[Sinn Fein]

20 November 1997

Sinn Fein meet with Fianna Fáil

A Sinn Fein delegation, led by party Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin today met with members of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party in Leinster House. The meeting, which is one of a series of discussions currently taking place, primarily discussed ways and means of strengthening and building on the Irish Peace Process. The Sinn Fein delegation included, TD for Cavan and Monaghan Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, General Secretary Lucilita Bhreatnach, Ard Chomhairle member Councillor Joe Reilly and party representative for Dublin South West Seán Crowe.

Speaking following the meeting Deputy ó Caoláin said:

``Today's meeting was highly constructive with a broad ranging discussion on the urgent need for movement in the Stormont talks. We are encouraged by this afternoon's meeting between Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and leader of the Ulster Unionists David Trimble and hope that it will lead to a more positive engagement in the talks by the Unionists.

``A full engagement from Unionism is necessary if progress is to be made and this means dealing with all issues on the table. It is unhelpful for Mr. Trimble to suggest that Articles 2 and 3 should be discussed separately from the Government of Ireland Act. A lasting political settlement will require fundamental change in the constitutional status of the six counties. We emphasised the common positions of both Sinn Fein and Fianna Fáil, that a United Ireland is both desirable and practical, and encouraged those who support a United Ireland to argue their case clearly.

``Emphasis was placed on the responsibility of people throughout the island to take ownership of the peace process and not to leave it solely in the hands of those in the talks.

``There was a comprehensive discussion on the heavy handed attitude of the British Army and RUC on the ground in the six counties and the ongoing expansion of military fortifications. Sinn Fein welcomed the announcement of the withdrawal of 200 members of the Parachute Regiment. However the stark reality is that there has been no reduction in troop levels on the ground in nationalist areas.

``Grave concern was voiced at the behaviour of both the British Army and RUC, particularly in relation to Lurgan man Colin Duffy but it was stressed that this is just one example of the harassment of nationalists which is occurring daily.

``We welcomed the recent visits of Fianna Fail TDs to political prisoners in England and the six counties and urged similar involvement on the wide range of equality issues which must be addressed without delay.

``The meeting also addressed issues relating to political prisoners and the position of the Sinn Fein TD in Leinster House.''

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