30 November 2006 Edition
The process of change continues
Ian Paisley's clarification that he will take up the post of First Minister and share power with republicans in a Six County Executive is hugely significant. Bringing the DUP leader across the line of accepting the necessity of a new political dispensation, including the all-Ireland architecture of the Good Friday Agreement has been a key strategic objective of republicans.
If Ian Paisley's declaration of intent is followed through by political action by his party it will truly mark a break with the past and opens up the prospect of a better political future for everyone in Ireland.
In relation to issues remaining to be resolved for the full restoration of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Féin is ready and willing to meet the challenges ahead.
Sinn Féin remains focussed on achieving a democratically accountable, impartial, civic policing system in the North. For this to happen, several important issues need to be resolved. These include getting a date for the transfer of policing and justice powers from London to local political structures and agreement on a departmental model.
Once again this week a DUP politician has claimed that this issue would not be resolved for generations. That is unsustainable nonsense. Nobody can, with any seriousness, demand that nationalist or republican representatives endorse policing structures and expect them to have no influence or authority on policing matters.
The British government needs to deal with matters under its control such as the role of its secret intelligence agencies in Ireland. There is no role for MI5 in Ireland -- in policing or anywhere else. Republicans will not tolerate a 'force within a force' in policing.
In this week's An Phoblacht, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams says that he is committed to calling a meeting of the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle when these outstanding issues are resolved. The purpose of that meeting would be to convene a special Ard Fheis within the timeframe set out at St. Andrews.
However, Gerry Adams makes it equally clear that he will not go to the Ard Chomhairle to seek a special Ard Fheis unless he has the basis to do so.
Sinn Féin is determined to see all these issues dealt with as quickly as possible and within the timeframe set out at St. Andrews. If the political will exists among other political parties and with the Irish and British Governments there is no reason why it cannot happen.
Once again Irish republicans face serious challenges. Those challenges, as always, must be judged in the context of republican objectives and the common good of our country and all its people. But what is clear this week is that the inch-by-inch progress that has characterised the peace process continues.