23 February 2006 Edition
Sinn Féin Ard Fheis 2006 NEGOTIATIONS REPORT
Entering another critical phase
Pressing for a full restoration of Institutions
Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness said the leadership shown by republicans contrasted sharply with that of unionist politicians. The Peace Process had threatened to go into free fall but the IRA had acted to re-energise the political process with a "courageous initiative".
"We knew there would be a long battle to realise the promise of the Good Friday Agreement and we would be faced with attempts to frustrate, delay and dilute the scale of the transformation," said McGuinness.
The success of the peace strategy simply in terms of the success of the negotiators in securing the Agreement but also in terms of Sinn Féin's ability to maximise popular support for their demands.
McGuinness said republicans were entering another critical phase in which the Agreement was on the line. "But we are not unnerved by that. Rather we are emboldened by it, because even if it falls we are confident that its substance has been secured."
Outlining progress in the last year. British demilitarisation had begun; processes were in place to repair the electoral register and consider additional powers for the Human Rights Commission and the British had removed their illegal sanctions against Sinn Féin.
But there had also been some regression with the Taoiseach announcing that he was not proceeding with the proposal to facilitate northern representation in the Oireachtas and the attempted "sleight of hand" by Peter Hain by his inclusion of British crown forces in the ORTs Bill.
"Sinn Féin did not support, propose, discuss or accept that members of the British state forces should be included in this scheme. On the contrary we were mindful to ensure that nay scheme proposed to address the issue of OTRs would not provide an amnesty for the British state forces who carried out or were responsible for state killings or collusion," said McGuinness.
The British Government had unilaterally taken the decision to allow British forces to benefit but they were forced to withdraw the legislation. "We continue to press both governments to resolve the issue on the basis agreed at Weston Park," he said.
On the IMC McGuinness said: "We said it would be a tool for the securocrats, it was outside the terms of the Agreement and would be used to undermine the Agreement's democratic mandate."
Reports by the IMC were made up of "unsubstantiated allegation, fantasy and fiction presented as fact" and can be summed up in one word, "Balderice". It was time the IMC was decommissioned.
On current political talks McGuinness said other parties had put forward proposals that fall short of full restoration. The DUP was arguing for a phased return of the institutions, "essentially a stepping stone approach to the return of unionist majority rule". Meanwhile SDLP proposals for the British appointment of un-elected Commissioners to run departments amounted to "an abdication of responsibility".
Sinn Féin is opposed to these approached and is pressing for a full restoration of the political institutions and the full implementation of the Agreement.
"We have emphasised that our priority for movement forward is on the basis of the Agreement and this is our plan A. But we have also reminded [the governments] of what needs to be done if unionist leaders continue their rejectionism."
"Rights and entitlements cannot be subject to a veto and there are commitments the governments can deliver without the institutions, without agreement from unionist political leaders."
"Until we have power sharing the governments need to press ahead with joint government decision making, alongside all other elements of the Good Friday Agreement," said McGuinness.
For more see http://www.ardfheis.com/news/770