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Ó Snodaigh - The cancellation of elections is a subversion of democracy

27 May, 2003

For immediate release - 27 May 2003 (CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY)

Speaking during the opening of the debate on Sinn Féin's Private Members motion on the cancellation of the Assembly elections in the Six Counties Sinn Fein TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh said:

"Elections that were to have taken in two days time in Ireland have been unilaterally cancelled by the British. Approximately one million Irish voters will be disenfranchised by this most undemocratic decision.

"Other countries that have cancelled elections are: Lesotho - 1970; Chile - 1973; Algeria - 1992; Sri Lanka - 1998; Nepal - 2002; Georgia - 2003.

"All parties in this House have expressed concern over this move on 7th May, and most expressed their disappointment with it.

"I believe that it is possible for the House to reach a consensus on this issue that Sinn Féin has selected as the subject of our motion at this critical time.

"The Irish peace process has transformed the situation in Ireland.

"Only a very short time ago a vicious circle of injustice, inequality and conflict afflicted us in the north of Ireland. All of this was the legacy of the undemocratic partition of Ireland.

"The British government has no right to cancel elections in Ireland, which derive directly from the Good Friday Agreement and the endorsement of that Agreement by the overwhelming majority of the Irish people.

"The Irish government opposed this. Indeed every political party in Ireland opposed it. Only UUP leader David Trimble and the British government supported this undemocratic action.

"The cancellation of elections is a subversion of democracy.

"In any normal democratic society, a crisis in the political institutions would lead directly to elections to establish a fresh mandate for the political parties. That is the way of democracy. That is the way of politics.

"The cancellation of elections has created a dangerous political vacuum which those opposed to the peace process will seek to fill.

"The British and Irish governments accepted this logic in their recently published Joint Declaration when they said, " the best way of ensuring that peace remains permanent is by demonstrating that politics work." How does canceling democratic elections demonstrate, in any way, that politics work?

"And the damage is compounded by the failure to implement the agreement in full.

"The key to making politics work is democracy. That means that people have the right to vote. It means elections. Approximately one million Irish citizens have been disenfranchised. We are now left with a very dangerous political vacuum - one that has been filled all too quickly in the past by unionist paramilitaries.

"What needs to happen now is that an election date needs to be set. The institutions need to be re-established and the Agreement implemented in full. Meetings in the absence of this will go nowhere. Issues of human rights and equality and a proper police service cannot be conditional. They are basic democratic rights and the governments must move on these immediately.

"Sinn Féin is fully committed to the peace process.

"Everybody in this chamber needs to get involved in the effort to re-build the process. What is required is the political will and the determination to proceed without further delay." ENDS

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