Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Pearse Doherty Motion 38 on Northern Representation

17 February, 2006

We are now approaching eight years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. It was a time marked by hope and expectation. Hope that conflict could be left behind and a peaceful path towards unity and independence developed.

There was also the expectation that the two governments, signatories of an international treaty, would live up to their responsibilities and deliver what was agreed.

Under the Agreement the two governments had a co-equal responsibility for implementing the commitments and responsibilities entered into. For the first time since partition the Irish government were to be given such a position of responsibility.

Nationalists and republicans across the island could rightly have expected the Irish government to exercise this role robustly. We knew that rejectionist and reactionary unionism both inside and outside the British system would try to stall progress. We knew that the securocrats would do their worst to subvert the process. But the Irish government were given the responsibility on behalf of the people who voted in referenda north and south to keep the process moving forward.

In many regards they have failed this test. They have too often allowed the British government to take the lead. They have at crucial times abdicated their responsibility to stand up and defend the basic rights and entitlements.

They rolled over on suspension legislation. They rolled over on the IMC.
They rolled over on sectarian attacks on vulnerable nationalist communities.
They failed to honour commitments on prisoners, on OTRs and most recently on Northern Representation in the Oireachtas.

Northern Representation is not an optional extra. It is a firm commitment entered into by Bertie Ahern and his government. It is also I believe a democratic necessity. Bertie Ahern by his own admission has allowed this crucial proposal to stall in the face of opposition from Fine Gael and Labour. I will be interested to hear how the grassroots of the so called 'republican party' try and square this circle. How they try and spin on the doorsteps their government's failure to deliver once again for Irish citizens in the six counties. It is partitionism gone mad.

I would also like to hear how the SDLP square the circle. We hear so much from them about their sister party, Labour, in Leinster house. Yet Pat Rabbitte, of Workers Party fame, Durkan's new ally, led the opposition to northern MPs representing their constituents in Leinster House. We expect this from a reactionary like Rabbitte, but still in all it will be interesting to hear how this falls in with the SDLPs new all-Ireland vision.

Sinn Féin will not accept a further dilution of what the Irish government have already put on the table. It is time for Bertie Ahern to stand up and be counted. He can either live up to the commitments he has entered into in Good Friday 1998 and since or he can go down in history as yet another Fianna Fail leader whose republicanism didn't extend past Dundalk or Lifford.

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