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British government must step up to the plate

29 May, 2014 - by Gerry Adams TD


Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD is in Washington today meeting with senior political figures on Capitol Hill and officials from both the State Department and White House.

The Sinn Féin leader is briefing them on the current difficulties in the peace process and the steps that are needed to resolve them.

Mr Adams said: “The Irish and British governments cannot sit back and place responsibility for progress on the Executive parties in the north. It is clear from the 20 years of the peace process that unless the British government signs up for progress unionism will refuse to move. In the weeks ahead the British government must step up to the plate and deliver on outstanding agreements and enhance the context for new agreements on legacy issues, parades and flags and emblems.”

The Sinn Féin leader said:

“The peace process is in difficulty. Much of this derives from the failure of the Irish and British governments, but especially the British government, to honour its obligations under the Good Friday and other agreements, and its refusal to support the Haass/O’Sullivan proposals.

Thus far the only contribution in recent times by the British government to the process has been to encourage unionist intransigence. Theresa Villiers, the British Secretary of State, has been explicitly partisan in championing a unionist agenda.

The effect of the British government’s mishandling of the situation has been to reinforce political logjams. As a consequence politics in the north are now defined by inertia, and public confidence in the political institutions have been being undermined. This situation is unacceptable and unsustainable.

If Mr Cameron is serious about reaching agreement on the issues of contention then he needs to demonstrate a willingness to make progress on those matters arising out of the various agreements on Good Friday 1998, at Weston Park, St Andrew’s and Hillsborough, which have still not been implemented.

These include the Bill of Rights, the all-Ireland Charter of Rights, Acht na Gaeilge, the North South Consultative Forum, the Civic Forum and the inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane. These are not matters for negotiation. They are agreements made and are the responsibility of the British and Irish governments to implement.

Nor can the Irish and British governments sit back and try to place all of the responsibility for progress on the Executive parties in the north. It is clear from the 20 years of the peace process that unless the British government signs up for progress unionism will refuse to move.

There is therefore a huge onus on Mr Cameron to take positive decisions that enhance the political context for agreement. Persuading unionist leaders to move forward through an intensive process of discussions will only work if the British government constructively engages and provides those parties with clear and positive leadership.

There is a small window of opportunity between now and July which must be fully utilised to negotiate agreements on outstanding issues, including legacy issues, parades, and flags and emblems.

The peace process is in trouble.  It cannot be allowed to meander.  The road has too many pitfalls.  There are too many powerful elements on the fringes of nationalism, within unionism and the British system, which want to derail the process and build obstacles to it.  For all the issues pressing down upon people’s lives every single day, the people of this island, the diaspora and the international community believe in the peace process. Our efforts in the time ahead must be to ensure continuing progress and the full implementation of outstanding issues.”ENDS/CRÍOCH

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