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7 May 1998 Edition

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United we stand

The Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle has tabled two important emergency motions for the party's resumed Ard Fheis this Sunday 10 May.
Firstly the leadership has proposed changing the party's constitution to allow members to take seats in in a new Six County Assembly. The objective would be to ensure maximum republican representation on the North/South Council and to expand the all-Ireland structures provided for in the Good Friday document.

The Ard Chomairle motion argues that any attendance policy would be underpinned by a strategy as directed by the Ard Chomhairle, that it would be based upon the party's strategic objectives and political goals and would be subject to regular review.

A second emergency motion proposes that Sinn Féin call for a'Yes' vote in both of the forthcoming referenda on the Good Friday document. The Ard Chomhairle has made clear that this is in the context of the party's absolute rejection of partition, of the unionist veto and of British rule in Ireland. The Sinn Féin leadership believes that the Good Friday document can be developed and that it marks a phase. There are also resolutions on the clár arguing for contrary positions to those of the Ard Chomhairle.

Vital and truly historic debates around these issues will take place at the RDS in Dublin next Sunday. Sinn Féin will again be the focus of intense media and political scrutiny. That the spotlight remains on Sinn Féin underlines the party's position at the centre of political life in this country.Whatever the outcome of its deliberations Sinn Féin will remain at the very heart of political developments and republicans will go forward in unity to pursue the struggle for freedom, justice and peace.


Leak Slammed

Sinn Fein Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin confirmed that the paper leaked to the media on Wednesday morning 6 May was a copy of the recommendations which the Ard Chomhairle will be putting to the Ard Fheis on Sunday.

McLaughlin said, ``The Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle met yesterday and agreed recommendations to be put to the Ard Fheis on Sunday. We are currently distributing these to the party organisation and membership, and the proposed resolutions are to be published in this weeks edition of An Phoblacht due out tomorrow.

A Belfast journalist got a copy of the resolutions without authorisation by the Sinn Fein leadership. I suspect that it may have been given to him by someone outside of the party as part of our distribution was by fax.

The Ard Chomhairle is recommending to the Ard Fheis that it support a ``yes'' vote in both states. This is in context of our absolute rejection of partition, of the unionist veto and of Brirish rule. It is our view that the Good Friday Agreement can be developed. It marks a phase and it is our firm intention to continue to make advances in the next phase.

The Ard Chomhairle appreciates and understands the difficulties which a ``yes'' vote presents to some republicans and that they may wish to vote otherwise. This is reflected in the Ard Chomhairle resolution.

The Ard Chomhairle is also proposing that the party consitituion be amended to enable candidates to stand in th elections on the basis of participation in the Assembly both as a way of ensuring maximum republican representation in the North/South Council and with the objective of expanding the all-Ireland structures.

This is in keeping with our view that Sinn Fein must remain at the centre of the political process.

There are other resolutions arguing for different positions from within the party. It will be for the Ard Fheis to debate and vote on these motions.


Political strength is the key


For the second time in a month one of the largest ever gatherings of Sinn Féin activisits will convene in Dublin this weekend to make momentous decisions on the future of the struggle for freedom in Ireland. Everybody is conscious of the gravity of the occassion. Events have been moving so fast of late that the word `historic' has become hackneyed but, in its true sense, it applies to the reconvened Ard Fheis of 1998.

This has been a period of intense political thought and debate among republicans. During the negotiations themselves, at their conclusion, and in the weeks since Good Friday, there has been much heart-searching and brain-teasing by all who have committed themselves to the freedom struggle. For many it has been a painful time; for many also a time of tremendous hope and a will to fulfil the full potential of Irish republicanism.

It is the will to win through to our ultimate objectives that unites republicans. Whatever shade of opinion they express, those who gather in Dublin this weekend will advocate their positions on the basis of what is best for the struggle. They will accept the democraitc outcome of their deliberations and work hard to ensure the success of whatever course of action is decided.

At no time has there been a more united and a more politicised republican struggle. The determination of republican activists has been redoubled through years of struggle with deadly enemies and remorseless opponents. The political consciousness of republicans has been honed as they evolve new strategies and tactics to reach our objectives of Irish unity and independence and the social, economic and cultural transformation of Ireland.

The Good Friday document is far from the final settlement we seek. There is much in it that disappoints. The core constitutional issue of British jurisdiction and the unionist veto has been affected - but not enough. The British government has yet to make the vital leap to becoming a pro-active promoter of Irish unity and of its own disengagement from Ireland.

At the same time it can be said that this document represents a further weakening of the ties that bind the Six Counties to Britain. And it has the potential - not in the text itself but in the political scenario it creates - to provide new fields of struggle for republicans where real gains, and real advances towards our objectives, can be made.

If Sinn Féin had been politically stronger then obviously a much better outcome to the last phase of negotiations would have resulted. But that phase is over and new phase has begun. We must increase our political strength in this phase as we did in the last. Increasing political strength is the key.

Even opponents of Sinn Féin now openly admit that the party is the fastest growing in Ireland and has more young people in its ranks than any other. Of course these same opponents would love desperately for Sinn Féin to buy into their kind of politics. The politics of graft. The politics of short-termism. The politics of personal advancement. The politics of the establishment. Some of them even believe that this is the logic of the republican peace strategy. Now, as at the height of conflict, they underestimate the determination of republicans to reach their ultimate goal, and they misunderstand fundamentally the nature of their struggle.

Whatever direction Sinn Féin takes on Sunday, its integrity as a republican party will remain the absolute priority for all activists. United in that view they will go on to further and greater successes in the period ahead.


An Phoblacht
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