24 September 1997
Sinn Fein Statement on the Procedural Motion
I would like to congratulate the participants at tonight's plenary for moving this process into the negotiation of substantive issues.
Sinn Fein intends to support the Procedural Motion moving this process into substantive negotiations. We are committed to inclusive negotiations.
But most of this motion, as we know, focuses on decommissioning. It is about Unionists trying to rework the words of the two governments. It is an attempt to retain decommissioning as a blockage in negotiations. Sinn Fein is against that. Therefore Sinn Fein is voting against Section 2(b) of this Motion.
Given that preconditions to negotiations caused the collapse of the peace process in February 1996, it is clear that all obstacles need to be avoided. In particular, given its destructive effect, the decommissioning obstacle should not be resurrected either now or in the future.
The removal of all guns from Irish politics is a clear objective of a lasting peace settlement. Given the importance of this objective the approach should be one which is most likely to succeed rather than one which blocks and disrupts the wider negotiations which are based on the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. The issue of disarmament needs to be resolved but without blocking the negotiations.
Sinn Fein has already stated our willingness to address all aspects of the Report of the International Body in the context of our participation in inclusive negotiations. We will work with the Independent Commission in the context of our peace strategy and in the interest of advancing the peace process.
Sinn Fein is prepared to consider any proposals which address the need to take all the guns out of Irish politics and we will be putting forward, for consideration, our proposals on this issue.
It is worth noting that the two governments have acknowledged their responsibility to carry the process forward without blocking negotiations and that decommissioning cannot be imposed as a pre-condition or as an absolute obligation but requires the co-operation of those in possession of weapons.
On the issue of consent, Sinn Fein wants to see a settlement that seeks and wins the consent of all sections of our people. Consent is a two way street. It is up to the Unionists and the British government to win nationalist consent in the same way as we seek to win their consent. This is especially pertinent for the Unionists at this time.
We have seen how the Unionists have used the issue of consent. For example, in their press statement of 17 September 1997, they claim that `both governments have now accepted that the principle of consent will apply to all aspects of the Talks and any Agreements emerging therefrom'. We do not think that any party here, with the exception of the Unionists, would go along with this notion in that unqualified form.
Sinn Fein's view is that consent needs to be put in an all Ireland context which means bringing about a radical transformation of the situation by ending partition and British jurisdiction. We accept that other parties have a different view. The nationalist parties agree that an internal settlement is not a solution. The Framework Document indicates an all Ireland settlement is required.
We look forward to putting to the other participants our republican analysis and our vision for a new Ireland, united and democratic, and at peace.
We also look forward to listening to the views of the others including the unionists.
Our shared responsibility is to now make peace a reality.
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