Extracts from a Speech by Gerry Adams (SF), to the annual Friends of Sinn Féin dinner, New York, (9 November 2006)
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Extracts from a Speech by Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), to the annual Friends of Sinn Féin dinner, New York, (9 November 2006)
"You will all know that the two governments and the political parties spent a few days recently in St. Andrews in Scotland. The governments produced a paper and asked that the parties respond to it by tomorrow - November 10th.
The governments also set out a timetable which is scheduled to culminate on March 26th with the restoration of the Executive and the political institutions, including the all-Ireland Ministerial Council and bodies.
Earlier this week the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle acknowledged that the St. Andrews process has the potential to deliver the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and the restoration of the political institutions.
There are a number of key issues which still require further work, and there are ongoing negotiations in relation to these. But subject to delivery of these issues the commitments set out by the governments at St. Andrews could, we believe, represent a way forward.
Our objective is to advance the peace process and to bring about the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
This means the DUP and Ian Paisley moving to share power jointly with Sinn Féin and participating fully in the all-Ireland Ministerial Council.
Getting Ian Paisley into a power sharing arrangement would be an historic development. Getting him in as First Minister sharing power equally with Martin McGuinness is a development few would ever have dreamt possible.
I know that there are many people who have mixed feelings about this. That is not surprising given Ian Paisley's record. But our clear view is that the Good Friday Agreement presents a route forward out of conflict for all the people of Ireland.
We remain firmly committed to the principles of republicanism and the objectives of unity and independence. So what we are trying to do is to take control of Irish affairs away from Britain and put it were it belongs in the hands of the people of Ireland.
This phase of our struggle has been a torturous and frustrating period for many of us. We want maximum change and as quickly as possible. The problem is others want minimum change and as slowly as possible. And it isn't just the unionists. The two governments also are about keeping the status quo insofar as they can.
We are about changing the status quo.
The governments pretend that the problems which beset the process are the fault of two equally culpable parties, the DUP and Sinn Féin, so that they can avoid making hard decisions.
The time for this game to end is now. Let me make it clear - Sinn Féin has always been ready and willing to deal with the other political parties, including the DUP, and everyone, especially the two governments know this.
It is a tool of convenience for London or Dublin to claim otherwise.
The DUP are entitled not to speak to Sinn Féin and they are entitled not to form a power sharing government, if they so chose. But they are not entitled to dilute or delay the process of change that the Good Friday Agreement involves.
The governments have an obligation to deliver this agreement. So far they have failed to do this.
One of the big issues which need to be sorted out is the issue of policing.
I am tired of hearing that republicans don't support law and order. Republicans do support law and order. But that doesn't mean that we will roll over and endorse whatever policing arrangement the British government dictates. We have been forthright about our position on policing and our vote continues to increase.
8 years ago addressing the Irish American Historical Society here in New York I pointed up the difficulties around policing.
'Imagine' I said, 'that the NYPD has been directly responsible for the murder of 5,000 people because they were political dissidents or of a different religion. Imagine too that the NYPD is linked to right wing death squads which have killed another 10,000 people - those are roughly comparible figures. How would New Yorkers view the NYPD?'
Irish Republicans and nationalists have had over 80 years of the worst kind of state policing. Sinn Féin is totally opposed to a counter-insurgency led, collusion ridden, sectarian based paramilitary force which seeks to defend the status quo and the interests of one section of people by oppressing another section. And we make no apologies for this.
The Good Friday Agreement was about changing all that was wrong with the northern state - tackling discrimination against Catholics, resolving deep rooted human rights and equality issues, constitutional and institutional matters and of course creating a new start for policing and justice.
The Agreement declared that our society needed a new beginning to policing and defined the criteria for a civic policing service. That is the position Sinn Féin supports.
And since 1998 Sinn Féin has worked hard in negotiation after negotiation with the British to tackle this issue. Why?
Because Republicans are for policing. Republicans are law abiding people who want a fair and equitable policing and justice system that is transparent and accountable.
And in our negotiations with the British we have been very successful in making progress on this issue.
Sinn Féin's focus is about bringing an end to partisan and sectarian policing. We are determined to ensure that all elements in policing are accountable.
That is the focus of our negotiations with the British government at this time.
I have made it clear that when the British government and the DUP conclude with us in a satisfactory way on the outstanding policing issues I will go to the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle and seek a special Ard Fheis. That is the democratic structure of the party which will take any decision about our future approach to policing.
There are still challenges to be overcome in respect of policing issues, as well as keeping the British and Irish governments to their stated public positions around the Good Friday Agreement, and getting the DUP to play their full part.
At St. Andrews Ian Paisley was moved to say that he hoped there could be a better future for the children of the north. I watched and listened very closely to him. I think he was genuine. In my remarks I said the future was for all our children and I repeated the words of Bobby Sands.
Since then of course Ian Paisley has refused to turn up at meetings. He has used language which is offensive and objectionable, but it is my guess that the DUP tomorrow will signal, in a qualified way their intention to give conditional support to the process outlined at St. Andrews.
Maybe I'm wrong in that. But that's my guess. And if not tomorrow, then some day soon.
However if I am wrong then the governments must move on to fulfill their obligations.
They have set out a sequence and a time table for implementation - they must stick to it. If the DUP will not participate then Dublin and London must roll out the partnership arrangements they have committed themselves to.
Whether there is a power sharing government in the north or partnership arrangements between the two governments, Sinn Fein is moving forward with confidence in ourselves and our agenda.
Our eyes are on the prize - peace and justice for every man, woman and child and a democratic and peaceful way forward into a united and free Ireland.
The essence of republican activism is about making our politics relevant to people in their daily lives while all the time advancing, with increasing strength towards our goals.
At times, as I acknowledged earlier, this means taking risks.
This is such a time.
This is the time for all republicans to suspend scepticism about the intentions of the DUP or the two governments. This is a time for us to have confidence in ourselves and in our ability to deliver for the people of Ireland.
Republicans do not have to agree on every issue. Indeed one opinion is as valid as any other. So at times we must agree to disagree. We must set aside differences of opinion and unite in pursuit of the common good. I appeal to all of you to have a sense of our own strength and our potential. I am appealing for maximum unity. But in particular I am appealing for everyone to move forward.
Sinn Féin is not about standing still, marking time or going backward. Republican activism is about the future. We must have confidence in our collective ability to shape that future. In all of this there is one certainty - and let this be crystal clear - regardless of what happens tomorrow or on November 24th - the process of change will continue."
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