Speech by Gerry Adams, Sinn Féin President, 8 February 2003
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Text of a speech made by Gerry Adams, then Sinn Féin President,
Belfast, 8 February 2003
The speech was delivered to SF party activists from across the region
'Resistance to change has created crisis in the process ...'"What is clear is that resistance to change has created yet another crisis in the process. And four months into this crisis there is no sign so far that the British government are willing to move effectively to deal with this.
The current crisis in the peace process is not about the IRA. It is about resistance to change and the growth of Sinn Fein as an engine for change. It is about delaying the equality agenda. It is about the growth of republicanism across this island."
Sinn Fein has been at the heart of the peace process, of the negotiations and the Good Friday Agreement, and at the heart of the changes which have resulted from all of this.
We continue to drive the process of change. We are committed to achieving the new beginning which was agreed on Good Friday 1998.
We want our rights, including national rights and Sinn Féin is not prepared to settle for anything less than these.
There is a lot of speculation about what is happening within unionism but one thing is clear Mr. Trimble's approach has not changed over the last 5 years.
Over the last five years on several occasions he has sought to have Sinn Féin expelled from the Executive. He has not been successful.
But what he did succeed in doing was to get the British government to act outside the terms of the Agreement and to unilaterally introduce suspension legislation. It is apparent that the British government are pursuing a strategy whereby the survival of David Trimble as leader of the UUP is more important than the survival of the Agreement itself.
And Mr. Trimble has successfully exploited this willingness on the part of London. This approach has been aided by other elements of the British system who are still waging war against republicans.
In the almost 5 years since Good Friday 1998 the political institutions, in a clear breach of the agreement, have been functioning for less than half of that time. On 4 separate occasions, at the behest of the UUP leadership, the British Government has, suspended them.
Of course, Mr Trimble has to deal with the reality of the anti-Agreement faction in his own party and the anti-Agreement DUP who are electorally snapping at his heels.
But for many nationalists and republicans there is a serious question mark over whether Mr. Trimble is willing or able to lead Unionism in support of the Good Friday Agreement.
What is clear is that resistance to change has created yet another crisis in the process. And four months into this crisis there is no sign so far that the British government are willing to move effectively to deal with this.
Accordingly we have seen much speculation in the media about a possible move by the IRA.
Let's put all of this into some sort of perspective. In the negotiations Sinn Féin are seeking the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement as agreed by the British government and the unionists.
The British government and the unionists for their part are seeking more than was agreed, while at the same time they have not honoured the commitments they entered into.
For instance, there is not a new beginning to policing. And let me be clear again about this. Sinn Fein is not prepared to endorse the current policing format on SDLP terms. We continue to seek the new beginning outlined in the Good Friday Agreement.
We do not have equality or the observance of human rights.
We do not have a just or fair criminal justice system. We do not have demilitarisation. People are not living free from sectarian harassment and attack. We do not have Irish language rights.
The reality as Mr Blair acknowledges is that the agreement has not been implemented. And the political institutions are suspended. Again.
Political unionism continues to oppose change and seek to undermine the agreement.
British securocrats continue to target republicans.
While Loyalist death squads wage war on the catholic community and each other and their actions temporarily fill our TV screens, the focus continues to be on the Irish Republican Army. Is this the climate for a significant move by the IRA? I hardly think so. Does any one think there will be movement unless everyone moves? Unless the British government honours its obligations?
The current crisis in the peace process is not about the IRA. Of course the existence of the IRA is an affront to its enemies. But this process is about changing all that in a way which will bring an end to all the armed groups. Can that be achieved by ganging up on republicans? Or making movement towards basic rights conditional on movement by the IRA? Or by punishing Sinn Fein voters and other citizens if the IRA doesn't comply with unionist demands.
The underlying problems in the process and the current crisis is about resistance to change and the role of Sinn Fein as an engine for that change. It is about trying to delay the equality agenda. It is about the growth of republicanism across this island.
That is why the unionists are boycotting the negotiations. That is why we have the British securocrats making strenuous efforts to wreck the situation through leaking spurious stories to the media.
That is why the UUP is lobbying for a postponement of the May elections. That is why new electoral legislation was brought in to deal with the registration of voters here. This legislation has wiped tens of thousands of voters from the register. Every political party is affected by this, but the areas and people most affected are those where Sinn Fein is strongest. Nationalist, working class and young voters have been particularly disenfranchised.This is an issue of democratic rights. Every political party should be concerned about the fact that people are being disenfranchised. It is my very firm view that the motivation behind this legislation is designed to limit Sinn Fein's growth as a political party.
The focus for us must be to thwart the efforts to prevent the process of change. We must continue to build our political strength, and to defend the Good Friday Agreement.
Our party will not dodge our responsibilities in the times ahead. There is no way forward except through negotiations. We are agents of change and our commitment is to play a full role in meeting every challenge in the time ahead."
Text released through: Sinn Féin Press Office, 44 Parnell Square, Dublin 1, Republic of Ireland
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