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Adams welcomes Basque Peace Initiative

21 February, 2014 - by Gerry Adams TD


"I want to commend the historic initiative by ETA to unilaterally put a significant amount of its armed materials beyond operational use as a first step toward complete disarmament. This is a vitally important decision and a significant advance in the Basque peace process." – Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has warmly welcomed the historic initiative by ETA and confirmed by the Verification Committee today.

The International Verification Committee was tasked by ETA in 2013 to oversee a process of putting arms, ammunition and explosives beyond operational use.

Today it confirmed that in January it verified that significant amount of arms, explosives and ammunition were put beyond operational use. They have taken an inventory and video for future use.

The Verification Committee expressed the view that this is a first step toward complete disarmament.

The Sinn Féin leader said: “I want to commend the historic initiative by ETA to unilaterally put a significant amount of its armed materials beyond operational use as a first step toward complete disarmament. This is a vitally important decision and a significant advance in the Basque peace process.

I am convinced that they are serious about peace and that this is another indication of their commitment to peaceful and democratic politics.

I also want to commend the work of the Verification Committee (the International Commission of Verification of Ceasefire in the Basque County) - which has overseen this important initiative by ETA.

This is a good news story for the Basque peace process which has sought to match the success of the Irish peace process.

Since before the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 Sinn Féin has been involved in helping to assist the building of a peace process in the Basque country. The Irish peace process is seen by many as a model - an example - of what can be achieved if there is political will.

There is overwhelming support within Basque society for a resolution of the conflict.   

There is an onus on the Spanish and French governments to respond positively to the announcement by the Verification Committee.

Peace processes need constant attention and encouragement, and the active and positive participation of all sides. The Spanish and French governments have a key role to play in promoting a process of dialogue that can advance the goal of a just and lasting peace in the Basque Country. That means responding in a positive way.

Confidence building measures – which were an important part of the Irish peace process - can assist in this. In the context the release of Arnaldo Otegi, Secretary General of SORTU would be an important step.

The Spanish and French governments should also end the policy of dispersion, an arbitrary measure applied to Basque prisoners, and transfer prisoners to prisons closer to their families. Seriously ill prisoners who need treatment should also be released under exisiting legislation.

These and other related measures would make a real difference in strengthening the peace process and facilitate progress toward demilitarisation and national reconciliation.

Note to Editor:

In 1998, after the Good Friday Agreement Gerry Adams travelled to the Basque country. He  travelled again in 2005, 2006 and again in 2011.

All of these visits were aimed at encouraging the development of a Basque peace process and to persuade the main players on the Basque and Spanish side to engage in dialogue.

In September 2010 ETA announced a ceasefire. It came after a long process of dialogue and internal discussion among Basque activists. This dialogue involved Gerry Adams and other Sinn Féin representatives.

 Sometimes the discussions were held in the Basque country, sometimes in Belfast and on a number of occasions in recent years senior Sinn Féin representatives travelled to Geneva for meetings with Basque representatives and other international players.

 In October 2011 ETA announced a definitive cessation of its armed activity.

 Many in the Basque country look to the Irish peace process for inspiration. And much of what has been attempted there in the last decade has been modeled on the Irish experience.

In February 2010 a conference of the Abertzale Regional Assemblies (Abertazle Left), which includes the banned Basque party Batasuna, agreed a new broad front approach. This too draws heavily from the Irish experience as is clearly evident in the language used.

  • The strategy committed Abertzale Left to using ‘exclusively political and democratic means’ to advance its political objectives.
  • It seeks to advance political change “in a complete absence of violence and without interference’ and ‘conducted in accordance with the Mitchell Principles.’
  • And its political goal is achieve a “stable and lasting peace in the Basque country.”

In October 2011 saw a Sinn Féin delegation travelled to the Basque country along with Jonathan Powell, former Chief of Staff to Tony Blair, and others.

Gerry Adams participated in a conference in Donostia - San Sebastian in Euskadi entitled; ‘International conference to promote the resolution of the conflict in the Basque County’.

The event had been organised by a range of groups, including the Basque Citizen Network for Agreement and Consultation, Lokarri, the International Contact Group (GIC) led by South African lawyer Brian Currin, and four other international foundations.

It also involved former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan; Pierre Joxe, former French Defense and Interior Minister;  former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Gro Harland Bruntland, a former Norwegian Prime Minister.

Change Cannot Be Stopped

The story of change is only beginning.

Sinn Féin will not allow Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to waste the potential, the possibilities and the aspirations of our people.

A government led by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil together does not represent the change that people voted for in February. In fact, it is an attempt to deny change, to protect the status quo and to continue with the same broken politics that has so badly failed workers and families

Sinn Féin will defend the change that the people voted for. We will continue to stand up for workers and families.

North and south, Sinn Féin is that change for a fairer, stronger and united Ireland.

Fully Supporting our Health Service and Frontline Workers

We need to ensure that we have all available capacity within our health systems, that we have sufficient ventilators and respiratory equipment, sufficient beds including ICU beds, and that our frontline workers are protected.  We need more testing and tracing and we need to ensure that we have all available capacity within our health systems, that we have sufficient ventilators and respiratory equipment, sufficient beds including ICU beds. 

The lack of protective equipment (PPE) for health workers, carers and others is causing a lot of concern – with frontline workers taking to the internet looking for resources and the government have stated that homehelp workers don’t need PPE. 

We need to see delivery of more testing across the island to tackle COVID-19 in line with the advice of WHO and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Income Support - Protecting Workers & Families

Sinn Féin’s proposals in the south would have guaranteed 100% of income up to €525 a week for workers and the self-employed who are laid off due to this crisis.  The Irish government’s proposal comes nowhere close to that and does not go far enough. €350 is not enough for people who have lost their jobs. 

While we are supportive of the wage subsidy scheme we believe that it must be targeted and not open to abuse - employers should have to make up the rest of the 30% of the salary – under the Irish government proposal employers could put in just one cent towards their employees pay.

There are also outstanding issues including: will workers have to pay tax on this income, now or at the end of the tax year; can workers who reside in the north but pay tax in the south be able to access the PUP payment?

Protecting Workers, Families and Businesses in the North

Finance Minister Conor Murphy has introduced protections for workers, small businesses and is lobbying the British Treasury to support the self-employed. He has brought in rate relief, including a three month rate holiday for all businesses and grants to support SMEs.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has streamlined the benefit system to make it easy for those affected by COVID-19 to access benefits, including sick pay for workers.  She has also introduced support measures for the community and voluntary sector.

Affordable Housing

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael cannot be trusted to deliver on housing. Their records speak for themselves.

Sinn Féin is committed to delivering the largest housing build in the history of the State.

Sinn Féin's "Fair Rent and Protection of Renters Bill" would prohibit rent increases on existing and new tenancies for three years and end the practice of tenants being evicted from buy-to-let properties on the grounds that a property is to be sold. These are vital protections that people need now more than ever.

In the north, Sinn Féin Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has introduced measures to support those in the public housing sector and we have called for mortgage relief for homeowners and businesses.

Banks and the Insurance industry

It is outrageous that many people with a €200,000 mortgage will pay close to €2,000 more over the lifetime of their mortgage because the banks are not only charging interest but interest on the interest.  This is how the banks are intending to profit out of this crisis and it is outrageous. We want the Central Bank and the banks called in by the government and this to be stopped. We have been in touch with the Minister, the Central Bank and the banks on this. The fact is that they already charge twice the average EU interest rates for mortgage  - they need to waive all interest during the period of the emergency and not profit on it.

The behaviour of the insurance industry also needs to be tackled – they are failing to respond properly to this crisis.

The insurance industry is trying to find ways of avoiding providing coverage to businesses who pay very high insurance premiums and have been forced to close as a result of the crisis.  They need to be reined in by the Central Bank and taken to task over this behaviour. Nothing less than this is approach is required.