Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Martin McGuinness - Supporting Motions 240 and 241 on behalf of the Ard Comhairle

5 March, 2005

Sinn Féin has a political agenda. It is an agenda of change and at the heart of that agenda is our all-Ireland program and strategies.

The all-Ireland Agenda requires a new type of political activism. We need to avoid the partitionism that characterizes every other party on this island.

The Peace Process opened up political space for Republican and all Ireland politics. The Good Friday Agreement was not a Republican document: but it does provide the opportunity to build towards Irish unity through our all-Ireland agenda.

Let us take an example, the GFA talked about affirming rights through Bills of Rights, North and South and through the potential for an All-Ireland Charter of Rights. The joint commission of the two Human Rights committees established by the two Governments came out in favour of those rights being legally enforceable. That would require something approaching an all-Ireland court, a sharing of judicial authority on an all-Ireland scale. Obviously, pushing this agenda forward would be of huge significance in advancing to political unity.

Our opponents know this and that is why they are stalling. Their delay disadvantages those most in need, the disadvantaged, the disabled, non-English speakers, ethnic minorities, women, children, the elderly and workers generally. Sinn Féin wants to see meaningful social and economic rights enforced on an all-Ireland scale. That is why the party has engaged in a consultation with the social partners, from grassroots to national level, with the aim of building a broad front demanding the implementation of this promise.

Republicans need to link their work for Irish unity with the demand for meaningful social, economic, cultural and personal rights. We need to go out there and engage with people to build a demand for all of this from all those groups who would benefit from a move towards real equality.

Similarly, the party has produced a Green Paper calling for the Irish Government to start building towards Irish Unity. The imperative of Irish unity is clear from a business perspective and from a social perspective. Given the failure of others to engage in this work, it is all the more necessary for Sinn Fein to engage with communities, trade unions, business interests and NGOs in building this demand at all levels.

And of course we must continue to engage with unionists in a way that allow them to feel comfortable and to participate in this debate on their own terms. Significantly the DUP, in the negotiation running up to last December, signed up for the all-Ireland agenda set out in the Good Friday Agreement and began a constructive engagement with the Irish government and with nationalist opinion for the first time. I welcome these tentative but significant first steps.

The opportunities for developing all-Ireland approaches to planning for economic and social development are all about us and they are relevant from Derry to Kerry. Only a united Ireland with popular democracy can guarantee all of these issues are effectively addressed but by campaigning for all-Ireland approaches we are also campaigning for unity.

Delivering on all-Ireland social and economic integration, the removal to obstacles to further integration and the adoption of all-Ireland policy planning frameworks undercuts the political basis of partition.

The basis for partition was sectarian domination and political inequality. Driving forward the equality agenda in an all-Ireland framework will undermine the historical, the social and the political basis of partition. Through advancing social and economic integration we move ever closer to political unity.

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