No substitute for direct dialogue between the DUP and Sinn Féin - Ó Caoláin
Sinn Féin’s Dáil Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD told the Dáil during statements on the St Andrew’s proposals that the talks last week have put in place the basis for further progress but said there was ‘no substitute to direct dialogue between the DUP and Sinn Féin’. Pointing to a range of issues it was necessary for the British and Irish governments to deliver, Deputy Ó Caoláin restated Sinn Féin’s position on policing, before concluding by expressing the opinion that he did not believe the proposals necessitated endorsement either through an all-island referendum or an election in the Six Counties.
The Cavan - Monaghan TD said: “Cuirim fáilte roimh an deis seo chun próiséas na síochána a phlé. Bhí mé i láthair ag na cainteanna san Albain agus creidim go raibh dul chin cinn déanta ag gach páirtí agus ag an dá rialtas. Creidim go bhfuil bunús maith ann anois chun Comhaontú Aoine an Chéasta a chur i bhfeidhm go hiomlán.
“Having attended the talks at St. Andrews in Scotland I believe very significant progress has been made towards the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. The basis for further progress is has been put in place and it is up to the two Governments and the parties to build on that basis.
“Yesterday the DUP pulled out of a meeting of the Programme for Government Committee, a direct engagement with Sinn Féin arising directly from the St. Andrew’s talks. The pretext for this pullout was the DUP’s interpretation of the pledge of office for the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. I want to point out very clearly at the outset that Sinn Féin has suggested changes to the pledge of office which we think would be helpful. If the DUP want to make other suggestions then the people they should be talking to are Sinn Féin. There is no substitute to direct dialogue between the DUP and Sinn Féin. The DUP have yet to come to terms with that but they must do so if we are to build on progress made to date.
“As I have stated St. Andrew’s formed a basis for movement forward but much more remains to be done. That needs to be hammered out in direct dialogue.
“The DUP has also linked the issue of policing to its conduct yesterday. Again let me be very clear about Sinn Féin’s position on policing. Sinn Féin is for proper civic, democratic and accountable policing. What we are against is bad policing and bad law and order. What we are against is political policing, counter-insurgency policing, policing as a weapon of war, which has been the norm in the Six Counties for generations. Sinn Féin is about changing all of this and we have made huge progress in recent years. The issue before is whether policing in the Six Counties has reached a stage where it can enjoy the support of all the community. Our job is to resolve all of the outstanding matters and to create a proper policing service. It will be the PSNI’s job to prove themselves to the community. But we want to see rapid progress made on this issue. We believe such progress is possible. When this happens, and in the right context, Uachtarán Shinn Féin Gerry Adams will go to the party’s Ard Chomhairle to ask them to call a special Ard Fheis on the matter. It will then be the membership of Sinn Féin that will decide our position.
“It needs to be stressed that the St. Andrew’s document is an agreement between the two Governments. The parties have not signed up to it. This process is work in progress. Much remains to be worked out between the parties. There is real hope, despite yesterday’s events, that the DUP has come to accept the democratic mandate of Sinn Féin and to accept the need to share power with their nationalist and republican neighbours. That will be tested in the period ahead and Sinn Féin is anxious to facilitate the DUP in taking that step forward, a step forward that will surely benefit all of the people of the Six Counties and of Ireland as a whole.
“If Sinn Féin is to respond positively to the St. Andrew’s Agreement the proposals therein must have the potential to deliver equality, accountable civic policing, human rights and the full restoration of the political institutions established by the Good Friday Agreement. We are commencing a process of internal discussion with the membership of Sinn Féin on the St. Andrew’s document, on the outstanding issues which are still subject to negotiation and on the way forward. That is a very important process. I urge people generally, of all parties and none, to read and study the St. Andrew’s document and to participate in the public discussion. This is not just a matter for the two Governments and for parties in the Six Counties. This is about the future of Ireland and of all the people who call this island home.
“At St. Andrew’s the British government made a number of commitments which must now be delivered on issues including:theall-Ireland Parliamentary Forum and the all-Ireland Civic Forum, the removal of the British government power to suspend the political institutions, a statutory obligation for relevant Ministers to attend meetings of the All-Ireland Ministerial Council, the establishment of a Bill of Rights Forum by the end of the year, a single Equality Bill, an Irish language Act, tackling discrimination against ex-prisoners and an end to the bar of Irish citizens accessing top Civil Service posts in the Six Counties.
“The Irish Government also has obligations it must meet. These include real representation for Six-County elected representatives here in the Dáil. It includes the setting aside of the draconian Offences Against the State Acts. It must accelerate its efforts to integrate infrastructure and public services on an All-Ireland basis and provide a real peace dividend for those communities most adversely affected by partition and conflict. The issue of prisoners must also be faced up to.
“Sinn Féin does not believe that either a referendum, either North or South, or an election in the North, is required in the event that the St. Andrew’s proposals are agreed by the parties. In our view it does not and should not alter the fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement. That Agreement remains the basis for progress.
“Tá dul chun cinn déanta. Ba chóir dúinn uile dul ar aghaidh leis an obair.”