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McLaughlin - Unionist lack of confidence cannot delay equality

17 May, 2004

Speaking during a two day visit to London Sinn Féin Chairperson, Mitchel McLaughlin told journalists and MP's that although full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement including the re-establishment of the Executive must be the political priority of the two governments they cannot allow a Unionist lack of self-confidence to delay the delivery of all the aspects of the Agreement such as Equality, policing, demilitarisation and the all-Ireland functions. These issues are basic entitlements and are not dependent on the existence of the Assembly.

Mr Mc Laughlin said:

"The governments should be initiating and sustaining a planned programme to deliver on those aspects of the Agreement that is not dependent on the participation of unionists.

"The Irish government in particular should be vigorous in its promotion of all-Ireland social and economic development that would alleviate the problems created by partition, strengthen the links between the people in all parts of the island and integrate the economy and society. Whilst Sinn Féin would share the aim of achieving the maximum support of unionist parties we are a long way from being convinced that the DUP is serious about coming to an accommodation that would permit the re-establishment of the political Institutions.

"It is evident that the nationalist and republican constituency have a confidence in our politics and our assessment that the Agreement, fully and faithfully implemented, can provide the mechanism by which we can achieve our political aspirations. That is why we are committed to pursuing its implementation in all its aspects.

"However, the Unionist political leaderships' 'confidence' in their ability to maintain and strengthen the status quo of Partition is diminishing. The Agreement was to provide a platform from which the aspirations of both traditions could be promoted in a peaceful and democratic process. But the Unionist community in my opinion has not as of yet, produced a political leadership that possesses the self-confidence to pursue its aspirations on a basis of equality.

"Unionism in general has not yet come to terms with the inevitable constitutional implications of change nor has it brought forward a political leadership which will provide rational arguments in defence of the link with Britain or the ability to give leadership in circumstances where further constitutional change becomes necessary. The old catch cry of "What we have we hold" is the political mantra of the current leadership of Unionism as it was for the Unionist party in the past. If it was otherwise, then the Unionist community through that political leadership would have the confidence to embrace the Agreement in all its elements, go back into the Institutions and allow the process to develop unhindered.

"We may need therefore, to be patient a little longer until such a leadership emerges within Unionism. In the meantime I believe that the two governments must maintain momentum in the political process by forging ahead with all of the Equality, Human Rights, Economic, policing and all-Ireland aspects of the Agreement. Unionist lack of confidence in their own political analysis and fear of change should not be used to camouflage the governments' failure to deliver on their responsibilities." ENDS

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