3 September 1998 Edition
SF's bold initiative
Way clear for Executive and All-Ireland bodies
In a bold series of initiatives Sinn Féin this week helped ensure the peace process continues to its next stage, the setting up of the Executive and the All-Ireland bodies.
In a keynote statement on Tuesday Gerry Adams repeated Sinn Fein's commitment ``to making conflict a thing of the past''.
He said: ``Sinn Fein believes the violence we have seen must be for all of us now a thing of the past, over, done with and gone.''
He emphasised that ``inclusive and honest dialogue is the only way forward in this country''.
His statement came against the background of a political vacuum created by the Omagh bombing. That action was described by an IRA spokesperson in an interview with An Phoblacht this week as having ``undoubtedly caused damage to the struggle for Irish independence and unity''. The spokesperson urged everyone ``to move the situation forward speedily and fulfil the existing potential for the resolution of the conflict in an all-Ireland context''.
On Wednesday Sinn Féin named Martin McGuinness as the party's representative on the International Commission on Decommissioning, in keeping with the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
It is now up to David Trimble to keep to the terms of the Agreement, meet Sinn Féin - and thus recognise the legitimacy of their voters - and set up the Executive. As President Clinton arrives in Ireland, that is the next step.
Make conflict a thing of the past
Text of Gerry Adams's statement issued on Tuesday 1 September
My position on what happened in Omagh on 15 August is quite categoric. I have condemned it without equivocation.
This appalling act was carried out by those opposed to the peace process.
It is designed to wreck the process and everyone should work to ensure the peace process continues as it is the clear wish of the people of the island.
Sinn Fein has called for a complete halt to such actions and has urged all armed groups to stop immediately.
Those responsible are aligning themselves with the forces opposed to a democratic settlement in the conflict here.
Sinn Fein is committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means to achieve a way forward.
We have to work politically to make the Omagh bombing the last violent incident in our country, the last incident of this kind. We are committed to making conflict a thing of the past.
There is a shared responsibility to removing the causes and to achieving an end to all conflict.
Sinn Fein believe the violence we have seen must be for all of us now a thing of the past, over, done with and gone.
In particular, the two governments have the principal responsibility, as do the party leaders.
I am committed to play my part, as is Sinn Fein. Our role in the peace process provides a substantial body of irrefutable evidence to support this.
The Good Friday Agreement has the powerful potential to take us forward and we must urgently press on with its implementation.
Inclusive and honest dialogue is the only way forward in this country.
We need to map a path out of the dark tunnel that people feel themselves to be in.
There is much despair around and the vacuum that has been created must be filled.
SF takes political initiative
As part of their commitment to the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Féin has announced that Martin McGuinness MP will be the party's representative to meet with the International Commission on Decommissioning.
It has been made clear that Martin McGuinness will sit as a representative of Sinn Féin and not as a go-between for any other group.
The appointment, together with Gerry Adams's statement on Tuesday, is seen as a Sinn Féin initiative to break the current political impasse and to lead towards the formation of the Executive and the All-Ireland bodies.
On Wednesday Gerry Adams said, ``Sinn Féin believes that the wholehearted implementation of the Good Friday Agreement has the capacity to transform the existing situation through constructive and dynamic political development. Sinn Féin accordingly believe that all participants to the Agreement must now act with renewed commitment to the implementation of all aspects of it within the timescale of the Agreement.''
Start building democracy
Neil Forde examines the political initiatives taken by Sinn Féin this week
``Sinn Féin believe the violence we have seen must be for all of us now a thing of the past over, done with and gone''. This was the one of two keynote statements made by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams this week. Yesterday Adams announced the decision of the party to appoint Martin McGuinness as Sinn Féin's representative to meet with the chairperson of the Independent Decommissioning Body.
The Sinn Féin statements were a positive bold initiative that, on the eve of US President Bill Clinton's second visit to Ireland, have given new impetus to the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
We need to map a path out of the dark tunnel that people feel themselves to be in. There is much despair around and the vacuum that has been created must be filled
Gerry Adams MP
Gerry Adams put a focus on the Sinn Féin initiative when he said ``Inclusive and honest dialogue is the only way forward in this country. We need to map a path out of the dark tunnel that people feel themselves to be in. There is much despair around and the vacuum that has been created must be filled''.
There is now a need to move forward with the wholehearted implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Adams described it as having ``the capacity to transform the existing situation''.
The new momentum given to the peace process was in stark contrast to other political events of the week as the Dublin and London governments moved hastily to implement their new security legislation following the Omagh bomb.
Gerry Adams, along with Leinster House TD Caoimhghín O Caoláin, voiced Sinn Féin's opposition to the new legislation. Adams said ``These new laws are a mistake''.
``The knee-jerk response of the two governments to the Omagh bomb, with both rushing to the comfort blanket of more repressive legislation, flies in the face of the new real-politik. The speed with which both grabbed for the file drawer marked `repression' runs against the spirit and the letter of the Good Friday Agreement.
``The two governments and the political parties must recognise that the Good Friday Agreement marks the beginning of a process of changes. To be successful it requires the consent and allegiance of both unionists and nationalists. We need to put the politics of domination and injustice behind us.
``Sinn Féin is committed to reaching a settlement which will accommodate the rights of all our people, nationalists and unionists. Even while the two governments are legislating for more repression Sinn Féin is endeavoring through yet another initiative to advance the search for a lasting peace.
``The Good Friday Agreement'' said Adams ``recognised the need for fundamental change across the entire spectrum of the equality and demilitarisation agendas and signalled the creation of mechanisms to deliver change in the specific areas of justice, policing and human rights. This is the agenda, not a return to the failure of security initiatives, which the two governments must push ahead with with all speed.''
Despite the bringing into law of the new security measures Sinn Féin's input this week has decidedly swung the political barometer back to the positive. It is a sign of how seriously Sinn Féin takes its responsibility to fulfil its commitments to implement all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement.
Announcing the appointment of Martin McGuinness, Gerry Adams called on ``all participants to the Agreement'' to ``act with renewed commitment''.
Adams said, ``Sinn Féin has repeatedly outlined our view that a lasting peace settlement requires the removal forever of all guns from the political equation in Ireland. The issue of arms must be finally and satisfactorily settled. This and the removal of the causes of the conflict is an absolute requirement of the successful construction of a lasting peace settlement''.
With Sinn Féin having offered the political leadership necessary and shouldered the responsibility of giving momentum to the peace process it now falls to the other participants to shoulder their responsibilities.
The next necessary step is a meeting between First Minister David Trimble and Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams. Such a meeting would be public acknowledgement of the tens of thousands of voters represented by Sinn Féin. It would finally signal acceptance of the Sinn Féin electoral mandate. And on Wednesday, during the Westminster debate on the new repressive laws, David Trimble gave an indication that he is prepared to meet with Sinn Féin.
It is an important development. There can be no more stalling. There are important issues of equality, parity of esteem and inclusion that must be dealt with by the two governments, the shadow executive and the newly elected assembly, as well as the vital All-Ireland bodies.
Speaking to reporters yesterday after the announcement that Martin McGuinness would be the party's representative at the Decommissioning body Gerry Adams put the programme of work facing the people of Ireland into its proper context.
Adams said that it was time to move forward into the executive the cross border bodies, the all-Ireland dimension and to ``start building democracy''.
This week began with a growing political vacuum. Sinn Féin's positive initiative has effectively filled the vacuum and built a platform where all the people of Ireland can move on. In saying that ``the violence we have seen must be for all of us now a thing of the past'' Gerry Adams also said ``there is a shared responsibility to removing the causes and achieving an end to all conflict''. In particular Adams said ``the two governments have the principal responsibility, as do the party leaders''.
By Saturday evening Clinton will have returned to the USA and another week in politics will begin. Then the next steps in building a real democracy must begin.