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Sinn Féin position paper presented to Mo Mowlam, 7 August 1997
Research: Martin Melaugh
position paper presented to Mo Mowlam, then Secretary of State
for Northern Ireland, at talks held on Thursday 7 August 1997
at Stormont, Belfast
Sinn Féin welcomes these discussions.
Dialogue is the only way to peacefully resolve the many differences
between us. We look forward to a positive engagement which we
hope will move the peace process forward. Sinn Féin enters
these discussions on the basis of our electoral mandate. This
is a matter of democratic rights and not a privilege to be given
or withheld. We welcome your recognition of this.
It is, of course, a matter of regret
that the negative approach adopted by the previous British government
delayed the search for an agreed and lasting peace settlement
for a period of at least three years.
The great challenge which remains is
to remove the causes of conflict by making real progress towards
a lasting peace settlement.
Progress requires meaningful negotiations
- a frank and genuine dialogue and a good faith engagement on
We believe the process of negotiations
should be as transparent as possible so as to build public confidence
in the process itself and to create a sense of public ownership.
Irish republicans want peace. Peace
demands democracy, equality and justice. We want an end to conflict,
an end to division; to poverty and inequality. We want an Ireland
free and independent.
Sinn Féin enters negotiations
as an Irish republican party seeking to promote the broad nationalist
objective of an end to British rule in Ireland. Partition is wrong.
It is a failure of the past which must be put right.
The British state in Ireland - the six
county statelet - is the product of British policy. British policy
has underpinned the climate for conflict and has prevented substantive
change. The British government must accept its responsibility
for this and, therefore, its responsibility for resolving the
conflict. Historically, British rule in Ireland has sustained
a culture of discrimination, inequality and intolerance. The injustices
which have resulted need to be speedily and effectively addressed.
Peace requires that these be resolved.
In our view the issue of sovereignty,
the claim of the British government to sovereignty in Ireland,
is a key matter which must be addressed in negotiations. So too
is the achievement through dialogue among the Irish people of
an agreed Ireland. The objective political and historical evidence
shows that political independence, a united Ireland, offers the
best guarantee of equality and the most durable basis for peace
and stability. An internal six county arrangement cannot work.
There has to be fundamental constitutional and political change.
The status quo is unworkable.
It is our view that the overwhelming
majority of people throughout Ireland and Britain wish to see
all parties participating in a meaningful and inclusive negotiations
Sinn Féin wants to see the Unionist
parties at the negotiating table in September. We want Unionists
there because peace in Ireland and a genuine peace settlement
is best and most speedily achieved by unionists playing a full
and active part in bringing that about. We urge the leaders of
unionism to open their minds to the possibilities created by the
new situation we are in. We are asking them to negotiate with
us. Sinn Féin is not threatening the unionists' heritage
Unionists are an intrinsic part of Ireland.
This is your home. Republicans don't want you to leave it nor
do we wish to dominate you. You have a right and a responsibility
with the rest of the Irish people to shape our shared future.
We acknowledge our responsibility, as part of a reciprocal process,
to try to convince unionists of our good intentions with regard
to their future on this island. In a situation of deep division
such as exists here, all of us have to suspend the distrust we
harbour regarding the intentions of others. Let us listen to each
other. Sinn Féin is prepared to do that. We urge others
to do the same.
We have a vision of a new future of
which we can all be proud, a pluralist society based on tolerance,
fairness and equality, in which we all lose our fear of difference
and cherish diversity. Let us all give the future a chance.
Sinn Féin's peace strategy is
about bringing an end to all conflict, of setting behind us the
divisions and inequalities which still haunt our country. We want
to move forward into a new inclusive future. Notwithstanding the
many obvious political differences between us, I am sure you will
agree that dialogue offers us all the best hope of doing that.
We will, therefore, approach these discussions and the wider negotiations
process in a constructive, responsible and determined manner.
We hope this dialogue will help
create a healing process which removes the causes of conflict
and addresses its consequences. Everyone shares the responsibility
to bring about a real and lasting peace in Ireland. Republicans
have demonstrated the will to face up to our responsibility in
this. This is evident in the initiatives we have taken, both unilaterally
and with others in Ireland, to advance the search for peace. The
courageous initiative taken by the leadership of the Irish Republican
Army, on July 20, in restoring its cessation of August 31, 1994,
is most significant. We now have the opportunity to achieve a
- Our long-standing position has been
one of willingness to enter into dialogue with a view to removing
the causes of conflict. Democratic, political and practical imperatives
clearly require the involvement of all political views if a democratic
resolution is to be sought and achieved.
- Inclusive and all embracing peace
talks led by the two governments should, in our view, address
three broad areas: (a) political and constitutional change (b)
an equality agenda (c) demilitarisation
3.1 Equality of treatment is an essential
ingredient of any process of democratic negotiations. Sinn Féin
endorses an approach, where all parties are subject to the same
rules and procedures in an effective process of negotiations which
aims to remove the causes of conflict.
3.2 The political climate in which these
talks occur could be significantly improved if the British government
acted positively and speedily to demilitarise the situation. An
end to British Army/RUC operations and the speedy release of all
political prisoners, for example, would generate confidence in
and greatly assist the peace process.
3.3 The British government should also
outline a programmatic approach on issues of equality. Parity
of esteem and equality of treatment must be realised. The imbalance
in the unemployment ratio needs to be redressed and effective
provision for equality of opportunity in employment realised.
Equality in economic development and greater and more equally
shared prosperity are required. The Irish language and culture
need equality of treatment. In other words, there needs to be
equality in all sectors of society - in social, economic, cultural,
justice, democratic and national rights issues.
3.4 These issues do not require negotiation.
They are issues of basic civil and human rights. The British government
should act on these issues immediately to demonstrate a real interest
in building confidence in its approach to the search for a lasting
- The route to peace in Ireland is
to be found in the restoration to the Irish people as a whole
of our right to national self-determination. National self-determination
is universally accepted to mean a nation's right to exercise the
political freedom to determine its own social, economic and cultural
development without external influence or impediment and without
partial or total disruption of the national unity or territorial
integrity. Agreement on how the right is to be exercised is a
matter for the Irish people alone to determine.
- British sovereignty over the six
counties, as with all of Ireland before partition, is self-evidently
the root cause of division, political instability and conflict.
- Consequently, and with due regard
for the real difficulties involved, our objective is to bring
about a change of British government policy in regard tothis and
an end to British jurisdiction on this island. This should, of
course, be accomplished in the shortest possible time consistent
with obtaining maximum consent to the process.
- We believe that the wish of the majority
of the people of Ireland is for Irish unity. We believe that an
adherence to democratic principles makes Irish unity inevitable.
The emerging political and economic imperatives, both within Ireland
and within the broader context of greater European political union,
support the logic of Irish unity. Since its creation in 1921,
the six county statelet has been in constant crisis. Its survival
has always been dependent on division, repressive legislation,
coercion and discrimination. Its existence lies at the heart of
the present conflict and divisions, both in Ireland, and between
Britain and Ireland. The conflict is a political problem not a
security problem. It requires a political solution.
- It is our view therefore that the
British government should play a crucial and constructive role
in persuading unionists to reach a democratic agreement on the
issue of Irish national reunification with the rest of the people
of this island and to encourage, facilitate and enable such agreement.
- No one can have a veto over the negotiations
or over their outcome. If they are to be successful, inclusive
negotiations must address all relevant issues without vetoes,
without preconditions and without any attempt to predetermine
- We recognise that the concerns of
the unionist population about their position in an Irish national
democracy must be addressed and resolved in a concrete way, including
legislation for all measures agreed in the course of a process
of negotiations. This process of national reconciliation must
secure the political, religious and democratic rights of the northern
unionist population. That is not only the democratic norm but
a practical necessity if we are to advance the cause of peace
- The most urgent issue facing the
people of Ireland and Britain is the need for a genuine peace
process which sets democratic equality, justice and political
stability as its objectives and, has as its means, dialogue and
all-embracing negotiations in the context of democratic principles.
We are convinced that if the political will exists then we can
finally move away from conflict through the achievement of a democratic
political settlement. The potentially historic opportunity which
currently exists should be enthusiastically grasped by all sides.