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7 June 2007 Edition

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The Mitchel McLaughlin Column

Promotion of all- Ireland institutions must continue

Now that the Assembly is re-established and the 26 County elections are over, we need to refocus and re-energise our efforts to promote the potential of all-Ireland structures, as set out in the Good Friday Agreement. Their potential should be utilised 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, in deference to some unionist feelings, our political opponents will attempt to portray it as insensitive. We cannot expect to extend our political appeal by predicating our political expression on how it may be portrayed by our political opponents or enemies. I believe that despite what some will describe as a setback in the recent election, we must take every opportunity to demonstrate the inadequacies and downright failures of partition and to reinforce the potential of one social, economic and political structure on the island.
We must vigorously increase our efforts to sell the benefits of all-Ireland economic and infrastructural integration in a 26 County context as well as in our participation in the Assembly. This is an area where we have not put sufficient focus to counteract the Free Statism of the main 26 County parties.
In this period of transition, the promotion of the all-Ireland element of the Good Friday Agreement is a crucial vehicle for driving this agenda forward. This may necessitate more open criticism of the Irish Government’s failure to promote those aspects of the Agreement that guarantee equal status for republican/nationalist aspirations and objectives.
The Good Friday Agreement provides for a minimum of twelve areas of co-operation and twelve is all we got. Six of these have Implementation Bodies with limited remits. Regardless of what permutation of parties makes up the next 26 County Government, Sinn Féin must continue to exert pressure on it to work 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 organisations in these and other fields.
I believe that we can demonstrate to most open-minded people the logic and benefits of an all-Ireland approach to social and economic development. Therefore, Sinn Féin must not diminish our efforts to provide the political dynamic, particularly considering the expected make-up of the next 26 County Government. Our purpose in the coming years 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.

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