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Address by Gerry Adams to a Sinn Féin organised conference, 'Towards an Integrated Regional Future', Derry, (26 April 2006)

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

Address by Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin, to a Sinn Féin organised conference, 'Towards an Integrated Regional Future', Derry, (26 April 2006)


Towards an Integrated Regional Future

"Let me begin by welcoming all of you here today, and congratulating and commending all of those involved in putting together this innovative and important conference.

Ten days ago in this city and across this island we celebrated the vision and the courage of the men and women of 1916.

Among those who led and died in that great enterprise was James Connolly.

He accurately foresaw the disastrous political and economic impact partition would have.

Partition a Disaster

Today, partition continues to undermine the economy, infrastructure and the life opportunities of the people who live on this island.

But no more so than within the Border Corridor Area which is characterised by:

  • High unemployment
  • Poor educational facilities and low educational attainment
  • Rural isolation
  • Inadequate health systems
  • Poor communications, high energy costs and weak transport infrastructure
  • The Border Corridor Area is the poorest region in Ireland.
  • The North West is the poorest area of the poorest region.

Access to services are bad and the start up, retention and sustainability of small and medium businesses is severely compromised by the dislocation resulting from partition.

You cannot therefore understand these myriad problems if you don't set them in the context of partition.

A Strategy for a United Ireland

How then do we tackle this?

Sinn Féin is a republican party.

We believe that the economy of this island, our health and education systems, our environment, every aspect of our daily lives, can be dramatically improved by ending partition and reuniting the country.

That is why we are promoting the need for the Irish government to produce a Green Paper which sets out how this can be achieved.

The core of this paper - the five key elements of it are:

There is a responsibility on the Irish government to take the lead and bring forward a strategy to achieve national self-determination, Irish re-unification and national reconciliation.

The British Government should address this democratic imperative by becoming persuaders for Irish unity and by developing policies to end partition and end its jurisdiction in Ireland.

Now is the time for Irish people to engage on the shape, form and nature that a re-united Ireland will take.

There is a need for widespread consultation at home and abroad.

And every effort must be made to engage with unionist opinion and to consider, discuss and engage with them about the nature and form a new Ireland will take.

When this campaign was launched last year we pledged to take this issue into every part of Ireland and indeed beyond.

One way we have tried to do this is through motions to local councils. Already five councils in the north; Fermanagh, Magherafelt, Moyle, Omagh and Strabane have supported it. Regrettably the SDLP in Derry voted against, while in Belfast their Councillors abstained. Nonetheless, the debate has been very useful and we continue to promote the imperative of an Irish government having a political strategy to achieve Irish unity.

All-Ireland Agenda

But we also believe that tackling inefficiencies within the two systems north and south does not need to wait on Irish unity.

Combating the problems faced by people living in the Border Corridor Area and its regions, including the North West, can begin now.

The all-Ireland architecture of the Good Friday Agreement provides a basis for doing this.

Its all-Ireland Ministerial Council, the Implementation Bodies and Areas of Co-operation are all designed to reduce duplication of services and maximize efficiency.

The areas of co-operation and the implementation bodies cover areas as diverse as Health, Education, Transport, Environment, Agriculture and Tourism; as well as Intertrade Ireland, a Food Safety Prevention Board, Foras na Gaeilge, and others.

The potential and real benefits of re-integration in such key areas of governance are clearly evident.

And this is no more evident than within the Border Corridor Area where Regional Integrated Area Plans are obviously required to maximise the potential for growth.

For example, health provision is in crisis across Ireland. Doesn't it make sense to mould the two health departments into one?

In the North West would it not make sense for the health service to use the existing facilities in Derry and Letterkenny and elsewhere in this region?

How many patients, with serious illnesses like cancer, have to travel each week, sometimes several times a week, for treatment to hospitals in Belfast or Dublin because it has been argued that the population size in Derry or north west Donegal doesn't warrant a particular health facility?

But if taken as one health region the north-west could demand and secure greater specialised facilities!

Or take transport as another example.

It can take over 4 1/2 hours to travel from Derry to Dublin, and on occasion 2 hours to reach Belfast. This seriously hinders business development. The promise of a full motorway link in two decades time is unacceptable.

Derry's rail line does not provide any direct link with Dublin and a travel time in the 21st century of almost two hours to Belfast, only 70 miles away, is symptomatic of the neglect that this area has endured.

Why can't we have an all-Ireland road strategy which links our major towns and rural areas and enhances the potential for every area, however isolated, to secure economic investment and jobs?

Why can't we have a North West Regional Economic Development Strategy? And a North West Regional Economic Authority? Or proper investment in cross-border Telecommunications and Energy? Or equivalent bodies covering other parts of the border region?

Why can't we have a common all-Ireland agricultural policy which would benefit farmers throughout the island, especially in negotiations with the EU.

And there is room for significant expansion of these areas of co-operation and implementation. Energy and strategic/infrastructural investment, education and youth, sport and recreation, waste management, policing and justice and rural development, are just some of the areas of governance which can be improved.

In fact there is no facet of life on this island which cannot be improved by adopting an all-Ireland approach.

The Way Forward

Today's conference sees Sinn Féin, with others, continue the work of developing strategies and policies which can positively change the future of the North West Region, and of Ireland.

This is important work.

It is part of a process of continuous debate and consultation, of strategising, with a view to securing active support for a united Ireland while achieving positive change in the here and now.

So, there's lots of work to be done in the time ahead.

In a few weeks time the Assembly will meet for the first time since it was elected three years ago.

A process has been put in place to restore the political institutions if the DUP are up to the challenge.

The attendance by a DUP delegation to the British-Irish Parliamentary Body is a welcome development, as is Peter Robinson's expression of willingness to share power.

In particular, his comments supporting co-operation and 'harmonious interaction' between north and south appear to indicate a more positive and realistic approach by the DUP to the imperative of building stronger all-Ireland relations.

There is much media attention today on the report by the IMC.

Sinn Féin's opposition to this body is well known.

As far as we are concerned the IRA has fulfilled all of its commitments made in its historic statement last July. It has addressed unionist concerns and removed any further excuse for non-engagement and prevarication.

The onus is now on the DUP. It must decide if it is prepared to fully embrace the peace process and agree to the re-establishment of the political institutions.

Unionism today knows that an Integrated Regional Plan - a holistic approach - is the future for the North West.

That's the way to save jobs and create new jobs. That's the only way to create the wealth necessary to provide the resources our society will need for our children, our sick and our aged."


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