23 September 1997
`Get on with the business of making peace' - Adams
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams did not read from a script today when responding to the UUP's submission seeking Sinn Fein's exclusion from the talks process.
The following quotes are taken from notes taken at the time of Mr. Adams five minute response:
``Thank you Ken (Ken Maginnis read the Unionist submission) for that. You're very welcome here today. The loyalist parties are very welcome also.
``I read through the indictment which you sent to Senator Mitchell last week. You said that you wished to make your indictment on two grounds; these were the IRA interview in An Phoblacht and the Markethill bomb.
``These were the two grounds which you said were the basis for your demand for our exclusion. I have to say that I heard nothing of significance or consequence in what you had to say about these matters. Your attitude and comments today have been deliberately provocative and hypocritical.
``I have no intention of responding point by point but I want to refute what you have said and I want to draw your attention to the minutes of the plenaries which dealt with these matters.
``I reject your assertion that Sinn Fein is the IRA. We are here as of right on the basis of our electoral mandate to put our republican analysis.
``I have listened carefully in recent weeks to the provocative comments of Unionists saying that they intend confronting Sinn Fein.
``Despite this provocation our commitment is to build a democratic peace settlement which includes all of our people. Conflict has touched everyone. We all share in the responsibility for creating and sustaining the conditions for conflict. So we all must take a responsibility for resolving it; for building a lasting and just peace.
``One of the difficulties is that no section of our people understands fully the suffering ensured by other sections. I acknowledge that it is likely that republicans don't fully understand or comprehend the suffering which unionists and loyalists have endured, or the suffering of the families of British soldiers.
``It is also likely that Unionists and loyalists don't understand what nationalists and republicans have suffered and endured. But the difference between us and the Ulster Unionists is that Sinn Fein is prepared to listen to them and to engage with them and to try to reach out to them.
``Nineteen members of Sinn Fein have been killed, family members have been killed and scores have been injured in attacks. That's an awful lot of pain, an awful lot of funerals. People who stood for our party or who worked during elections knew that when they signed up for us they could be signing a death warrant and they did so to uphold democratic principles and the democratic rights of our electorate.
``I say this not to recriminate. If I wanted to do that or to indict others I could point to Ken Maginnis and Jeffrey Donaldson, two former members of the UDR, a disreputable force which was disbanded by the British government because of its appalling sectarian record.
``I could indict the British government. I could indict the loyalists.
``I don't want to do that. I want to get on with the business of making all of this a thing of our past. We will not be deflected from this. We want to get down to the real business of negotiating peace.
Sinn Fein signed up to the Mitchell Principles. We didn't do so lightly. We will honour our commitments.''
Gerry Adams spoke later. He addressed his remarks directly to the UUP representatives who were left behind. Mr. Adams said that they should ask their leadership to remember that ``leaders should never ask anyone else to do anything that they are not prepared to do themselves.''
The Sinn Fein leader said that in the course of their indictment the Ulster Unionists had also indicted the new Labour government, the SDLP and the Irish government. Mr. Adams appealed to the Unionists ``to look forward. The main business has to be the substantive business of real peace talks. I know this is a difficult time for everyone but I want to get to know the unionists, to listen to them, to know them individually, as well as a political party.''
Sinn Fein's Chief Negotiator, Martin McGuinness also spoke. He said that the Unionist contribution was ``more hysterical than historical but I recognise that despite everyone else's frustration that this was a big step for the UUP and the smaller loyalist parties.''
He said that everyone ``is at a crossroads. This business of making peace is a matter of life and death. All of us could look backwards and every party brings their own baggage into this process. There is a collective responsibility upon leaders to look to the future. The talks could end in failure and I often wonder how far we would have progressed if John Major had not been the British Prime Minister in 1994. Perhaps we would not have succeeded but Sinn Fein tried then and Sinn Fein is trying now.''
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