Speech by Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams said the election was a core issue for Sinn Fein
I welcome this morning's announcement of an assembly election on November
26th. This was a point of principle and a core issue for Sinn Fein. It is
the context for today's developments.
The people assembled here today will be representing Sinn Fein. We will be seeking an endorsement of our strategy and of the positions I will outline today. I appeal to the electorate to use their vote and to use it wisely in support of a continuing process of change and a peaceful and just future for all our people.
The last 10 years of the peace process, and especially the last five years,
have been a political and emotional rollercoaster ride for republicans and
unionists, nationalists and loyalists. We have been through a lot together.
As republicans we have been faced with enormous challenges. We have
confronted those challenges.
Each year, and sometimes more than once in a year, we have reached what some have described as another 'crossroads' in our struggle. Some years ago I compared all this to a journey.
For us the destination is an Irish republic. Completing the journey means having a political strategy to get us there. It means engaging with and putting our case to our opponents. It means taking the political offensive, taking initiatives, and engaging in the battle of ideas.
Sinn Fein is a united Ireland party. But being an Irish republican means
more than paying lip service to the 1916 Proclamation or to the ideal of
It means refusing to stand still. It means taking risks. It means reaching out to others. It means moving forward.
Republicans are not quitters.
We have refused to give up. We have refused to
countenance a continuation of division, discrimination or injustice. We have
campaigned, agitated, lobbied and challenged those who want to return to the
old failed policies of the past.
We have sought and are seeking to change minds and attitudes. We are trying to build new and better relationships between the people of this island, and between us and the people of Britain.
In recent months, and especially in the last few weeks, the Sinn Féin
negotiating team has been involved in intense discussions with the Ulster
Unionist Party and the two governments.
Much of the media focus has been on the IRA. The reality is that all of the
participants, and the two governments have significant contributions to make
if the institutions are to be restored and the Good Friday Agreement made to
work efficiently and effectively. It isn't just down to republicans. It
Making this process work is a collective responsibility. Republicans need to
know that the two governments will honour their commitments. Republicans
need to feel confidence in a unionist leadership working the institutions
and the Agreement and joining with us as partners in the task of building a
better future for our people.
Equally, unionists need to have confidence in
In this context let me make some remarks about the current situation. The
initiatives taken in April and May by republicans to resolve outstanding
matters were rejected. There was a lot of justifiable anger about that. But
now we need to move on.
The Joint Declaration produced by the two governments at that time has good
and positive elements in it; particularly around those aspects of the
Agreement which have yet to be implemented.
It is generally acknowledged that the focused work of Sinn Fein's
negotiating team, led by Martin McGuinness, brought the governments to this
position. I want to commend all our team and to thank them for their
The commitments in the Joint Declaration to finally resolve the outstanding
issues are welcome. These and key issues of the Agreement are about creating
a stable society. They include:
Sustainable political institutions
Equality in all its dimensions
Acceptable, accountable policing
The transfer of powers on justice and policing
The demilitarisation of society
The entrenchment and effective protection of human rights
The anomalous situation of people on-the-run.
Other aspects of the Joint Declaration are unacceptable. The establishment
of the so-called International Monitoring Commission is a breach of the
Agreement and it contravenes the safeguards built into it.
It takes the right of democratic accountability from the elected assembly
and gives the power of sanction and exclusion over political parties in
Ireland to a British minister with no electoral mandate here.
Republicans have worked to have the Good Friday Agreement implemented, not only because that is our obligation, not only because that is the right
thing, but because it fits into a strategy to create an alternative to
It is a peaceful means of bringing about change and of sustaining
and anchoring the peace process. I want to reiterate my total commitment to
playing a leadership role to bring an end to conflict on our island,
including physical force republicanism.
Our strategy to do this is based on creating a purely peaceful and alternative way to achieve democratic and republican objectives. I say this conscious of the dangers and risks and in the certain knowledge that there is no easy way to sort out these issues.
I have no illusions about any of this and I know my commitment is shared by
the Sinn Fein leadership.
We are totally committed to building the peace process.
The length of the IRA cessations, first declared almost 10 years ago, its
discipline in the face of ongoing British military and loyalist activities,
and its initiatives to sustain the current process, show that it too is
genuinely interested in building the peace process. I commend them for this.
The Good Friday Agreement with its vision of a fair and just society
operating exclusively democratically and peacefully was democratically
endorsed by the vast majority of the people of both states on the island of
Ireland. Sinn Fein is committed to the full implementation of the
The IRA leadership wants the full and irreversible implementation of the
Good Friday Agreement in all its aspects and they are determined that their
strategies and actions will be consistent with this objective.
Implementation by the two governments and the parties of their commitments
under the Agreement provides the context in which Irish republicans and
unionists will as equals pursue their objectives peacefully, thus providing
full and final closure of the conflict.
Actions and the lack of actions on the ground speak louder than words and I
believe that everyone - including the two governments and the unionists -
can now move forward with confidence.
As president of Sinn Fein, I have set out a peaceful direction which I trust
everyone will follow. Sinn Fein's position is one of total and absolute
commitment to exclusively democratic and peaceful means of resolving
differences. We are opposed to any use or threat of force for any political
Sinn Fein wants to see all guns taken out of Irish society. There is also an onus on the two governments, and particularly the British Government, to underpin and validate the primacy of politics.
I want to appeal directly to those organisations which are not on cessation
at this time. While calling on all armed groups to desist I want to appeal
especially to organisations which present themselves as republican.
I appeal to them to join with the rest of us, republicans and unionists,
nationalists and loyalists, in taking a leap forward together and
collectively building a new future based on justice and peace.
Anyone looking at this situation during the 1960s, the 1970s, the 1980s
and for much of the 1990s, could be forgiven for believing that there are
some conflicts which simply never end, where distrust and hatred are so much
a part of the fabric of the society that things will never change.
But things have changed. Our success in bringing this about was not a matter
of chance; it was a matter of choice.
And republicans helped shape and give voice to that choice. For our part
Sinn Fein is totally committed to establishing an entirely new, democratic
and harmonious future with our unionist neighbours.
Like it or not we're all in this together. Sinn Fein has been involved in intensive discussions with the UUP over recent weeks.
This direct and open dialogue between unionists and republicans is in itself
a profoundly important development and the key to ongoing political
Consequently, we understand the importance of reaching out to unionists; of
learning about unionist concerns, fears and aspirations. Of explaining to
them how we feel.
One of the big things we have to do together is to tackle the scourge of
sectarianism. This remains a huge challenge for unionists and loyalists,
republicans and nationalists
Good work is being done in this regard, particularly at local government
level by Sinn Fein representatives, like Armagh Mayor Pat O'Rawe, Mayor Anne
Brolly, Councillor Francie Molloy, Mayor Sean McGuigan and former Belfast
Mayor Alex Maskey.
This needs to be built on. It will not be easy, but it is not impossible.
Many unionists, particularly working class unionists, are already conscious
of the way in which they have been exploited. Unionist working class areas
face enormous social and economic problems. Families, the elderly and the
young are weighed down with poverty, deprivation and a sense of despair.
This is totally unacceptable.
When Sinn Fein demands equality it is for everyone. We also have to reach
out to those who are in negative mode. We reject exclusion and isolation.
They are the politics of failure. We have to encourage engagement and to
persuade everyone to be part of the process of conflict resolution - to be
part of the future. I believe we have the collective knowledge and the means
to make this century the most peaceful, prosperous, productive time in the
history of Ireland.
The question is do we have the wisdom and the will? I believe we have.I
believe that together we can build a future of equals on this island. A
peaceful future which empowers, and enriches and cherishes all the children
of the nation equally. The people of this island have the right to be free.
To live free from discrimination and inequality, without violence and
Sinn Fein means to journey on from there, to be part of building a republic
worthy of the suffering and sacrifice of all of those who have gone before
I want to appeal to republicans throughout Ireland and abroad to continue to
support Sinn Fein's peace strategy. Initiatives by republicans cause pain
and difficulty for all of us.
I know activists will have reservations about much of this. But we have to
look at the bigger picture. We have to look towards the common good. Bobby
Sands summed it all up best for me. Despite great hardship, deprivation and
physical hurt he never lost sight of his vision for a new Ireland, an
Ireland in which our revenge will be the laughter of our children. It is
always easier to begin a journey. The hard thing is to finish it. Sinn Féin
is in this process to the finish.