Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Gerry Adams Addresses - Vision for the Future

5 August, 2006


Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP will be one of a group of panellists who
will today address the issue of 'Vision for the Future' at the North Belfast
Summer School in Belfast castle.

The discussion which will be facilitated by Susan McKay, will also include
Michael Copeland MLA, Alasdair McDonnell MP and David Ford MLA.

The following is an extract of Mr. Adams comments in which he will set out
Sinn Féin's vision for the future and address the need for engagement
between republicans and unionists. The Sinn Féin leader will also address
the issue of the DUP and the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement,
and of the 'step change' that will be required in advancing the process
irrespective of any decision the DUP might take.

Mr Adams will say:

"Our task as political activists and leaders is to build on the progress
that has been achieved and construct political arrangements and forge new
relationships which will ensure no return to the failures of the past.

The two key words concepts of our republican future are 'change' and
'equality'.

Republicans are for positive change - progressive and deep rooted.

We are about transforming society in this city, as well as on this island.

Irish republicanism has a vision of a new society.

A society which delivers the highest standard of services and protections to
all citizens; guarantees equality of treatment to all; is inclusive of all
citizens; and in which there is a redistribution of wealth for the well
being of the aged, for the advancement of youth, for the liberation of women
and the protection of our children.

The Good Friday Agreement is one vehicle by which much of this can be
accomplished.

That is why those who are afraid of change, who are against equality are so
opposed to it. Our past was built on division. Our future has to be
different. Our future is a future together. How do we achieve that? We need
to reach out to each other. We need to listen to what each other has to say.
Not in a patronising way. There must be genuine enlightened dialogue between
all of us who share this island.

Sinn Fein has established a Unionist Engagement Department.

It sounds very formal almost academic. It isn't.

This is a serious effort by Sinn Fein, in a formal structured way, trying to
do something which should be second nature and common sense to us all, to
talk to our neighbours.

The aim of the department is to promote dialogue with Unionists at every
possible opportunity. And as an aid to this engagement process we are
currently working on a charter of principles and ideas which sets out common
values and provides a basis for discussion.

Republicans wish to engage with Unionism on such issues as Equality,
Participation and Tolerance; to agree a new democratic future. We recognise
that we also have a journey to travel in developing our own understanding
through such initiatives. The changes that are happening, and will continue
to happen, will challenge us all. Let us meet these challenges together and
shape a future which addresses the needs of all our people.

Of course reaching agreement, ending sectarianism, building a shared future
would be no less challenging but more easily accomplished if Ian Paisley and
his colleagues were prepared to reach agreement in the upcoming discussions.

His recent outburst over dead bodies and there can be no compromise in his
July 12th speech is evidence of the gap which still exists.

I am repeatedly asked if Ian Paisley will sign up to a deal with Sinn Féin.
The truth is I don't know. I have already proposed him for the position of
First Minister. I am prepared to do so again.

In my opinion he will only accept that position if he knows that the two
governments are totally and absolutely resolute about continuing with a
process of real change.

Of course, it may be that sharing power in an Executive and in an Assembly
structure is more than the DUP leadership can deal with at this time.

But if that is so it only means setting aside one part of the process of
change.

The implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and of its potential for
further progress can still be advanced across all its social, economic,
cultural, and institutional arrangements.

The DUP may have a veto over the Assembly and All-Ireland Ministerial
Council but the governments can produce any number of new accords and
treaties enhancing and building upon the work of the existing implementation
bodies, as well as developing new and stronger all-Ireland arrangements.

Sinn Féin is currently discussing these matters with the two governments.

So, what is required is a continuum of a process which will bring about
equality in this part of the island and take practical steps across the
island to ensure that we have the very best quality of life
possible for all of our citizens.

What is required is a step change.

This means deepening and broadening the number and remit of the current
number of implementation and co-operation bodies.

It means new governmental partnership agreements on all issues effecting
people.

The restructuring of the local councils also open up opportunities
particularly in the border areas for co-operation.

It means building upon a single island economy. In the north we have an
economy which is a basket case and which will remain so as long as it is
linked to the British economy and run by British Ministers.

There is no economic merit in partition even for the business or
commercial classes.

Why can't we harmonise the health services? There is also the question of
improving our transport infrastructure, and our common energy needs.

Think of an issue, any issue and it would benefit from an all-Ireland
approach.

That is the future."

Ends

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