20 June 1996
The following is an article written for The Irish Times by the Sinn Fein President, Mr Gerry Adams:
THE bomb attack in Manchester last Saturday and the killing eight days earlier of Garda Jerry McCabe have clearly caused personal anguish to the family and friends of Garda McCabe and to those injured in Manchester, as well as grave political difficulties.
Sinn Fein has made its position absolutely clear on both these incidents.
Obviously, these difficulties need to be addressed and overcome. This requires an even greater urgency and application to the task of restoring the peace process. They cannot become a cause of paralysis or worse still return us to the old and failed agenda of sustained exclusion.
The road to peace was always going to be difficult. What we are attempting to do is very ambitious, as well as risky and dangerous. We are seeking for the first time in Irish history and in the relationship between Ireland and Britain, to successfully resolve the deep-rooted issues which lie at the heart of the conflict.
Of course, that was never going be easy but Sinn Fein's priority and the solemn promise which our party made to the electorate in the North two weeks ago is to do all we can; to leave no avenue unexplored; to raise no obstacles to dialogue and to pursue vigorously and with determination the restoration of the peace process, an agreed peace settlement and a permanent end to all armed actions.
We do not yet have an end to conflict but Sinn Fein's contribution to the efforts to bring about a peace settlement has been significant, consistent and central to creating the opportunity which I firmly believe still exists. I am determined that Sinn Fein's focus will not be deflected from our endeavours nor will we allow the commitment which we have brought to the search for a lasting peace be devalued or discarded.
I am asked if Sinn Fein support the armed struggle of the IRA. I want to see an end to all armed actions. Some members of Sinn Fein, like those in other parties, may have a different view, but Sinn Fein policy on the conflict is contained in our peace strategy. Sinn Fein is not the IRA. Sinn Fein is not involved in armed struggle. Sinn Fein does not advocate armed struggle. We are totally and absolutely committed to democratic and peaceful methods of resolving political problems.
The core element in our peace strategy is establishing a way to do this. Sinn Fein has, since 1987, pursued that strategy, which was a key element in the creation of the Irish peace initiative and the eventual development of the Irish peace process. Those who put together the peace process in 1994 did so in very difficult circumstances and against a backdrop of substantially greater conflict. Our collective efforts at that time brought about the political conditions which resulted in the IRA deciding to enhance the opportunity for peace by calling a complete cessation of military operations.
For 18 months the IRA cessation held, creating an unprecedented opportunity for real and meaningful negotiations. Yet despite all the promises and commitments publicly given there was not one word of negotiation during that 18-month period. The British government erected one obstacle after another. These difficulties, too, must now be overcome. Confidence must be created.
The gulf of distrust which now exists must be bridged. In all of this Sinn Fein is seeking no special favours. We are imposing no preconditions. We seek only the opportunity to engage on the same basis as every one else in a process of democratic negotiations. The right of voters to elect representatives of their choice is a fundamental democratic principle which cannot be set aside because governments don't like the outcome of an elective process which the British government imposed.
The Irish government has a responsibility to defend the principle of equality and to uphold the rights of all voters on this island. Political isolation does not work. Exclusion does not work. These are failed policies. They can make no constructive contribution to thedevelopment of a real process of negotiation. It is illogical to believe that peace can be built on a policy which deliberately ignores the voice of a significant section of people on this island.
Dialogue provides the only real hope for progress in the present difficult circumstances.
Restoring the peace process therefore is not just our responsibility. Everyone has a role to play and especially the two governments. In recent months I have remained in contact with John Hume and with the White House. There has also been an intense and substantive dialogue between Sinn Fein representatives and with the Irish Government. During its recent review of its contact with Sinn Fein the Government asked had I gone to the IRA ``to ask for a cease-fire, and if not, why not?''. The Government knows that I have been in regular contact with representatives of the IRA leadership in an effort to restore the peace process. I was not acting as a conduit between the IRA and the Irish Government so although I understand the difficulties facing the Government I was surprised by their question and by the way it was put. Perhaps they thought there wasn't enough progress or, in the wake of the killing of Garda McCabe, that they could do no more at that time. But all of Sinn Fein's efforts and the efforts of everyone we were in contact with was with the clear aim of rebuilding the collapsed peace process. Up until the tragic killing of Garda McCabe the engagement with the Irish Government was particularly constructive. We were making progress. It is also my view that the Government was much more focused recently than at other times, especially in their negotiations with the British leading up to the agreement of June 6th.
From my contact with the IRA representatives it is clear that they view the British government's stance as the biggest obstacle to any effort to bring about a restoration of their cessation. The British government's bad faith, so evident during the 18 month cessation, is at the core of all of this. Their refusal to have any contact with republicans exacerbates this difficulty for those of us who want to play a constructive role in resolving these difficulties.
In the present circumstances it is a matter of even greater urgency that these difficulties are resolved. That needs to be our primary focus at this time.
This is an enormous task. It is a difficult task. However, I am convinced that working together we can achieve what previous generations failed to win - a permanent peace built on a solid foundation of agreement, justice and democracy.
Sinn Fein Press Office, 44 Parnell Square, Dublin 1
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