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Crowe - Unionist leaders need to understand that equality is not a concession

28 May, 2003


Speaking during the second day of the Private Members debate on northern representation in Leinster House and the cancellation of the elections in the Six Counties Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West Seán Crowe said: "Sinn Féin understands that we need to reach out to the Unionist community, and we are doing so quietly on a daily basis. Alex Maskey in 12 months of office has confronted the prejudices that existed about him and has begun to build what he called a City of Equals in his acceptance speech."

He went on to say that he wanted "to see change being brought about by exclusively democratic and peaceful means. And we want to see the conflict over and done with." "That is what the motion before us a Ceann Comhairle is trying to do. It is about the primacy of politics. And that does involve removing all of the guns out of the equation", he said.

"Unionism and its leaders need to understand that equality is not a concession; it is the right of everyone. Justice is not a concession, it is a right. A Police Service acceptable to all communities is certainly not a concession; it is desirable and necessary for everyone." ENDS

FULL TEXT FOLLOWS:

David Trimble is on record as saying that the Northern state was a cold house for Nationalists since its foundation. The working class people living on the Shankill, Sandy Row or the Waterside know only too well that it wasn't much warmer for them. All the Parties and Deputies in this house espouse the notion of an Ireland based on equality, justice and peace

The Good Friday Agreement attempted to put that concept in to legislative form. I don't believe that the historic comprises contained in that document, would have been possible without all those groups and individuals seeing beyond their own concerns and accepting the new potential that agreement opened up.

It is true; we have more in common than divides us.

The peace process was kick started by dialogue, complemented by the historic cessations and overwhelmingly embraced by the Irish people, North and South. It gave a sense of hope to people not only in Ireland but also throughout the world.

From day one it has been bedevilled by crisis after crisis but the process of dialogue has, and continues to - despite all the difficulties, move us forward and away from conflict.

Republicans on this island have had to make painful and difficult decisions in order to support that process. We acknowledge that we have inflicted great hurt on many from the Unionist tradition and continue to articulate and more importantly demonstrate our understanding of that reality.

All of us are emerging, slowly maybe, painfully certainly, but we are emerging out of a 30-year conflict that has affected and lessened each one of us. Yes we all want to see a just society and the fault lines of sectarianism removed forever.

We have gone from the days of unionists disinfecting Council seats, from refusing to sit in the same room as us, to negotiating face to face, to even sharing power.

I want to see change being brought about by exclusively democratic and peaceful means. And we want to see the conflict over and done with. That is what the motion before us a Ceann Comhairle is trying to do. It is about the primacy of politics. And that does involve removing all of the guns out of the equation

But there are still fault lines in the process. The Good Friday Agreement is not and has not been implemented fully by all sides. The potential for conflict is still with us. The cancellation of the democratic process because of the possible outcome does not augur well for the future.

Sinn Féin understands that we need to reach out to the Unionist community, and we are doing so quietly on a daily basis. Alex Maskey in 12 months of office has confronted the prejudices that existed about him and has begun to build what he called a City of Equals in his acceptance speech.

As Mayor of Belfast he handled in an inclusive manner the Remembrance Sunday commemorations and demonstrated vividly the lengths that republicans are prepared to go to show that, parity of esteem, equality and inclusiveness are not merely words, but have to be acted on.

Unionism and its leaders need to understand that equality is not a concession; it is the right of everyone. Justice is not a concession, it is a right. A Police Service acceptable to all communities is certainly not a concession; it is desirable and necessary for everyone.

The removal of the weapons of war, the intrusive watchtowers, and the armed patrols is not a concession to republicans but a necessity if we are to move to a peaceful society.

Sinn Féin is ready to move forward, we are ready to bridge the gap but we also need to know from Unionism and the British that they are prepared to work with us towards that new Ireland.

As most speakers have agreed with the substance of this motion it is disappointing that parties in this house could not feel comfortable supporting the Sinn Féin motion.

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