We must not lose sight of tremendous progress made on peace process
In the course of his contribution to Statements on the Six Counties this afternoon in the Dáil, Sinn Féin leader in the Dáil, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin said, "no-one should lose sight of the tremendous progress made" in relation to the peace process. He went on to say there was a "need for renewed efforts by both governments and all the parties to reach agreement". The Cavan/Monaghan Deputy went on to call on the DUP to enter in to direct negotiations with Sinn Féin.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "In the current fallout from the stalled peace process no-one should lose sight of the tremendous progress made and the potential for further progress. There is a need for renewed efforts by both governments and all parties to reach agreement. I know that my colleagues in the Sinn Féin negotiating team are sparing no effort and this morning have been in further talks in Belfast.
"I want to pay tribute to all those who played a positive role in negotiations. They have not failed and their work is not over.
"The fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement, including its power-sharing, all-Ireland and equality provisions have been defended and key aspects of the Agreement have been further strengthened.
"The overall political package that was reached had a range of very significant measures and each is important in its own right. They are:
- the reinstatement of the Executive, the Assembly and all-Ireland structures, including the All-Ireland Ministerial Council
- the removal by legislation in Westminster of the British Government's ability to suspend the institutions
- a stronger pledge of office by Ministers to ensure that they participate fully in the Executive
- a requirement of Ministers to engage with the All-Ireland structures
- devolution of policing and justice powers to the Assembly
- Six-County representation in the Oireachtas
- A programme of demilitarisation
- Measures to address the issue of people 'on the run' in both jurisdictions.
"These would be major steps forward by anyone's reckoning. With the Good Friday Agreement strengthened in this way, progress is now being stalled for a DUP demand for humiliation. Remember the DUP has campaigned in successive elections against the Good Friday Agreement. They still refuse to meet Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin is prepared to meet the DUP at any time.
"I believe that the DUP last week lacked the courage and the political will to sign up for a deal. That they came so far represents real progress, in spite of last week's setback. I am convinced that time and patient negotiation will bring them further and I believe that can happen sooner rather than later.
"We have a huge opportunity to move forward. The commitment the IRA was prepared to give on the issue of arms was huge, historic and unprecedented.
"The IRA decided, in its own words, to "support a comprehensive agreement by moving into a new mode which reflects our determination to see the transition to a totally peaceful society". It decided to instruct all IRA Volunteers not to engage in any activity which might thereby endanger that new agreement. And the IRA dealt, in an unprecedented manner, with the issue of arms, when it committed to conclude the process to completely and verifiably put all their arms beyond use and to agree with the IICD the completion of this process, speedily, and if possible by the end of December. To further enhance public confidence the IRA agreed to the presence of two clergymen as observers during this process.
"Anyone who knows anything about republican history and about the history of the peace process itself must acknowledge the huge significance of the IRA initiative. The IRA deserves credit for taking this very difficult and courageous step. While a wide spectrum of opinion will welcome it, many republicans will also have very deep concerns. But I believe that the IRA has once again shown leadership and bravery in its efforts to achieve justice and peace.
"Those who have been loudest on the issue of silent IRA arms have had little or nothing to say about loyalist weapons and British army weapons that are still in daily use on the streets of the Six Counties.
"There is a way forward from this most recent impasse. This should include direct dialogue between the DUP and Sinn Féin and the DUP owes it to its own electorate to give leadership by entering that dialogue. "There is a comprehensive agreement, a real achievement, on the table and we are determined to make progress on that basis.
"For Sinn Féin, and I hope for most in this Dáil, all of this is in the context of the unfinished and ongoing project to unite our country and all its people. Republicans are as determined as ever to reach that goal." ENDS