Sinn Féin prepared to enter into meaningful dialogue
Sinn Féin MLA for Newry Armagh Conor Murphy speaking for the Ard Comhairle on Motion 214 said "Rather than press the British government to either take on rejectionist unionists or to implement outstanding aspects of the Agreement, the Dublin government has chosen to lead the charge in the campaign to halt the growth of Sinn Fein.
Despite our obvious and justifiable anger at all of this, Sinn Fein is prepared to enter into meaningful dialogue at any time, to face up to all of the difficult issues and to make this process work."
Mr. Murphy said:
This week the two governments began the test on the transmission of TG4 across the North. Since it has taken seven years for this fairly modest commitment under the Good Friday Agreement to be delivered by the governments -- should we be surprised then that many of their commitments on key issues such as demilitarisation, a new beginning to policing, justice, equality and human rights remain outstanding.
Perhaps they have they not been able to bring the hard men in the NIO on board for a process of genuine change.
But this much is obvious, there is clearly much more than one outstanding issue yet to be delivered to secure the full implementation of the Agreement.
Despite the failure of the two governments to deliver on the promises they made in the Joint Declaration of May 2003, even when republicans stepped up to the mark in October that year, Sinn Fein engaged in good faith in last year's negotiations with two objectives in mind.
Firstly to defend the fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement and secure its full implementation and secondly to get the DUP to sign up to a process of political change.
We secured the first. Indeed Sinn Fein made significant advances across a range of issues, including the operation of the Agreement. The DUP entered the negotiations seeking new vetoes over the appointment of nationalist ministers, any decisions those ministers might take and over the operation of the All-Ireland Ministerial Council. They achieved none of these.
Sinn Fein also secured agreement on;
∑ The removal of the British government's power to suspend the Assembly.
∑ The removal of the unionist veto over nationalist ministers attending All-Ireland Ministerial Council meetings.
In addition, as a result of our determined efforts;
∑ All ministers will be required to attend Executive meetings -- something the DUP refused to do in the past.
∑ All ministers will be required to attend All-Ireland meetings, which the DUP also refused to do in the past.
∑ The attempt to erode the joint status of the First and Deputy First Ministers has been resisted.
∑ The integrity of the All-Ireland institutions has been defended as have the equality provisions in the Agreement.
Sinn Fein also achieved progress on a range of issues that others had given up on, including;
∑ Policing, including the transfer of powers from Westminster.
∑ Participation by Northern MPs and MEPs in the Oireachtas.
∑ The repeal of repressive legislation.
∑ A peace dividend.
∑ The repair of the electoral register.
∑ New powers for the Human Rights Commission.
∑ Plastic bullets.
∑ The removal of the ban on non-British nationals in senior civil service posts.
∑ The establishment of the All-Ireland interparliamentary forum and the All-Ireland Civic Forum.
A substantial piece of good work by any account. And, on top of that, we secured a commitment to an unprecedented and historic initiative by the IRA.
That all of this floundered on Ian Paisley's unrealisable demand for the humiliation of the IRA is hugely frustrating. That the two governments backed that demand, knowing it was unachievable, is disgraceful. That the Taoiseach felt obliged to apologise to Ian Paisley for momentarily deviating from his rejectionist viewpoint is, frankly, embarrassing.
Rather than press the British government to either take on rejectionist unionists or to implement outstanding aspects of the Agreement, the Dublin government has chosen to lead the charge in the campaign to halt the growth of Sinn Fein.
Despite our obvious and justifiable anger at all of this, Sinn Fein is prepared to enter into meaningful dialogue at any time, to face up to all of the difficult issues and to make this process work.
Regrettably, our detractors have been fighting the elections since December. This is nothing new. Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour and the PD's have always campaigned for our opponents in Northern elections.
But we are confident our peace strategy will be endorsed with a strengthened mandate in the coming elections, and increased strength will enhance our ability to press for more political change across this island.
We will not be criminalised, discredited nor, indeed, distracted from the task ahead. Of that you can all be sure.
Go raibh maith agaibh.