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23 October 2003 Edition

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Confidence cannot be built without political will

Speaking during statements on the Peace Process on Wednesday, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said that what had happened the day before was a failure of political will on the part of David Trimble and the Ulster Unionist Party.

"I share the profound disappointment and frustration of all those who support the Irish Peace Process and the Good Friday Agreement at yesterday's turn of events on what should have been an historic day for all the right reasons. No one is more disappointed than republicans at what has happened.

"An agreement was in place. It was understood by all sides and the sequence of statements and events was clearly set out. That sequence was broken by David Trimble.

"Let there be no doubt about the enormity of the steps taken by republicans yesterday. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams asserted in the clearest manner that Sinn Féin's position is one of total and absolute commitment to exclusively democratic and peaceful means of resolving differences and opposition to the use or threat of force. The IRA endorsed this statement. IRA arms were then put beyond use and the IRA said they would continue to engage with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD).

"The head of the IICD, John De Chastelain, confirmed that this was a substantial action. He made clear that weapons, munitions and explosives had been put beyond use and this was a more substantial act than the previous two such acts by the IRA. He said the operation took a number of hours. And, very importantly, he reminded us that this was carried out under the schemes agreed by the two governments.

"An undefeated republican army has put arms beyond use on three occasions under schemes agreed by the Irish and British Governments and under the supervision of an international decommissioning body. This was a huge step for republicans, unprecedented in Irish history and something that would have been inconceivable up until very recent times.

"Against this background there is absolutely no credibility in the claim by David Trimble that this is not enough to build confidence. This claim takes no account of the enormous difficulty and strain the achievement of such an initiative causes within the wider republican constituency.

"Political confidence cannot be built without the political will to respond to confidence-building measures. What happened yesterday was a failure of political will on the part of David Trimble and the Ulster Unionist Party. This is not about apportioning blame - it is about recognising realities. Too often the Ulster Unionist Party and David Trimble are portrayed not as political agents, acting in their own interests, with their own strategy, but as helpless victims of events outside of themselves. In this scenario it is republicans who have to make all the concessions and to take all the initiatives. But that is not what the Good Friday Agreement is about. It requires the political will and the political commitment of all parties and both governments to bring about change.

"The bottom line is that on Tuesday 21 October there was an agreement, a clearly agreed sequence of very significant events, in which republicans kept their side of the bargain and then the plug was pulled by David Trimble. His action has plunged us all into a new set of difficulties.

"I commend Sinn Féin's negotiators for their tenacious and principled efforts. I know that they will persist, as all of us in Sinn Féin will, in our unstinting work to resolve these grave difficulties and to set the Peace Process on the path of progress once again.

"I reaffirm our determination to get beyond all these difficulties and to ensure the realisation of our vision of the future by peaceful and political means."


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