worked tirelessly throughout the summer of 1996, deploying our most senior party members on the ground, night after night, to calm the situation and to positively influence the response of the nationalist community to the six county wide events surrounding Drumcree. Likewise in July 1997 when the British Government and the RUC literally trampled over the rights of nationalists on the Garvaghy Road we acted decisively.
Sinn Fein's record of achievement is substantive:
- we continuously took political intiative throughout 1996 and 1997, often with John Hume, to put the peace process back on track and succeeded in this in 1997.
- In December 1997- February 1998 we worked tirelessly to keep the process on track in the face of the concerted loyalist murder campaign which left eleven nationalists dead and almost a hundred wounded in shooting attacks aimed at mass killings.
- In September 1997 we affirmed our commitment to the Mitchell Principles.
- Throughout the talks we participated constructively in the work of the liaison sub-committee on decommissioning.
- Sinn Fein is the only major party in the North of Ireland to have appointed a senior party representative to meet with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning. The other major parties- the UUP, the SDLP and the DUP have not followed this example. Indeed the DUP has yet to meet the Commission.
- Since the Good Friday Agreement we have continued to use our influence positively to effect its full implementation. We secured our party support for the Agreement in both referendums. Despite the risk of a destabilising effect on our own constituency, we sought and secured the support of our party membership to amend our constitution. We removed a 75-year ban on members taking seats in any Northern Assembly, to allow us to fully participate fully in the new institutions established in accordance with the terms of the Agreement.
- In the run up to last Septembers visit by President Clinton we took a series of intiatives to help move the situation out of the political vacuum caused by the failure to implement the Agreement. Gerry Adams' statement on 1st September repeated Sinn Fein's commitment to make conflict a thing of the past, emphasised that inclusive and honest dialogue is the only way forward, and unequivocally set out our belief that the violence we have see must for all of us be a thing of the past, over done with and gone.
- That statement along with Martin McGuinness subsequent appointment as Sinn Fein's representative to meet with the IICD were welcomed and acknowledged as important political intiatives and confidence building measures by the US President Bill Clinton, An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern and the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. The Unionist response was begrudging and negative.
Pre-Conditions are no part of Sinn Fein's approach to peace making.
A number of vitally important issues were addressed by the Agreement but not resolved. Instead mechanisms by which this might prove to be possible were agreed. Among these are, human rights, policing, justice, equality in all its dimensions, decommissioning and the demilitarisation of society.
No one should be in any doubt about how strongly nationalists feel about Unionists militias- the RUC and RIR- who still patrol our streets. Or a justice system which has perpetuated the repression of nationalists for generations. Or the system or pervasive inequalities which has rendered nationalists second class citizens for decades. Or the denial of human rights across the whole spectrum of issue. Nor should they doubt how central the resolution of these issues is to a lasting peace settlement.
All of these are keys issues which must be politically resolved if we are to effectively remove the causes of conflict and build a lasting peace settlement. They are indispensable objectives of an evolving process. All require resolution. But for any party to make any of these important issues a precondition to the implementation of the institutional provisions of the Agreement is an act of bad faith which breaches and therefore threatens the entire Agreement.
At this point, as agreed, what is required is the establishment of the Executive and all-Ireland bodies. This is the next staging post.
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