Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Sinn Féin in contact with Irish and British Governments

5 May, 2004

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP, speaking in Armagh this afternoon, has confirmed that his party's negotiating team remains in close contact with the two governments.

Commenting on these negotiations Mr. Adams said:

'It is possible to resolve the outstanding issues in this process and to bring it to completion. But this can only be done in the terms of the Agreement. Giving up on the Agreement, whether it is in the form of the SDLP's ill-considered proposals, or departures by the two governments, like the IMC or the suspension of the institutions, play into the hands of rejectionist unionism and other hostile elements within the British system.

I am very conscious that the continuous shredding of the Agreement may reduce it to the point where nationalist and republicans no longer have any confidence in it as an instrument of change. While a lot of damage has been done we are not at that point yet.

At the same time there is little confidence within republican grass roots in the governments' commitment to the Agreement. That is why a special effort was needed to get a renewed focus to replace and restore the process and I am pleased that the governments have responded positively.

Sinn Féin has made it clear in these discussions that those aspects of the Agreement which are rights based need to be implemented now. Unionists may be refusing to take up their places in political institutions at this time but they need to be tested on this. They cannot be allowed a veto over citizens' entitlements.

Obviously there is a big focus on the DUP at this time. That party has shifted its position. For example, there is no absolute refusal to share power with Sinn Fein, as there was in the past. But many people will believe that this shift is merely tactical, a response to the more pragmatic mood within large sections of the unionist electorate. That is positive. But in any case the DUP terms for sharing power with Sinn Fein are unacceptable. So too is the time frame which is shaping up.

Why should any serious talks to resolve these crucial issues be postponed because of the so-called marching season?

Sinn Féin believes that the DUP's position should be explored. We welcome the more positive tone of its pronouncements but the party cannot forever continue to refuse to politically engage in negotiations with Sinn Féin. Dialogue like this, on a face to face basis, is the best way to learn about each others positions.

Sinn Féin is pleased that the two governments have now brought a renewed focus to the process. I like to think that our party's approach and our tenacious engagements with Dublin and London, after the IMC report was published, helped to bring that about. But we are not naïve. In the time ahead the actions or lack of actions by the governments can make a bad situation worse. Putting forward a 'road-map' - an unfortunate description given the Middle East - which puts off substantive movement until the Autumn does not encourage confidence among grassroots opinion.

It may be that the governments feel matters will be delayed because the DUP are not ready for movement now but a renewed focus of dialogue to find a way forward needs to be accompanied by vigorous and urgent implementation of the outstanding aspects of the Agreement. Citizens rights cannot wait until the DUP accepts the concept of equality.

The peace process grew out of building an alternative to conflict, by developing a sustainable process of change and making politics work. That means the two governments returning to the strategic vision which helped create the agreement. There can be no half-way house." ENDS

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