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Speech by Gerry Adams to the Derry Chamber of Commerce, Derry, 11 April 2005

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Text: Gerry Adams ... Page compiled: Brendan Lynn

Speech by Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin, to the Derry Chamber of Commerce, Derry, 11 April 2005


"I want to thank the Derry Chamber of Commerce, especially your President Richard Sterling for your kind invitation to speak here today.

I want also to thank Janice and Michelle who helped organise this event.

The next decade will, I believe, be pivotal in determining the economic and political direction of and in turn, the future prospects of the entire NorthWest Region.

That does not mean we have to wait until then - of course not. But by considering trends over this period it is possible to develop appropiate strategies.

In the past, while we have witnessed economic growth within the core metropolitan areas of Dublin and Belfast this has not yet been successfully transmitted to the West and NorthWest, to areas like Derry, Donegal, Sligo, Tyrone and Fermanagh.

The reasons for this unbalanced development are complex and rooted in partition but undoubtedly, one of the key factors has also been the refusal of both governments to invest sufficiently in the infrastructure necessary for this region of over 350,000 people to compete on an equal basis.

Today’s challenges are quite different from any that this society has faced before. Industrial development within the Near and Far East is taking place at an unprecedented rate and the European Union continues to expand taking in many of the former Soviet Bloc countries.

International capital is following cheap labour markets, as it used to do here, in countries such as China or Indonesia where it is now paying wage rates of $1 per day.

If the NorthWest is to progress and prosper, it needs the tools to be able to transform itself from an area that was formerly heavily dependent on traditional industries such as textiles, developed in the 18th and 19th centuries to one that possesses the attributes necessary to move the NorthWest forward into the 21st Century. Achieving this means developing a holistic strategic approach to economic development.

It means setting that strategic approach in the context of an evolving island wide economy; and it requires political stability, underpinned by genuine equality enforcement.

It also requires leadership from the governments, from politicians, from business, from the Trade Unions and co-operation with communities.

In my view knowledge‚will be the foundation and the key driver for economic prosperity within the island as a whole for the foreseeable future.

Ireland as a nation has a unique culture and a love of language and learning.

Any city of 106,000, which produces and reads ten local weekly newspapers, must be fond of learning. Derry's strong tradition of academic excellence can form the basis for an economic renewal based on a resource in which we have a comparative advantage.

Intellectual property is recognised as being at the core of successful and sustainable economic development throughout the world yet within these 32 counties the level of spending by the governments and business on Research and Development lags far behind that elsewhere in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

I believe that those who put in place the building blocks for growth in the areas of education and research will be those that will ultimately prosper. In this respect the North West is fortunate is having a young growing population in which we can invest for the future.

Of course,education and research are not the only elements required to offer hope for the future.

The key to improving the competitive position of the local economy comprises three elements

1. Infrastructural Enhancement: Telecommunications, Transport, Energy.

2. Investment in Human Capital: Third Level Expansion, Retraining,

3. Entrepreneurship: Risk Taking

The first two are the responsibility of the governments and I believe they have singularly failed to invest sufficiently in the NorthWest to make up for the historic underinvestment and discrimination that occurred throughout the last eighty years.

The fact that it can take over 4 hours to travel to Dublin and on occasion 2 hours to reach Belfast constrains business development,and the promise of a full motorway link in two decades time is similarly unacceptable.

The city’s rail line does not provide adequate linkages with Dublin and a travel time of almost two hours to Belfast 70 miles away is symptomatic of the neglect that this city has endured.

The Chamber is to be commended for its leadership role in concert with Derry City Council and your Mayor Gearóid O'hÉara in bringing civil servants and Ministers to account for the inadequacy of the road, rail and air links to this Region. It shows the extent to which a common non-party political campaign can advance the economic conditions of the city.

There is also the need for a more co-ordinated and coherent approach to agriculture and fishing and the sustaining of rural communities.

This means an integrated and strategic approach.

In our view, the proper planning context for the economic revival of the region is to have at the heart of the regeneration process.

It is within this development model that we have proposed the cross-border Technological Corridor, which would link the Magee Campus through Letterkenny Institute of Technology, Sligo IT and Galway University. This Western Seaboard Virtual University would allow a two-way sharing of knowledge not only in the field of Communications Information Technology but also in the areas of Transport, Tourism and Training.

The economic multiplier effects of this proposal should be rationale enough for such an approach but the ability of education to act as a spur to general economic activity provides an additional argument in its favour.

In common with many other countries economic policies here have favoured large international corporations.

However, this strategy has failed this region.

In the future, much of the growth in intellectual property will come from small and medium enterprises that are more likely to be indigenous.

Indigenous business must be given more support.

We must ensure that they have the proper resources made available to them in preparation for the new challenges they face in this transition to an economy based on knowledge.

To summarise our programme in this election and for the immediate future - we are campaigning for:

  • A NorthWest Regional Economic Development Strategy.
  • The establishment of a NorthWest Regional Economic Authority which can put in place the building blocks for the next stage in this region's development.
  • Cross-Border Investment in Telecommunications and Energy
  • Enhancement of Road, Rail and Port facilities
  • Establishment of a Western Seaboard Virtual University

As an all-Ireland party Sinn Féin is well placed to advance these proposals and our two MEP’s, Bairbre de Brún and Mary Lou McDonald, have committed to work along with our elected representatives throughout the region to see that the NorthWest receives its proper entitlements from European development programmes.

They will endeavour to ensure that we put in place a proper support framework upon which this new knowledge based society can be constructed.

But to make this vision of a new future possible we need also to create the right political context.

The peace process has been in crisis for some time, the institutions are suspended and many key aspects of the Good Friday Agreement have still not been implemented.

Last week I made an appeal to the IRA to commit itself to purely political and democratic activity.

Before making those remarks I had thought long and hard about this initiative.

There has been adverse comment about the timing of my appeal. And some have dismissed it as an election stunt. It is no such thing.

And for those who have been listening to what I have been saying I have been flagging up the need for such a development for some long time now, including here in Derry at Easter.

The logic is straight-forward.

The IRA is being used as the excuse to delay the process of building peace with justice on this island.

Furthermore, unless there is bold and decisive action the peace process is going backwards. Who do we expect to take such bold and decisive action? Ian Paisley? David Trimble? Paul Murphy? Michael McDowell?

The downward spiral of the peace process is not in the interests of the majority of people on this island.

It is therefore not in the interests of republicans. It is not in the interests, in my opinion, of the IRA.

My initiative is aimed directly at IRA Volunteers and the IRA support base.

But while my appeal is aimed at this particular group it affects everyone else as well. Particularly those parties with a responsibility to implement the Good Friday Agreement.

It especially has huge implications for the two governments.

When I say that without a bold initiative the peace process was going backwards I meant that.

The current election will see a hardening up of the DUP and the UUP positions as they compete for votes.

After the election there may be some optical illusions of talks about talks sponsored by whoever is the British Secretary of State at that time. By then the marching season will be upon us and of course that is generally an annual absurd excuse to suspend any dialogue.

Before we know it, it will be September and it's the autumn again.

Does anyone think that the situation would have improved by then given the stance of the governments and the unionist parties? And given the mood within republicanism?

The downward spiral had to be broken.

That is what I am trying to do.

Will that mean that the unionists will queue up to get into power with Sinn Fein? Of course not.

But it does mean that the two governments also have to embrace purely political and democratic activity.

My initiative means that there can be no possible excuse for the process to remain in stagnation.

The governments have to move it forward.

It is also my opinion, not withstanding their public scepticism, that the unionists understand that this is a serious effort to create conditions to put the Good Friday Agreement back on the tracks again.

So I am looking for the widest possible support. And while the process of internal consultation within the IRA is the crucial one, I am calling upon all republicans and nationalists and others to debate the future direction of our struggle.

Not least because in many ways this is about the future for the people of this island. I believe the tasks facing us in the immediate short term are to get the peace process bedded down and the Good Friday Agreement up and running, including and particularly the all-Ireland agenda.

Sinn Féin wants to see a United Ireland with a national republic on this island and I believe there is the ability, support and the potential to achieve this.

So what does all this mean in the immediate short-term?

It means getting the election out of the way, and Sinn Fein's endeavour naturally will be to get the biggest possible vote.

It means the IRA engaging in a process of internal consultation.

It's entirely reasonable to ask how long it will take to complete this. In truth I don't know at this point.

It is my firm intention to stay away from speculating or interpreting the IRA's position but because others have said there must be an answer within weeks I have to say that in my opinion it is not likely that the IRA's process can conclude as hastily as that.

Not if there is going to be a proper inclusive debate with the possibility of the response that I am looking for.

I, and others in the Sinn Féin leadership intend to use whatever influence we have to bring other republicans along the road I have outlined.

Beyond this or perhaps parallel with it there is a need to ensure that the orange marching season is peaceful.

Derry has led by example on this issue. But there are difficulties elsewhere and there is a particular responsibility for the march organisers and the British government and its agencies.

I fully expect republicans and nationalists to continue to play our positive role, particularly within those communities, which are victimised by unwanted orange parades.

I call upon unionist leaders to play a more constructive role than some have thus far.

So, there's lots of work to do.

The people of have always played an important role on those national issues. While my remarks today are about the economic recovery of this region we all know that this is unlikely to be achieved except in the national context, including a stable and enduring peace process.

Derry republicans have played a pivotal role in all of the great changes of recent times. I am sure that that will continue into the future.

I thank them all for their leadership and I thank you all for your contribution and your leadership. Good luck in all that you do."


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