The Irish peace process will remain in freefall until Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists seriously engage with Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams has said.
The Sinn Féin president also said it was up to the British and Irish governments to play their part in creating the right political conditions for progress.
“Charting a way forward is possible if the governments create the right conditions for local parties to represent their constituencies and to build a way forward together despite our differences on many issues,” he told party activists in West Tyrone.
“That requires unionism, and in particular at this time, the DUP to engage in a meaningful way with Sinn Féin. In fact for many within the DUP dialogue with Sinn Féin may be something they never seriously contemplated. I can see why that would be so. Given what we have all come through such a step presents huge issues for many people. Talking to opponents, making peace, accepting that the other person may have a point of view is a challenge.”
“And not only for unionists. It cuts both ways. For nationalists and republicans as well as unionists, we all have difficulties to overcome. But all of us have to go beyond our personal feelings on these issues. I believe that it is inevitable that we will do so. Eventually.”
“But unfortunately until we do the peace process will be in freefall.”
Mr Adams said Sinn Féin had acknowledged the electoral mandate of the DUP as the largest party at the Belfast Assembly.
But he said his party’s profound disagreement with DUP policy was irrelevant when it came to the need for engagement.
The Sinn Féin leader said republicans realised inclusive, unconditional dialogue was a necessary element of any conflict resolution process.
However the current DUP position was not conducive, he said, with the party setting a series of hoops for republicans and others to jump through before they would even consider talking to Sinn Féin.
“Apart from the DUP demanding that the IRA do everything they want, all the political parties also have to accept the reworking of the Agreement on DUP terms; and then when all this is done and dusted the DUP will be involved in some undefined form of government with the rest of us. Little wonder there is little public expectation of an imminent break through given the unwillingness of the DUP to engage on a realistic basis and to seek an accommodation with nationalism based on the Good Friday Agreement.”
“This however is not a sustainable position. The two Governments must not acquiesce to it.”
Mr Adams asked how the DUP hoped to deliver on its election pledges if it was unwilling to take the steps that could create a power sharing executive.
“How will they deliver for unionism?” he asked the rally.
“If they do not want a return to the political institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, that is their choice and obviously they can refuse to participate. But they cannot stop the equality agenda. They cannot stop people claiming their rights, including national rights. In other words they cannot stop a process of change. They can only play for time by trying to slow it down. Is that what unionism is reduced to? Far better that a confident forward thinking unionist leadership engender confidence in its own section of the community and join on its own terms with the rest of us to build a new future for everyone. That is the challenge facing the DUP.”