Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Adams challenges Paisley and attacks critics

22 February, 2004

In the course of a wide ranging speech today in Dunloy, County Antrim, at a commemoration to mark the 20th anniversary of the deaths of IRA Volunteers Henry Hogan and Declan Martin, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP expressed his condolences to the families of those killed and injured in yesterdays bus tragedy in Dublin.

The Sinn Féin leader also spoke about his concerns for the future of the political process, the responsibilities of the two governments, Sinn Féin's willingness to engage with the DUP and the events of Friday night in Belfast.

Mr. Adams said:

The current disposition of the political process remains untenable in the longer term. It is not enough for the two governments to verbalise about their commitments to the process and to the changes they are obliged to bring in under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, delivery of those obligations is essential.

On Thursday I welcomed the Taoiseach's reiteration of 'the Governments role as co-guarantor with the British Government of the Good Friday Agreement.'

But Republicans and Nationalists, particularly here in the North, want to know what does that mean in terms of their lives, and their rights and entitlements as Irish citizens?

They want delivery on these matters, promised almost six years ago under the Agreement, and they look to our government, as a co-guarantor, to ensure that delivery. The responsibility for this rests exclusively with the British and Irish governments."

The Sinn Féin leader also went on the challenge the DUP's Ian Paisley:

"If you have the courage of your convictions then enter into dialogue with Sinn Féin. There can be no doubt that such dialogue will take place. Ian Paisley's public position is simply delaying this. That is not acceptable.

The logic of the DUP position is that they should be in government with Sinn Féin. The objective reality at this time is that Sinn Féin is the largest pro-Agreement party. This is not going to change in the time ahead.

Republicans are not naïve about the DUP. We know that they want to minimise the process of change. But the DUP also knows that if it wants a return to devolved administration that it will be with Sinn Fein in government and it will be with the all-Ireland model contained in the Good Friday Agreement template.

So our party is prepared to explore the DUP position, not because we have any illusions about Mr. Paisley's position, but because we have a confidence in our own position and because one of our objectives is for a strategic alliance with unionism for the benefit of all our people.

We recognise and respect the mandate of the DUP, they must recognise and respect our mandate."

Mr. Adams paid tribute to the families of Volunteers Henry Hogan and Declan Martin. He said that; "One of the challenges facing everyone in the peace process is to recognise that there can be no hierarchy of victims. All sides have suffered and while republicans are very mindful of the hurt we have inflicted, we also take considerable pride in the courage and unselfishness of those who have died in the republican cause."

Finally, the Sinn Féin President attacked those critics who have been seeking to use Friday evening's events in Belfast City Centre to criticise Sinn Féin:

"The PSNI have claimed that this was an abduction by the IRA. There have been such claims about the IRA before. They have proven to be without foundation. But Hugh Orde's speedy allegation follows a pattern going back to the old RUC which was also quick to point the finger at republicans while turning a blind eye to others.

What value the rights of those arrested? What chance that they will receive a fair hearing?

There has also been an unholy haste by a range of politicians eager to seize upon Hugh Orde's statement and an eagerness by sections of the media to repeat his allegation without question or to embroider it.

All of those involved need to catch themselves on. The threat to the peace process does not come from republicans, it comes from others including those who have failed or refuse to make politics work.

Whatever the truth behind Friday nights incident Sinn Féin will not be made a whipping boy, especially by those who have no interest in making this process work.

Our position is clear. Last October I reiterated our commitment to democratic and peaceful politics. I also pointed to a peaceful direction for all republicans to follow. That remains my position and the endeavour and the focus of Sinn Féin. So there is a choice for those who are quick to pass judgement on these matters.

Do they value the Sinn Féin peace strategy and our contribution to the peace process, including our on going efforts to bring an end to physical force republicanism, or do they not? If they do not and prefer instead to stick with the old agenda then it is they who undermine the peace process not Sinn Féin."ENDS

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