Page last updated at 23:28 GMT, Saturday, 6 March 2010

Gerry Adams praises deal on police powers transfer

Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams addressed delegates at Sinn Fein's annual conference

Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams has praised the recent deal on the transfer of powers from Westminster to Belfast as a "hugely important... staging post".

The party's president told its annual conference the deal on policing and justice was proof change was possible.

Much of Mr Adams' speech in Dublin, which was live on Irish Republic TV, was targeted at a southern Irish audience ahead of elections there.

He particularly attacked the fiscal record of the coalition government.

Mr Adams praised all those who had been involved in the negotiations to take control of Northern Ireland's police and justice system back to Belfast.

Parades power

He said: "Just over a month ago we concluded an agreement at Hillsborough with the DUP on the way forward.

"Many thought this couldn't happen. But it did. This was a hugely important and symbolic moment.

"This agreement is a staging post. It is proof that change is possible."

Mr Adams said that powers on policing and justice would be transferred by April and that by the end of the year Belfast would also get powers to deal with the issue of parades.

They would not nationalise the wealth. But now they are happy to nationalise the debt
Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein

However, BBC Ireland correspondent Mark Simpson noted that Mr Adam's speech had been particularly thin on specifically Northern Irish politics.

"I don't think I've ever heard a speech from him that had so little about Northern Ireland," he said.

Our correspondent said the two main reasons for this were that the peace process was not in crisis and his speech was being broadcast live to the Irish Republic.

Mr Adams' speech comes ahead of southern Irish elections, for which Sinn Fein will contest seats, but has very narrow support.

He aimed particular criticism at the coalition government in the south for failing to distribute the wealth accrued during the boom "Celtic Tiger" years.

He told his party: "When the Celtic Tiger economy was at its height, and when the surplus of wealth was the greatest in the history of this state, the establishment refused to distribute the wealth in the common good and secure the future.

"They would not nationalise the wealth. But now they are happy to nationalise the debt."

At the end of last year, the Irish Republic government unveiled one of the most severe budgets in its history.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan announced a series of measures, including pay cuts for public sector workers of between 5% and 15%, as part of efforts to achieve savings of 4bn euros ($5.9bn; £3.6bn).

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