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1 September 2014 Edition

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David Cameron and unionist parties reinforcing political logjams, Gerry Adams warns

‘The political process is in trouble’

• First Minister Peter Robinson, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Secretary of State Theresa Villiers

Political process faces greatest challenge since Good Friday Agreement talks

THE lack of evidence of any intention by the British Government or the unionist leaderships to engage in real negotiations commencing in September presents the political process with “its greatest challenge since the Good Friday Agreement negotiations in 1998”, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has warned.

David Cameron’s Tory-led government at Westminster – like the Major government in the 1990s, he said – “has been explicitly partisan in championing a unionist agenda”.

Cameron’s government has also failed to make progress on matters agreed in the Good Friday Agreement, at Weston Park, St Andrew’s and Hillsborough which have not been implemented, the Sinn Féin leader reiterated.

These include the Bill of Rights, the all-Ireland Charter of Rights, Acht na Gaeilge, the North/South Consultative Forum, the Civic Forum and the inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane.

“These are not matters for negotiation,” Gerry Adams insisted.

“They are agreements made and are the responsibility of the British and Irish governments to implement.”

The effect of all of this and of the British Government’s handling of the political situation has been to reinforce political logjams, the Sinn Féin leader said.

“The political process is in trouble.”

He accused DUP leader and First Minister Peter Robinson of minimising the promise and potential of the Good Friday Agreement.

“The DUP has repeatedly demonstrated an unwillingness to participate positively in any of the institutions. Instead it has adopted a tactical approach aimed at serving the political agenda of a fundamentalist rump in their party rather than the needs of the whole community.

“The leaderships of unionism have moved increasingly to the Right; more concerned with election rivalry than the common good.

“The DUP is undermining the institutions,” he said.

“The anti-Good Friday Agreement axis within unionism, the pro-unionist stance of British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, the refusal of Downing Street to honour its own obligations, and its efforts to impose cuts in the welfare system are combining to create the most serious threat to the political institutions in the North in recent years.”

The Sinn Féin leader recalled that Martin McGuinness has noted: “We are in government with unionists because we want to be; they are in government with us because they have to be.”

Gerry Adams said that the Tory-led government in London wants to impose changes to the welfare benefits system mirroring similar changes that have been introduced in England, Scotland and Wales, “changes that have resulted in disastrous consequences for the disabled, the unemployed and those in low-paid jobs”, Gerry Adams said.

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“These should be opposed by a united Executive. These changes are not about reform. They are about cuts and they are part of a Thatcherite agenda designed to dismantle the welfare state. And Sinn Féin will oppose them.”

The entire political situation presents “a very significant challenge to everyone who wants to see progress and to all those who support the Good Friday and other agreements”, Gerry Adams added. He said this includes leaders of civic society, the community sector, the trade union movement and the business sector as well as political parties.

The Sinn Féin leader said that too many in the pro-Agreement axis, “with some notable exceptions”, have been passive. This includes the Irish Government, he said.

The Sinn Féin leader said:

“The British Secretary of State is contemplating conceding to another of the recent unionist demands by setting up some form of inquiry into the Parades Commission decision on the Ardoyne march — a move that would dangerously damage the integrity of the Parades Commission, undermine the residents and further undermine the Haass proposals.

“Regardless of political allegiance, everyone who values a future based upon equality must become a champion for progress in their own community, in the workplace, in the voluntary and community sector, across the trade union movement, in the churches and the media.

“If the unionist leaderships refuse to engage positively in new negotiations then the Irish and British governments, as co-equal guarantors of the Agreement, must ensure that outstanding issues are implemented.”

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