9 November 2006 Edition
Sinn Féin Consultation - Sixty meetings held across Ireland
St. Andrews proposals have potential to move process forward
The Sinn Féin Ard Comhairle, meeting in Dublin last Monday, 6 November, mandated the party leadership to positively pursue the course laid out by the Irish and British governments at St Andrews in Scotland on 13 November.
The Ard Comhairle meeting received reports from Party Chairperson Mary Lou McDonald MEP on the internal Sinn Féin consultation process which took place over the past fortnight and a report from Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness and Leo Green regarding recent discussions with the British and Irish governments.
Since the Ard Chomhairle last met on 19 October more than 60 party meetings have taken place throughout Ireland. Meetings were well attended and involved over 1,000 party activists and members.
Monday's Ard Chomhairle meeting witnessed an open, wide ranging and very thorough discussion of the detail, shortcomings and possible potential of the St Andrews proposals and of the report of the party meetings around the country.
The meeting eventually agreed to support a resolution proposed by Martin McGuinness which formulated the party response to the St Andrews proposals.
Speaking after the meeting Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald, who headed up the consultation panel set up by the Ard Chomhairle, said: "Sinn Féin's objective in the negotiations that led up to St. Andrews was to advance the peace process and bring about the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. This required the DUP to move to share power jointly with Sinn Féin in the Executive and participate fully in the All-Ireland Ministerial Council.
"If these objectives can be achieved they will mark an historic development on this island.
"Because of the importance of what is at stake we examined the proposals of the British and Irish governments in detail and consulted widely both within the party and in the wider community.
"There are ongoing negotiations on a number of core issues and there are elements in the two governments position which need further work to keep them in line with the Good Friday Agreement.
"Following a thorough discussion the Ard Chomhairle agreed that the process set out at St. Andrews has the potential to deliver the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and to bring about the restoration of the power-sharing and all-Ireland political institutions. It also mandated the party leadership to continue with the ongoing negotiations to resolve the outstanding core issues.
"The issue of policing also came up at today's meeting but the primary focus of our deliberations was on the re-establishment of the political institutions following the St. Andrews talks.
"The resolution of the issue of policing and justice is a matter for the two governments and all the political parties. Issues, which need resolved include agreement on the model and timeframe for transfer.
"Sinn Féin is committed to bring an end to decades of repressive and sectarian policing. All elements in policing need to be accountable. Sinn Féin rejects any role in Ireland or in civic policing for MI5.
"Justice and the fair and impartial rule of law are essential elements of a society at peace with itself. We want to see democratically accountable civic policing and we will continue to work until we achieve this. Gerry Adams will propose to the Ard Chomhairle that we convene a special Ard Fheis as soon as these matters are resolved.
"Of course there are many challenges still to be overcome. The refusal of Ian Paisley to attend the Programme for Government Committee meeting is a setback. And the refusal of the British government to convene this committee in the three weeks since then has meant that little progress has been made in relation to some of the key outstanding issues.
"The Programme for Government Committee should meet urgently. There should be no more unnecessary delays. November 24 has been set by the governments for a meeting of the Assembly to nominate the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. We look forward to this happening."
Meanwhile Sinn Féin contact with the Irish and British Governments continued with separate meetings on Tuesday between the party and representatives of the Irish Government and with British direct ruler Peter Hain. Sinn Féin negotiators pressed both governments to convene a meeting of the Programme for Government Committee to facilitate dialogue between Sinn Féin, the DUP and the other parties.
Further meetings between the party and both governments are expected to continue in the weeks ahead.
Full text of motion passed by Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle
The Ard Chomhairle notes the report on its consultation process and on recent discussions between the party negotiation team and the two governments.
This includes the concerns raised, the progress made and the work still ongoing.
We believe that the process set out at St. Andrews has the potential to deliver the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and to bring about the restoration of the power-sharing and all-Ireland political institutions.
However, there are elements in the document set out by the two governments, which require further work to keep them in line with the Good Friday Agreement.
There are ongoing negotiations in relation to a number of core issues which have yet to be resolved.
Subject to delivery of these issues the commitments set out in the governments‚ St. Andrews statement could represent a way forward. The Ard Chomhairle mandates the party President and national Officer Board to pursue all of this and to report back to the Ard Chomhairle.
We reiterate our view that the issue of policing and justice is a matter for the two governments and all the political parties. Issues to be agreed include a timeframe for the transfer of powers and a model for the department on policing and justice.
Sinn Féin is committed to bring an end to decades of repressive and sectarian policing.
We reject any role for MI5 in Ireland or in civic policing. We want to see democratically accountable civic policing and we will continue to work until we achieve this.