Winning support for Irish Unity - Adams
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD is in New York attending the annual Friends of Sinn Féin dinner. He is accompanied by Deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald TD and Sinn Féin leader in the North Michelle O’Neill MLA.
Gerry Adams briefed his Irish American audience on the current state of the negotiations in the North to restore the political institutions. He said: “Sinn Féin remains open to dialogue and is in contact with the DUP”. And he spoke of the threat posed by Brexit.
The Sinn Féin President spoke about the generational change and ten-year plan for the party that will be part of next week’s Ard Fheis.
He told the packed event that Irish America has a huge role to play in winning the right to a referendum on Irish unity and winning the vote. He urged Irish America to put Irish unity on the political agenda in the USA. And he called on the Irish government not to undermine the Good Friday Agreement commitment on this.
Commenting on the negotiations to restore the political institutions Gerry Adams said:
“Sinn Féin remains open to dialogue and is in contact with the DUP. We are determined to do all we can to ensure that the institutions and the Executive are restored. But they can only be restored on the basis that they are sustainable and durable. They must represent all sections of our society and deliver for everyone.
Last week, despite the valiant efforts of Michelle O’Neill and our negotiating team it was not possible to conclude an agreement with the DUP. Regrettably, they are not prepared yet to embrace the rights based agenda that was agreed in previous negotiations.
Irish speakers in the North want the same rights as our neighbours in Scotland and Wales and in the 26 counties all of whom have a legal entitlement to use Scots Gaelic or Welsh or Irish.
If the Good Friday Agreement is to mean anything – if respect and equality and parity of esteem are to be meaningful in people’s lives and not just words on paper – then the right to converse in Irish – must be respected in our society.
These issues are not going away. If they are not dealt with now they will have to be dealt with up the road; and sooner rather than later.
The DUP and the Irish and British governments have to recognise that progress is only possible on the basis of the political dispensation agreed in the Good Friday Agreement.”
The Sinn Féin leader also addressed next week’s party Ard Fheis in Dublin at which the party will discuss its ten-year plan for development – Unity in Our Time.
“Next weekend the annual Sinn Féin Ard Fheis meets in Dublin. We will discuss the Unity in Our Time proposed ten-year plan for the regeneration and growth of our party. This is the result of an island-wide consultation with our regional and grassroots activists. It is part of the generational transition of Sinn Féin and a strategic and political roadmap to Sinn Féin in government, North and South.
Sinn Féin also has set the objective of securing within the next five years a referendum on Irish unity. The Good Friday Agreement is explicit on this. In any referendum a simple majority is required. That is the legal position and the Taoiseach should not undermine that.
Of course, all democrats want as big a vote as possible for unity. That makes sense. It is also achievable. A first step would be for the Irish government to accept and work for this key part of the Good Friday Agreement.
Irish America also has a huge role to play in winning the right to a referendum and winning the vote for unity.
Two months ago President Trump agreed to appoint a Special Envoy to the peace process. I welcome that and I commend the Democratic and Republican representatives who lobbied on this. Many here understand and appreciate that the Irish peace process remains the most successful US foreign policy engagement.”
The Sinn Féin leader also spoke on the issue of Brexit. He said:
“As well as trying to restore the political institutions the people of Ireland also face the threat posed by Brexit. Brexit threatens families and communities. It will attack the two economies on the island of Ireland. It will undermine the rights of workers. It also threatens the Good Friday Agreement.
The British government is determined to scrap the Human Rights Act, which underpins the equality and human rights elements of the Good Friday Agreement; end their relationship with the European Court of Justice, and the European Convention on Human Rights.
The British government is putting our peace, our economy and our political institutions, at risk. The people of the North voted to remain within Europe. Whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations citizens in the North will continue to be EU citizens.
Sinn Féin is arguing for the North to be designated a special status within the EU. It is a position that is now widely supported.”