5 June 1997
Adams calls for a ``Culture of Rights''
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP, in his first major statement following the party's success in the Westminster and local council elections, has called for the ``early implementation of a culture of rights to bring about equality for all our citizens. It must be developed in our schools, in our homes, in our places of work and entertainment, in government departments and agencies, in local councils, in every layer of our society.''
Mr. Adams said:
At the heart of objections by the Unionist leaderships to efforts to put in place a real peace process is the fear of change. Unionism is dominated by this fear of change, by a defensiveness which isolates it, and stifles its ability to look beyond its own larger wall. Defensiveness and isolation produce a way of life unprepared for change.
The northern state was founded on these twin elements and sustained by a culture of discrimination, inequality and intolerance. Whether a `democracy' is functioning morally or not depends on the morality of the ends it pursues and the means it employs. Clearly in this context the north has never been democratic.
Despite the obvious flaws in the British statelet in Ireland there were those nationalists who believed that nationalist rights could still be guaranteed within it. Drumcree, the cave-in by the British government over the demand by the Orange Order to march down the Garvaghy Road, the continuing siege of Catholics at Harryville and the constant rejection by the unionist leaderships of any progressive proposals for change, reminded most of the truly corrupt nature of the state. But it is British policy which underpins this environment and which has prevented real change from occurring.
This is intolerable. Nationalists will not accept a second class status. We demand equality. We demand change. We will accept nothing less.
Equality Must be a Fact
Equality is not an illusion. Republicans want to make it a fact of life for every man, woman and child on this island. In seeking to advance this goal Sinn Fein seeks a strong and effective culture of rights which guarantees equality for all citizens. We seek equality of opportunity and equality of treatment for every citizen, regardless of race, colour, gender, sexuality, religion, politics or disability.
We seek the right of every person to have a decent job with a just wage.
We seek the right of every family to live in a decent home, in a decent neighbourhood, free from the scourge of drugs, poverty and unemployment.
We seek the right of every individual to be protected from hardship when ill or in retirement.
We seek the right of every person to legal protection from injustice and discrimination.
We seek the right of every Irish person to think, to vote, to speak, to read and to worship as they please. Every citizen should have the right to information.
We seek the right of every person to be properly educated from nursery right through to third level education. All education should be treated on the basis of equality and parity of esteem.
We seek the right of every citizen to proper security.
And finally we seek the right of every person to be free from violence, intimidation and fear.
A New Beginning
There must be no artificial distinctions, no arbitrary barriers standing in the way of these rights.
These are not minority rights but rights which every Irish person should enjoy.
There is nothing complicated, or unreasonable about these goals or their achievement. But they will not be achieved without leadership and it is our task to provide that leadership.
The fact is that the old ways have all been tried and have failed. What we want to do is to open the history book and write our own chapter.
A new beginning is not be a pipe dream, a glib phrase used by political leaders to sell a line - a new beginning is a necessity.
The Republican vision of the future begins with all of us seeking to build a greater respect for each other. Of reaching out to work together in partnership, sharing the risks as we overcome divisions and obstacles and seek accommodation.
Our future will be one in which we evolve new structures, through mutual respect and dialogue, which allow for the full participation of every person.
Our vision must embrace and satisfactorily resolve the issues of democracy and power, peace and economic development and the relationships between all sections of our people.
It is a vision which is responsive to the needs of nationalists and unionists.
Inequality and social exclusion are the enemies of peace. Partnership will empower and improve the quality of life by being open, inclusive and democratic.
The Republican vision sees every person owning the new structures of our society, as well as the peace. Our partnership will bring out the best from each as we strive to achieve common goals.
It is also essential that we recognise that peace is a two way street which requires good communication and mutual support.
Our future must have trust. At this time trust is in short supply but then trust is rarely present at the start of a political process because there is generally no basis for it.
What is needed now is a working relationship which is open to the idea that trust is possible and can be worked for. Responsiveness from the participants is the key to building trust in partnerships and for the future.
The Imperative of Peace
It was Senator Mitchell who advised, ``If the focus remains on the past, the past will become the future and that is something that no one can desire.''
Slamming doors to dialogue, marginalising and abusing people, reinforcing prejudice and mindsets, these and much more led to a bloody cycle of conflict.
The imperative now must be to rebuild the peace process and break this cycle. That requires a fresh approach, new language and new thinking.
Sinn Fein wants to play our full part in making that possible. We are in a peace settlement mode. We want to achieve a democratic settlement which will remove forever the threat or use of force by any side.
Progress is dependent upon the creation of a meaningful and inclusive process of negotiation. We share a common responsibility to make that happen. It will require frank and genuine dialogue and good faith.
More than anything else at this time it needs the British government to move decisively onto an equality of treatment agenda.
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