A defining point
A defining point

By Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams (for Irish News)

This is a crucially important election. It is about the future - the type of Ireland we want to build in the 21st century.

It is about the peace process and its success or failure. And it’s about leadership - who is best able to give the kind of leadership that can end conflict, build equality and make this century different from all those which have preceded it.

On April 6 I made an appeal to the IRA to commit itself to purely political and democratic activity. Both the SDLP and DUP have dismissed this as a confidence trick.

I intend to follow the course I have set out.

Why? Because the peace process is in terminal decline. Without someone taking the necessary risks to break the spiral of decline we risk losing the progress that has been made in the last decade.

Who will do this? Ian Paisley? David Trimble? Mark Durkan? Paul Murphy? Michael McDowell?

I thought long and hard about my initiative before taking it. But for those who have been listening to what I have been saying over the last years I have been flagging up the need for such a development for some long time now.

The initiative I took on April 6 was quite deliberately aimed at leap-frogging over all the obstacles.

It is intended to clear the decks and to create the conditions for proper engagements between the parties and the governments after the summer.

It is also intended to put it up to the two governments and to unionism. If we succeed, how the two governments deal with unionist intransigence or a refusal to fully engage on the terms of the Good Friday Agreement will be critical.

Power sharing is a central tenet of this agreement. There are other key issues. They include demilitarisation, policing, human rights and equality. These are primarily the responsibility of the British and Irish governments. Will they deliver on these obligations or will they acquiesce again to unionism and others within their own systems?

My initiative also challenges unionism. If - as seems possible - the DUP emerge as the dominant force in unionism, Ian Paisley’s party needs to be faced by a strong political party able to defend nationalist rights and entitlements and promote nationalist and republican goals - that party is Sinn Féin.

None of us can control what happens in life, what events, twists or turns will impact on us. But that also is of secondary importance. How we respond is the important issue. It can make the difference.

I believe that how I have re-sponded can make a difference.

I am looking to the electorate to endorse the initiative that I have taken. I want after this election to be able to say directly to those who may doubt the course that I have mapped out that here is clear evidence that I am right, the Sinn Féin strategy is working and they should follow this course. Help me do this.

The stakes are very high. Big decisions have to be taken.

Beyond the politics of the peace process there are the big issues of job creation, water charges, racism and sectarianism, education and health which have to be tackled.

All of these affect every citizen, every family. They do not distinguish between unionist and nationalist or republican.

I have mapped out the necessary next steps in the process and the central role - the historic role - that republicans have to play.

I and others in the Sinn Féin leadership intend to use whatever influence we have to bring as many republicans as possible along the road I have signposted.

The die is cast. The challenge now is to bring as many people as possible with us.

Irish republicanism is at a defining point. The peace process is at a defining point. I am asking you to join me in seizing this moment.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News