Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Sinn Féin submission to plenary session of the peace talks in Dublin Castle

Sinn Féin's peace strategy, and our dialogue with others, is based on the political analysis that the only way to peacefully and permanently resolve the differences among those of us who share this island, and between Ireland and Britain, is through meaningful and inclusive negotiations which remove the causes of conflict.

Over a protracted period Sinn Féin have made strenuous efforts to effect this. Our peace strategy spans a decade or more. We pursued it against the odds. We held out hope where others counselled despair. We took the initiative in concrete ways to advance the objective of peace.

That there is a peace process at all is largely a result of the efforts of, initially myself and John Hume, and then of the Irish government and of a section of Irish America. And, most importantly, the support demonstrated for these initiatives by national and democratic opinion in Ireland and beyond. Notably US President Bill Clinton lent his support in broad and specific ways. Cross party support in the US Congress was and is an important element.

Any objective review of recent years will show that risk taking by republicans was the major catalyst for the opportunity which now exists. Moreover, our political integrity throughout is unassailable. We have honoured, absolutely, every commitment given. For our part, we have not bowed to political expediencies instanced by political exigencies at given points. We have been unswervingly consistent.

The indictment against Sinn Féin today is without foundation and can only undermine the potential of the peace process. Sinn Fein is being indicted over the killing of two men in Belfast. We categorically state that Sinn Fein had no involvement in these events.

We note that the British government stated on Monday that "it has been the consistent position of the British government that participation in these negotiations requires total and absolute commitment to the principles of democracy and non-violence set out in paragraph 20 of the Report of the International Body. Any party which demonstrably dishonours its commitment to those principles ceases to be eligible to participate in the negotiations".

In practice, effect has been given to this position in the form of excluding a participant in only one instance. On 26 January 1998 the two governments concluded that the UDP which represents the UFF was no longer entitled to participate in the negotiations on account of UFF involvement in sectarian murders. The facts of this are incontrovertible. The UFF in a statement of 23 January publicly admitted that it was responsible for the murder of three catholics.

What is demonstrably in question is that this represents a consistent position of the British government. In taking 'appropriate action' under Rule 29 of the Rules of Procedure the action by the two governments in this single instance related to the deaths of three people only. That is Edmund Treanor, Larry Brennan and Ben Hughes who were killed between 31 December 1997 and 21 January 1998. It did not relate in any way to the deaths of six other catholics who were killed in the period between 5 December 1997 and 24 January 1998. Six other deaths which occurred before the two governments acted on 26 January 1998 including two deaths which occurred after the UFF statement of 23 January 1998.

These are:

  • 5 December Gerry Devlin, Belfast
  • 27 DecemberSeamus Dillon, Dungannon
  • 11 JanuaryTerry Enright, Belfast
  • 19 January Fergal McCusker, Maghera
  • and within 24 hours of the UFF statement of 23 January
  • 23 January Liam Conway, Belfast
  • 24 JanuaryJohn McColgan, Belfast

The British government has made no formal representation to the Independent Chairmen in relation to these deaths. What organisations are responsible for them? Has the British government sought an assessment from the RUC on these matters? Sinn Fein asked the Secretary of State why no representation had been made in relation to the killings of JohnMcColgan and Liam Conway, both of whom were murdered after the UFF claimed to have re-instated its cessation.

Dr Mowlam stated that she had been given no assessment on who was responsible for these murders. It appears that the RUC assessments are only forthcoming in the context of killings allegedly carried out by republicans.

Moreover, killings by loyalist organisations extend back far beyond the recent killing spree which commenced with the death of Gerry Devlin on 5 December 1997. This includes the period between 10 June 1996 when the talks process formally commenced and the death of Gerry Devlin last December.

These include:

  • July 96 Michael McGoldrick, Lurgan, a catholic taxi driver
  • March 97 John Slane, Belfast, a catholic shot in his home
  • May 97 Sean Brown, Bellaghy, a GAA official
  • June 97 Robert Bates, Belfast, an ex-loyalist prisoner
  • July 97 Bernadette Martin, Aghalee, a catholic girl shot in her protestant boyfriend's house.
  • October 97 Glen Greer, Bangor, a protestant man, blown up in his car by a bomb
  • In addition, killings by loyalists by means other than bomb and bullet include:
  • January 97 Presbyterian Minister David Templeton, beaten to death
  • May 97 Robert Hamill, Portadown, a Catholic youth beaten to death while the RUC patrol looked on.
  • July 97 James Morgan, Co Down, a Catholic boy abducted and beaten to death.

A number of attempted murders by loyalists have also occurred.

These include:

  • June 97 Attempted murder by bomb of Sinn Fein Councillor James McCarry in Ballycastle.
  • Sept 97 Parcel bomb sent by post to Colin Duffy, Lurgan
  • Dec 97 Attempted murder by shooting of Jackie Mahood, a former PUP talks delegate
  • Dec 97 - Feb 98: In the loyalist murder spree conducted in this period loyalists attempted to kill up to 30 Catholics.
  • From 10 June to the present almost 100 Catholics have been shot by loyalists.

Throughout the period of the loyalist's conditional cessation and the period since the commencement of the talks process in June 1996 violence, the threat of violence and intimidation have been consistent. These are far too numerous to record here but they include;