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Nationalists sceptical of DUP

6 August, 2004

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP today expressed "disappointment at the strident and belligerent criticism" by Ian Paisley Jnr and Reg Empey of remarks he made about the prospects for progress in the negotiations in September.

Mr. Adams said:

"The fierce criticism from unionists of my remarks yesterday reinforces my concern, which I expressed yesterday, that political unionism is using the issue of the IRA and of IRA weapons as an excuse to obstruct progress in the peace process.

I set out a context, involving the two governments and other parties, including Sinn Féin, which could empower the Sinn Féin leadership to persuade republicans to remove that excuse. Is that not also a desirable goal for the unionist parties? Are unionists so afraid of change that they would prefer to see armed groups and political instability continue? If the answer to this is no, that they do want to see an end to armed groups, and they do want to see political stability, do they have any sense of their responsibility and role in bringing this about?

Listening to the negative comments of the unionist political spokespersons many people, including I'm sure many unionists, will have been left depressed and despondent.

The negotiations in September offer the hope of finding agreement to all of the difficulties that have beset this process and the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Féin is going into these discussions positively, constructively and with a determination to achieve a successful outcome. At Bodenstown in June and after the events in North Belfast on July 12th I expressed our desire to see a holistic, definitive and conclusive closure to all of the outstanding issues. That is our position.

But for that goal to be achieved will require the DUP to face up to the challenge of talking to and sharing power with republicans, as well as joining with us in resolving matters as diverse as policing, human rights, equality and sectarianism. Are they up to it? I don't know. For our part, Sinn Fein will not shy away from the DUP. We want to make peace with unionism. This means agreeing measures within the terms of the Good Friday Agreement to bring all outstanding issues to definitive and conclusive closure.

Many nationalists are justifiably sceptical about the DUPs willingness or ability to face up to these issues, and today a number of people have said to me that Ian Paisley Jnr's remarks is proof of that.

In the first instance however it requires the two governments, as the principle guarantors of the Agreement and as those participants with the greatest power and influence, to exercise that power positively and dynamically and to deliver on their commitments. This is especially true of the British government. If this were done it would create a new political context for republicans and the DUP, a positive and liberating context, in which substantial progress could be made.

However this means Tony Blair facing down the securocrats within the NIO and the British system who have worked diligently to subvert the Agreement. Is the British government up to that challenge?"ENDS

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