28 May 1998 Edition
Yes vote was for real change
Last Friday's referenda results heralded a period of intense political activity. The next week's and months will decide whether the potential for a lasting peace will be realised. Issues such as demilitarisation, equality, the Irish language, prisoners, and many others will have to be fought for every inch of the way. Already those who want to block progress on these issues have resurrected the decommissioning issue. It is - as it always has been - a distraction aimed at preserving the days of inequality.
Many of the same people are also demanding that sectarian marches be allowed through nationalist areas where they are not wanted. These people - the No men of Unionism - belong in the past.
But last week's vote is a message that that past is dead. The status quo is no longer an option. People voted for change. And they have a chance to enhance that message by voting for Sinn Féin in the Assembly elections. In that way they can guarantee that the progressive agenda will be pursued with vigour. The work starts now.
A Yes to effective change
But referenda votes are only a beginning
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has welcomed the Yes vote in the two referenda, but has reminded people that it represents only a beginning. He said the mechanisms of change encouraged by the document had to be put in place as a matter of urgency.
He called on David Trimble to begin talks, saying it was the wish of the people who voted Yes to see their leaders engage in inclusive dialogue. ``There is a responsibility on all of us now to deliver on the hope which the people of this island have voted for in such overwhelming numbers'', he said during a press conference on Sunday.
Talking about the other issues that needed to be tackled, he renewed his appeal to the Orange Order to re-route a dozen of sectarian or so provocative marches away from nationalist areas and said nationalists on Garvaghy Road should not be forced to ``lie down in front of the Orange boots on 5 July.
``That means the Orange Order not going into these areas. That means the British standing up for the rights of the people in those areas and not using the RUC to batter people in their own neighbourhoods'', stated Adams.
Gerry Adams also raised the question of decommissioning. ``There is clearly a need for urgent movement on the entire demilitarisation front and Sinn Fein has consistently called on armed groups, whether they are the British army, the RUC, loyalist groups or these other republican groups to follow the IRA's example'', he concluded.
On Monday 25 May, Sinn Fein vice-President Pat Doherty called for a formal voting arrangement with the SDLP which ensures that nationalist voters act in their own interests by voting for nationalist candidates. His comments came hours after SDLP MP Seamus Mallon hinted that his party could call on it's supporters to vote for unionist candidates.
``It is essential that nationalist representation in this new situation is maximised to ensure effective and immediate change, to secure equality, justice, cultural rights, demilitarisation, the release of prisoners, a new police service, a new judiciary and an end to sectarian Orange marches in areas like the Garvaghy Road and Lower Ormeau Road'', he said before adding: ``Sinn Fein intends to push the ``Good Friday'' document to its outer limits and beyond.''