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5 February 2004 Edition

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Review gets underway at last

The long-awaited Good Friday Agreement review kicked off on Tuesday, with each party setting out their agenda as to how the process should go. Media coverage of the day centred around the fact that Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and the DUP's Ian: "I won't sit at a table with Sinn Féin," Paisley, were in fact sitting at the same table, only a short distance apart.

However, Adams' opening remarks spelt out quite clearly that as much as he welcomed everyone present, the review was not a renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Beginning by referring to the absence of the institutions set up by the Agreement, he said: "We are entitled to ask the British Government to explain at this point the inconsistency between their assertion that the Agreement cannot be renegotiated and their failure to restore the political institutions which are the democratic core of the Agreement.

"It is almost three months since elections to the Assembly.

Those results show that the Good Friday Agreement continues to enjoy the substantial support of the majority of the people. Those who voted did so in the expectation that those they elected would be part of working institutions."

Adams continued: "We are entitled also to ask the Democratic Unionist Party to explain how they intend to contribute to discussion on how best to implement the Agreement when they have declared their intention to subvert it."

Party's Approach

Having addressed these two main issues, the Sinn Féin President proceeded to set out his party's approach to the review, calling it an opportunity to accelerate the process of change promised in the Agreement.

"Sinn Féin is bringing a positive attitude to the review.

We submitted a comprehensive agenda for discussion to the governments and have prepared detailed positions across these; including, the political institutions, the suspension powers, participation in NSMC and expansion of the Implementation Bodies, an All-Ireland Inter-Parliamentary Forum and All-Ireland Consultative Forum and many other matters."

Adams added that the party would be expecting the review to deal with the lack of progress on the equality and human rights front, the problems with the electoral register and Britain's failure to publish the Cory Report.

He concluded his opening remarks by reminding the two governments that there is heavy responsibility on them "to provide the essential political leadership required to move the overall process on".

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