[Sinn Fein]

7 May 1998

Adams launches Ard Chomhairle recommendations

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP speaking this morning at a press conference to outline the Party Leaderships proposals for this weekend's Ard Fheis said:

``As you know the Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle has discussed the Good Friday document at great length. We did so in the context of our strategy, tactics and goals. At our meeting on Tuesday we decided to put forward recommendations to the reconvened Ard Fheis this weekend. There will be other resolutions arguing for different positions from within the party. It will be for the Ard Fheis to debate and vote on all of these motions.

``Having thoroughly debated this matter the Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle is recommending to the Ard Fheis that it supports a `yes' vote in both states. This is in the context of our absolute rejection of partition, of the unionist veto and of British rule.

``The Ard Chomhairle appreciates and understands the difficulties which a `yes' vote presents to some republicans and that they may wish to vote otherwise. This is reflected in the Ard Chomhairle resolution.

``During the negotiations Sinn Fein opposed the proposition for an Assembly. At the same time we sought to remove the unionist veto from this institution. We succeeded in that objective, although of course, we have yet to convince unionism to accept the rights and entitlements of nationalists and republicans. There is much work still to be done.

``The Ard Chomhairle is also proposing that the party constitution be amended to enable candidates to stand in the elections on the basis of participation in the Assembly both as a way of ensuring maximum republican representation in the North/South Council and with the objective of expanding the all-Ireland structures.

``This is in keeping with our view that Sinn Fein must remain at the centre of the political process and that the Good Friday document can be developed. It also marks the commencement of a new phase in which we will make further advances towards our political objectives.

``It is also important to realise that the Good Friday document is not a political settlement, and the referendums do not constitute the exercise of national self-determination.

``Sinn Fein remains totally wedded to our peace strategy. Peace requires change and change as we have said many times presents difficulties and creates trauma.

``We want to see an end to all killings and we have worked energetically to bring this about. I have said many times that I regret and indeed I am sorry that so many people have been killed. I have acknowledged the hurt which republicans have inflicted.

``But in the debate around the issues of prisoners and of decommissioning there has been a lack of balance on these difficult matters. This is deeply hurtful to the many people who are victims of the British forces, whether as a result of the overt actions of the British Crown Forces on our streets or the covert actions of their dirty tricks or military intelligence units. The peace process is not concluded. The recent killings of two catholics and a number of bomb attacks, including one on the home of Brendan Curran, are evidence that we do not yet have peace.

``Indeed Brendan Curran's case is a tragic illustration of the point I am trying to make. He and his family have been the victim of a series of attacks, including one on his parents home in which he was seriously injured, and another in which his partner Sheena Campbell was killed. Yet Brendan exemplifies a great generosity of spirit, despite the fact that no one has ever been convicted for these attacks. What of those murdered by plastic bullets? What of the hundreds of murderers in the British Army and RUC who have never served a single day in prison for their actions and who have been protected by the legal, judicial and political system.

``The resolution of these issues presents huge challenges.

``So too does the issue of decommissioning. There are continuing efforts to resurrect this issue as a barrier to progress, as a means of undermining the rights of the Sinn Fein electorate. Let me spell out once again our views on this issue.

``Sinn Fein wants to see all of the guns taken out of Irish politics and we will continue to work for that.

``We are all aware that it is those who cry loudest about decommissioning IRA weapons who have done little about silencing those weapons. It is the silencing of those weapons that is one of the big achievements of our time.

``There may be genuine fears about the intentions of the IRA but as an Irish republican I can tell you that I have genuine fears about the intentions of the unionists and the British government.

``Such distrust is common within our society and we must work to overcome it.

``The IRA has made it clear that it will not surrender its weapons. So have the other armed groups.

``Sinn Fein is not an armed group. We are not the IRA and we do not intend to allow the rights of our electorate to be subverted in any way.

``We go into the next phase of this struggle armed only with our mandate, our political ideas and four determination to continue with our strategies until we achieve our totally legitimate and logical objective of Irish unity.'' ``In our opinion, the Good Friday document is a basis for further progress and advancement in the struggle for national and democratic rights. It weakens the union, it is all Ireland in character and promotes conditions for advancing the equality, rights and justice agendas. It is another staging post on the road to a peace settlement. It does not go as far as we would have liked at this time but it is clearly transitional.

``This document certainly presents challenges to all sides including Sinn Fein. Shirking challenge is not part of our make up. Presenting others with democratic challenges certainly is.''

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