5 February 1998 Edition
Adams accuses Trimble
FUNDAMENTAL political and constitutional change is the responsibility of the present generation, and not future ones.
This was the key message from Gerry Adams as the delegates at the peace negotiations considered Strand One of the peace process.
The Sinn Féin leader accused David Trimble's unionist party of being unable to treat nationalists with anything other than contempt.
Explaining Sinn Féin's rejection of an internal settlement, Adams said, ``Our position on institutions for the Six Counties is straightforward. The status quo has failed. An internal settlement will not work. It therefore follows that an assembly dominated by unionists is unacceptable to Sinn Féin and we believe to many nationalists.''
Accusing unionists of being unwilling to change, he said,.''Look at Belfast City Hall. The unionists continue to discriminate against nationalists. Look at their behaviour at the Forum. Sinn Féin's judgement was correct. The SDLP went in and then had to leave.''
Challenging proponents of an internal settlement to give an example of an institution in the north dominated by unionists where equality is embraced and where nationalists are treated as first class citizens, he said:
``Mr Trimble's arrogant leaking of my letter to him (to the Irish Times), his arrogant refusal to accept the rights of the Sinn Féin electorate, his behaviour on the Garvaghy Road, events at the Forum and in local councils, are all proof of unionism's dogged opposition to fundamental change.''
And saying that the British government cannot dodge its responsibility, he continued, ``All-Ireland institutions which are subordinate or subservient to a Six County assembly will be unable to create the dynamic required for a durable and democratic settlement.
``A singular focus on institutions and structures ignores the fact that a peace process must address many other issues in a direct and effective manner. The success of this process will not only be judged on what structures emerge from it but on how the lives of people from day to day are improved.''
Explaining the UUP view of an assembly as a tier of administration between Westminster and local government in the SIx Counties, Adams continued, ``I know this is a negotiating position. The negotiations are not over. Sinn Féin remains totally commited to negotiations as the means of managing change. Sinn Féin strategy is to seek the maximum possible change - not the minimum.
``No nationalist leader could sell the positions outlined by Mr Trimble even if they wanted to,'' he said.
``Our focus should be on bringing about fundamental political and constitutional change. This is not the repsonsibility of future generations as Seamus Mallon and Reg Empey tell us. This is our responsibility,'' he said.
Internal arrangements not an option
By Marcas Mac Ruairí
The peace talks resumed on Monday in Stormont focusing mainly on internal arrangements for the Six Counties.
In its contribution Sinn Féin posed several questions expressing concerns about any proposed Six County assembly. Despite the clamour for the unionists to start seriously enaging in the talks, they failed to directly address the SInn Féin questions.
A request by Gerry Adams to meet David Trimble was answered by a statement in the Irish Times saying that any settlement arsing out of the process would be a partitionist one.
And when Unionists this week accused republicans of not engaging in talks, what they meant is that republicans had not engaged on unionist terms.
Trimble needs to understand that a return to Stormont rule or a Six County assembly is not an option.
The fall of Stormont did not mean an end to the nationalist nightmare, it did not establish justice. The contemporary experience of Irish nationalists living in the north remains akin to the days of unionist rule.
Two anti-discrimination acts have failed to redress an unemployment imbalance against nationalists, who remain unfairly represented in the higher echelons of the civil service.
And in the place of the B Specials we have an expanded RUC supported by the RIR whose handling of the continuing sectarian onslaught on nationalists has since 1922 changed only terms of the technology deployed.
The actions and words of unionist councillors at local government level, in 1998, display a mindset of exclusion and notions of superiority.
Belfast City Council in particular is a bastion of discrimination where SInn Féin, the largest single party in the Council, is denied positions of authority as a matter of course. The party is further systematically excluded from the various boards and authorities which run education, health and other services.
When Sinn Féin expresses its opposition to a Six County assembly, it is not dragging up the past, as has been accused, but it is reflecting the current reality for nationalists.
There is no indication that unionists are prepared to treat nationalists fairly - on the contrary, they have shown themselves arrogant and unreformed since the collapse of Stormont.
Indeed, David Trimble this week denied that there is any discrimination and underplayed the nationalist nightmare as a state of `disadvantage.'
He refused to elaborate on what unionists foresee as the relationship between a unionist-dominated assembly and any all-Ireland bodies.
When the Strand 1 negotiations opened on Monday, Sinn Féin presented its arguments against an assembly in the Six Counties.
It posed questions to the Unionists seeking answers to the concerns of nationalists. The party listened intently to what the others had to say, but satisfactory answers were not forthcoming.
Sinn Féin has actively participated in all three strands of the talks process and has emphasised the need for everything to be on the table and for nothing to be agreed until everything is agreed.
The status quo has failed, but Unionists have proved to be completely opposed to the fundamental change which is essential for a democratic peace settlement.
David Trimble needs to understand that this is not the basis for successful negotiations. He is not real if he believes he can simply ignore the rest of the island. A negotiated settlement absolutely requires sincere engagement.
For its part the British government must realise that if all-Ireland institutions are subordinate to a unionist-dominated assembly they will not have the dynamic to move towards a lasting democratic settlement.
It therefore must implement an equality agenda and take steps to impress on the unionists the need to move away from old certainties.