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3 August 2006 Edition

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Mitchel McLaughlin Column - Free - Statism needs to be tackled


We in Sinn Féin need to sell the benefits of all-Ireland economic and infrastructural integration as vigorously in the 26 Counties as in the North. This is an area where we have not put sufficient focus to counteract the Free Statism of the main 26-County parties.

In a period of transition, the all-Ireland element of the Good Friday Agreement is a vehicle for driving this agenda forward. We must strengthen our demands for the full implementation of the Agreement post-November regardless of whether or not there is agreement on devolution. This will necessitate more overt criticism of the Irish government's failure to promote those aspects of the Agreement that guarantees equal status for the republican/nationalist aspirations and objectives.

The potential of all-Ireland structures, as set out in the Good Friday Agreement is unlimited and should be promoted as a means of demonstrating to progressive unionists and others the benefits of an all-Ireland approach to social and economic development.

Sinn Féin's commitment to the development of all-Ireland structures as a platform from which to foster an Ireland of Equals is well established and should not be understated just because it may be seen as insensitive to unionist feelings. We cannot expect to extend our political appeal by predicating our political expressions on how it may be perceived by our political opponents or enemies. Unambiguous delivery of our all-Ireland message in all its aspects is what will attract those looking for leadership. I believe that we must take every opportunity to demonstrate the inadequacies and downright failures of Partition and to demonstrate the potential of one social, economic and political structure on the island.

The GFA provides for a minimum of 12 areas of co-operation and 12 is all we got. Six of these have Implementation Bodies with limited remits. Regardless of what happens following November 24th Sinn Féin must continue to exert pressure on the two governments to expand the effective remits of these Bodies and increase the number of areas in which joint development and implementation occurs. In order to succeed in this endeavour we must enlist the support of educationalists, health experts, environmentalists, economists and relevant organizations in these and other fields.

The logic of an all-Ireland approach to social and economic development is an area in which I believe that we can succeed in garnering broad agreement. Therefore, Sinn Féin must continue to provide the political dynamic, even in the absence of Northern political institutions, that will sustain the momentum required to build and expand on the existing all-Ireland Bodies. Our purpose in the coming period must be to progress these institutions to the point of integration of existing systems of administration and government, which will inexorably advance our project and take us closer to our objective of an Ireland of Equals.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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