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Statement by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, 29 October 2000



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There can be no Unionist Veto - Adams

The following are comments made by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP at a meeting of party activists in Castlebellingham, County Louth, Republic of Ireland, 29 October 2000.

Sinn Féin today held a national meeting of party activists to discuss current political developments.

  • Speaking after the meeting in Castlebellingham, County Louth, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP, MLA accused the UUP leader of stepping outside of the Agreement and warned that "if he follows through on his threat he will be in breach of the Agreement, and in contravention of his Pledge of Office and of his Ministerial code".
  • The Sinn Féin leader pointed out that, "Sinn Féin does not hold Executive position by dint of patronage from the UUP. We have a mandate and the citizens whom we represent must have exactly the same rights as all other citizens."
  • Mr Adams posed the question: "Could it be that Mr. Trimble's move today is tacit acknowledgement that Unionism isn't up to the challenge of working alongside other citizens or of developing and sustaining a peaceful future based upon equality?"
  • And the Sinn Féin President, who spoke to both governments and the White House yesterday, told them of the need "to preserve the political process and the peace process thorough upholding and implementing the Good Friday Agreement. They cannot allow a unionist veto."
  • However "republicans have serious concerns about the focus and intent of Mr. Blair and his colleagues."
  • "The time ahead will present challenges for everyone. Sinn Féin is up to those challenges and it remains the aim and the function of this party to manage the process in a calm and strategic way.
  • The Irish government also will be seriously challenged. No issue is more important than the question of a just and lasting peace and I look to the Taoiseach to uphold the rights of all citizens and to use his undoubted good relationship with Mr Blair to persuade the British Prime Minister that pandering to unionism is not the way forward."

The Full Text of Mr Adams remarks:

"This week illustrates the unpredictable, spontaneous and often frustrating nature of the peace process and the need for sound, clear and forward looking management.

Once again the IRA evidenced its commitment to the peace process by honouring commitments it made in May. And it did this while the British government has yet to honour its commitments.

The Ulster Unionist Council has resurrected the issue of arms once again in a stupid and unattainable demand for IRA decommissioning, on a unionist timetable, and in what can only be described as an ungracious rejection of the IRA initiative.

The initiative had two parts. One, which involved the inspection and reinspection of IRA dumps, was a confidence building measure aimed at reassuring unionist opinion and without doubt at the cost of serious difficulties within republicanism.

The other issue of putting IRA weapons verifiably beyond use is, it seems from the IRA statement, an issue between the IRA and the British government with a context outlined by the Army Leadership in which this could be accomplished.

While the responsibility and indeed the credit for all of the recent IRA initiatives lies with the IRA itself, some of the progress that has been made was because this Sinn Féin leadership sought, through engagements with the British and Irish governments, the Unionists and others, to develop ideas to keep the process moving on.

The UUP has arrogantly failed to take any of this into account. Mr. Trimble's propositions to the Council differ from Jeffrey Donaldson's only with regard to timing. The attention being paid to Mr Trimble's victory over Mr Donaldson has sidelined the more important issue, that is the consequences which all of this has for the political process.

* David Trimble should have faced down his opponents by pro-actively promoting the Good Friday Agreement. Instead he has chosen to step outside that agreement and if he follows through on his threat he will be in breach of the Agreement, and in contravention of his Pledge of Office and of his Ministerial code".

Sinn Féin does not hold Executive position by dint of patronage from the UUP. We have a mandate and the citizens whom we represent must have exactly the same rights as all other citizens.

Could it be that Mr. Trimble's move today is tacit acknowledgement that Unionism isn't up to the challenge of working alongside other citizens or of developing and sustaining a peaceful future based upon equality?

Could it be that he is unable to rise above the role of a party leader, the leader of the UUP, to be a First Minister for all the people?

I have been in touch with both governments today and told them of the need to preserve the political process and the peace process thorough upholding and implementing the Good Friday Agreement. They cannot allow a unionist veto.

The job of responsible political leaders, but especially of Mr. Blair must now be to provide effective political leadership, fulfil outstanding commitments, and plan the programme of change that is essential for the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

While we all have a role to play in this, the primary responsibility for advancing peace, and justice and democracy, rests with the British government. And at this time, as we face into another crisis caused by the refusal of unionism to accept the democratic imperative of agreements and responsibilities entered into by them, republicans have serious concerns about the focus and intent of Mr. Blair and his colleagues. For example.

A new beginning to policing was promised. On present evidence the British are producing a re-packaged RUC which nationalists and republicans will not support, endorse or join. Claims that the British government is `faithfully' implementing the Patten report does not convince Sinn Féin, the Catholic Church, the SDLP, the Irish Government, political opinion in Washington, and a wide range of human rights and justice and victims groups in Ireland.

The solution to this problem is for the British government to implement the Patten report in full.

On demilitarisation a transparent PR spin is produced which seeks to gloss over the remilitarisation of South Armagh, Tyrone and Fermanagh, the unacceptable presence of British forces in areas like West Belfast, and the continued use of civilian human shields on Divis Tower and elsewhere by the British Army. This is not demilitarisation. This is rationalisation and it is no part of the Good Friday Agreement or the deal struck at Hillsborough.

The solution to this problem is for the British government to implement the Good Friday Agreement in full.

On Criminal Justice the review set-up by the British government fails to meet the standard set for it by the Agreement two and a half years ago. Nationalists and republicans are not going to support a Criminal Justice system that continues to rely on emergency legislation, the denial of fundamental human rights, a judiciary that has forever disgraced itself working the Diplock Court system and an inquest system that has colluded in the cover-up of hundreds of state sponsored killings.

The solution to this problem is for the British government to honour the commitments made in the Good Friday Agreement and create a criminal justice system that is fair and just and defends human right rights.

And of course, there is the issue of flags. The spin from London is that the two Sinn Féin Ministers will be `ordered' to flag the Union Jack. What happened to the principles of partnership, equality, mutual respect and mutual consent, of tolerance and sensitivity? The British government has tipp-exed out these words and themes from the Agreement at the behest of a unionism which still wants to be top- dog. Worse it criminalises Irish emblems and symbols. This is unacceptable and subverts the ethos of the Good Friday Agreement.

The solution to this problem is for the British government to implement the Good Friday Agreement.

On these vital issues, as well as the threat to the Agreement now presented by Mr. Trimble, the British government holds the key.

The time ahead will present challenges for everyone. Sinn Féin is up to those challenges and it remains the aim and the function of this party to manage the process in a calm and strategic way.

The Irish government also will be seriously challenged. Especially at a time when other issues are preoccupying the southern political establishment. No issue is more important than the question of a just and lasting peace and I look to the Taoiseach to uphold the rights of all citizens and to use his undoubted good relationship with Mr Blair to persuade the British Prime Minister that pandering to unionism is not the way forward.


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