Doherty: The Agreement will endure
Speaking at a News Conference in Westminster this morning Sinn Féin Vice-President and West Tyrone MP, Pat Doherty outlined the course of events preceding and during the intensive talks at Leeds Castle this past weekend.
Mr Doherty explained:
"In June Gerry Adams set out the Sinn Féin objective for the Leeds Castle talks, which where; a comprehensive, holistic agreement which would conclusively deal with all of the outstanding issues.
"Finding such an agreement was our singular focus in weeks of intense discussion between Sinn Féin and the two governments.
"We expressed privately and publicly our preparedness to face up to the challenges that this major undertaking would present. But we also made it clear that the two governments and the DUP also needed to face up to the challenges if we were to be successful.
"We repeatedly pointed out that if the Leeds Castle engagement was to have any hope of success that closure was needed on a range of key outstanding issues. Our view was that the preparatory work, between the two governments, but particularly between the British government and the DUP that needed doing to achieve such an outcome, had not been done.
"We made it abundantly clear, and were backed by all of the other pro-Agreement parties that any attempt to undermine the core principle of power-sharing and the all-Ireland architecture of the Agreement would be totally unacceptable. But we were also working against a background of persistent anti-peace process activities on the part of securocrats and the NIO and therefore little effort was made to impress the position of the pro-Agreement majority on the DUP.
"Notwithstanding these very deep worries, the Sinn Féin Negotiating Team travelled to Leeds Castle to do our best to find agreement.
"We knew it would be a huge challenge particularly given the anti-agreement agenda of the DUP and their refusal to talk to us. Despite the difficulties this presented, we did some good work with the two governments and made some progress across a range of issues.
"The DUP did not engage and did not negotiate. If the DUP therefore, remain unwilling to accept equality, if they remain unwilling to share power and to accept the all-Ireland shape of the agreement, then there is an onus on the two governments and the British government in particular, to move immediately on the human rights, equality, policing and demilitarisation agendas.
"The most significant message to come out of the Leeds Castle talks was that the Agreement would endure. I believe that many politicians, analysts and even some within the DUP will come to realise that this could be a very significantly defining moment in the Peace Process.
"Because no agreement was reached at Leeds Castle and a truly significant opportunity to make a positive difference to the lives of all the people of Ireland was spurned by the DUP it does not follow, that Sinn Féin is giving up on our peace Agenda. We want an agreement with unionism, including the DUP. But such an accommodation must be on the basis of equality, inclusivity and mutual respect. We are determined to remain engaged and will continue to make progress in conjunction with all of the other pro-Agreement forces that represent majority opinion not just on the island as a whole but a majority in a North of Ireland context also.
"We have arranged to talk to the two governments over the coming days and we will participate with renewed determination in the engagements to be convened by the Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Cowan and British Secretary of State, Paul Murphy scheduled to begin in Belfast today.
"As we resume these discussions at Stormont today it is clear that agreement is only possible if the DUP begin to engage positively and accept that there will be no return to unionist domination; that there will be no dilution of power sharing; that there will be no erosion of the all-Ireland architecture.
"However, if the DUP remain unwilling to engage - unwilling to accept equality and power sharing - then the two governments and the pro-Agreement parties must move on. The DUP cannot be allowed to block progress or to undermine the positive work that was done last week. The process of change must continue."
"In the meantime, the door is open for the DUP to join the other pro-agreement parties in face to face dialogue when it finds the courage and confidence to work as equals with all other democratically elected representatives to build a better future for all of the people of Ireland." ENDS