McLaughlin - Resolving crisis in process challenges all of us
Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin opening the peace process debate at the party's Ard Fheis said:
The recurring theme of our Ard Fheiseanna over the past number of years has been Building an Ireland of Equals. This is not just a slogan it is our firm objective and in order to achieve it we must first build a durable and successful Peace Process. At the moment the only aspect of the peace process that remains is the IRA cessation. No dialogue. No process. No engagement, but the re-emergence of a security agenda in response to the electoral advance of Sinn Féin.
By the 6th of May Sinn Féin will have contested 4 elections. The only party who can do so because we are the only all Ireland party.
What even our most strident critics must realise is that when these elections are over they will have to come back to face a re-energised and more determined Sinn Féin. We will put our trust in the electorate and I believe that they will see through the opportunism, the shortsightedness and cynicism of the establishment parties. The electorate have long known that the status quo is not an option, that stalemate is not an option. Both are wholly unacceptable.
Sinn Féin is ready to face up to our responsibility to help resolve the present difficulties. Our priority and primary responsibility is to rebuild this process and deliver the real peace that the people are entitled to. That is where our energies will be directed in the time ahead.
While not underestimating the current difficulties our commitment to the peace process and to the advancement of our social and economic agenda of equality and justice will be to the fore in our deliberations and that of our delegates and activists this weekend.
While there are wide ranging issues up for discussion, given the current situation, there needs to be a heavy emphasis on rebuilding the peace process which has effectively been put in deep freeze by the two governments while they concentrate on stopping the Sinn Féin advance. This has been the approach of the two governments ever since the DUP walked away from a deal in early December.
The crisis in the Peace Process is real. To resolve it requires stretching ourselves even more. It also means challenging partitionist Ireland, conservative Ireland, post-nationalist Ireland who are on an offensive against Sinn Fein because we challenge the inadequacy of their politics. Their logic is a return to the failed policies of the past. Some now advocate exclusion, repression and criminalisation. The two governments have joined them in the offensive against republican Ireland. But at some point the two governments will have to set about the task of rebuilding the peace process and that can only be done through a process of dialogue and engagement. There is no other way. Sinn Fein is ready to begin this work today. Dialogue and engagement has brought enormous progress over the past ten years. The political situation has been transformed. That progress needs to be consolidated and build upon.
So, despite the current difficulties this Ard Fheis will concentrate on the positive task of rebuilding the Peace Process. We will go away from here confident of the success of our peace strategy to date and in the knowledge that there is much work still to be done to bring the peace process to a successful conclusion and to build towards
a different Ireland;
a new Ireland;
a united, free and independent Ireland.