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Speech by Mark Durkan at the Launch of the SDLP's 2005 Election Manifesto, 20 April 2005

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Text: Mark Durkan ... Page compiled: Brendan Lynn

Speech by Mark Durkan, then leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), at the Launch of the SDLP's 2005 Election Manifesto, (20 April 2005)


"In recent months we have been setting out the SDLP’s better way to a better Ireland . We have been talking about what it is that the SDLP stands for.

Let me take this chance to reiterate our basic values.

We stand for a decent peace.

We stand for real progress.

We stand for the Agreement.

We stand for the whole of the Agreement. Because after years of violence, it shows the path to a decent peace. After years of intransigence, it shows the way to real progress. It promised a lawful society and an inclusive democracy.

That is why the SDLP has worked to make a success of every part of the Agreement. It is why we – and we alone – have stood up for every bit of it.

The Agreement is, after all, the will of the people. As a democrat and a true republican, I am bound to implement their will.

That is why, before the last elections, I gave my word that I would not renegotiate the Agreement with the DUP.

So did Sinn Fein.

I kept my word. They broke theirs.

Last December they renegotiated the Agreement for the DUP as part of the failed so called "Comprehensive Agreement."

That was a bad deal not just for nationalists – but for all our people. It weakened power sharing. It gave the DUP new vetoes. It did not even deliver a single extra North South body or area of cooperation.

Now Sinn Fein claim that they are republican – and the DUP boast that they are democratic.

Let me address people who call themselves the republican movement and people who call themselves democratic unionists. If you are republican, you must implement what the people voted for. If you are a democrat, you must uphold what the people voted for.

We in the SDLP, as true republicans and as true democrats, do that. And we will keep positive pressure on others to do likewise. To accept the Agreement. To live up to the standards of Irish democracy in the 21st century.

The good news is that our strong stand is working. Our positive pressure – and that of democratic style Ireland - is delivering. And with the support of voters in this election, I know that it will deliver more.

Already we have forced the DUP to accept more of the Agreement than they want to. More of the Agreement than Sinn Fein at Leeds Castle thought that they had to. With a stronger SDLP, I am convinced that the DUP can be brought to accept it all.

I believe that, if we keep positive pressure on, the provisional movement can also be forced to accept peace. Already, in seven weeks of positive pressure they have had to move more times than they did in the last seven years put together. With a stronger SDLP, I am convinced that we can get the provisional movement to go all the way.

People forget that the single greatest factor that drove the IRA to a ceasefire was positive pressure. Positive pressure of a stronger SDLP mandate, including Joe Hendron taking the West Belfastseat in 1992.

It is time that voters used the same positive pressure again by supporting a stronger SDLP.

Voters can do so confident that, like in 1992, we, the SDLP, will never abuse our mandate.

We will stay true to the principles of a dialogue led by a great man, John Hume. At the heart of the Hume/Adams approach was a reach to inclusion.

The SDLP has championed and stood by that commitment. I put inclusion into the Agreement. I have stood strong against every trick and tactic to take it out. That’s why, in response to Peter Robinson’s calls now for voluntary coalition, I say: it’s not on the agenda. It’s just not on. Peter, you might have been able to negotiate a new British exclusion law and a version of voluntary coalition with Sinn Fein in your December deal. But you will never get the SDLP to break the Agreement. And you know it.

Gerry Adams has been talking of those who have departed from Hume/Adams. Who are they? Not the SDLP. Not me.

As someone who was involved in the Hume/Adams project, I knew then, and know now what it was about. It was about creating conditions where the IRA would stop their violence, where there would be inclusive negotiations out of which would a new democratic accord. We got the accord with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Those who have departed from Hume/Adams are those who have let the Agreement down.

Hume/Adams was about a commitment to securing peace. How can that commitment not be questioned in the face of robberies, murders and cover ups? In the face of the failure of the Sinn Fein leadership to do the most basic thing - to tell the truth? All this has damaged the Agreement, the peace process and the good standing of northern nationalism at home and abroad. It has got to end.

I am pleased that Gerry Adams - nearly 18 years after the start of Hume/Adams, nearly 12 years after the first IRA ceasefire and seven years from the Agreement – has asked the IRA to accept peace. I hope that he means it. I hope he means real peace, decent peace. And I hope that the IRA delivers soon what we should have had long ago.

But we know – not least from the McCartney case - that it’s not what they say or spin, but what they do that counts.

Left to their own devices, we know that the IRA won’t go away. Nor will the DUP accept the Agreement. But under positive pressure, I am convinced that they can be forced to do it all. But we need voters to stand strong. They need to say by their vote that they are not going to back off inclusion. That they are not going to turn a blind eye to crime. They need to keep on the positive pressure for a decent peace and real progress.

The only way to force the peace from paramilitaries and force the pace from unionists is by voting for a stronger SDLP.

Stronger not just for peace and progress.

But stronger on all the right issues set out in this manifesto – and for all the right reasons.

Stronger against the Eleven Plus, stronger for students and for our senior citizens.

Stronger for farmers and for the rural community.

Stronger for job creation, healthcare and public service provision. Stronger for law and protection against crime.

Stronger for victims. Stronger for the truth.

Stronger for the Agreement.

Stronger for an inclusive democracy and a lawful society.

Stronger – with a better way to a better Ireland."


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