12 October 2006 Edition
Determined to achieve political progress
A large Sinn Féin delegation is in Scotland this week in a huge endeavour to achieve political progress which will see the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement restored.
The last 12 years of the peace process have brought about major, positive change to society in the Six Counties, much of which republicans have been directly responsible for. Over that time republicans were faced with enormous challenges which they met head on. In the coming weeks republicans will be challenged once again.
Republicans have learned the lessons of struggle. They have learned that those who want the greatest degree of political change must be prepared to demonstrate the greatest confidence and take the biggest risks. Over the last twelve months republicans have taken huge risks for peace. The IRA delivered on an end to its armed campaign and on the issue of arms. The IRA has honoured its word.
A united, independent Ireland remains the firm aim of Irish republicans. To get there requires mapping a way out of the past and into a political accommodation with those on the island who have a different political view. In practical terms that means reaching an accommodation with the political leadership of unionism, currently represented by the DUP.
The 24 November deadline for progress to be made has brought a much-needed focus on the political process. It is well within the capabilities of political leaders to get the necessary political business completed by that date. The political institutions can be restored and agreement can be reached in relation to all of the outstanding issues. But this will only happen if the participants go into the talks with the right attitude and not be diverted by any temptation to seek out excuses and erect further obstacles as the deadline for progress approaches.
There is much understandable scepticism about the capability or willingness of Ian Paisley and the DUP to reach a political accommodation. However, the question now is no longer whether the DUP will do a deal, the question is about when the DUP will do a deal. That in itself is progress.
If the DUP cannot be persuaded to live up to their clear responsibilities, then the process must continue without them. Part of the responsibility of Sinn Féin negotiators in the time ahead will be to keep the Irish and British Governments to their stated public positions that the time for political stalling is over.
Whatever happens in the days and weeks ahead, the process of political change will continue. Sinn Féin is the engine for and the guarantor of political change. And we are determined to succeed.