Irish Republican News · August 7, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
North political momentum must be maintained

By Gerry Adams (for the Irish Times)

On Tuesday, I stood with the residents of Divis Tower in west Belfast, as the British army began dismantling the infamous spy post that has blighted their lives for more than three decades.

The British army and their surveillance equipment will soon be gone and the floors they occupied will be home to families from the Falls. This followed an announcement that the Six Counties-based battalions of the notorious Royal Irish Regiment (RIR) are to be disbanded as is the discredited non-jury Diplock Court system.

A lot can change in a short time. Just last April, when the peace process seemed to be spiralling out of control, I made a public appeal to the IRA to achieve their aims by purely political and democratic activity. I did so because I believe that for the first time the opportunity exists to achieve Irish unity and independence through purely peaceful and democratic methods. Last week the IRA, in a widely acclaimed move, ended its armed campaign and moved into a new peaceful mode. The Irish and British governments, and indeed the vast majority of people, recognise not just the historic nature of the IRA move, but also the need for political momentum to be maintained in the peace process.

In straightforward terms this means that the Irish and British governments need to push forward with the implementation of the Good Friday agreement and the restoration of the political institutions established by it. There are many outstanding issues to be resolved including policing, equality, human rights and the need for a substantial peace dividend, particularly for all of those communities - republican and loyalist - that suffered so much over the last 30 years.

It also means that the days of Ian Paisley and the DUP being allowed to prevent political progress come to an end. Given the reaction of the DUP in the days since the IRA announcement, it appears as if Ian Paisley would have preferred that the IRA had not made its move at all. It is clear at this point that the DUP strategy of opposing peace talks is about delay, delay and delay again. Will this change? I don’t know. But Tony Blair needs to advise the DUP, on behalf of the British government, that the Good Friday agreement is going to be delivered and that the opportunities presented by last week’s IRA initiative have to be seized.

It is long past time for the DUP to face up to their political responsibilities and start representing the interests of those who vote for them. Sooner rather than later they need to sit down face-to-face with Irish republicans to discuss all these issues. However, if the DUP are not willing to talk, if they are not willing to embrace the Good Friday agreement, then the governments need to move the process forward.

No one should lose sight of the responsibility of the Irish Government in this situation in terms of promoting the rights and entitlements of all Irish citizens on the island. The Taoiseach has given a commitment that MPs elected in the Six Counties will be able to speak in the Dail. As MP for West Belfast I should have the same right to speak on the Rossport Five in Co Mayo, or homelessness in Dublin, or drug problems in Limerick as Michael McDowell or Dermot Ahern have to speak on issues in Belfast or Derry. We want to see this done with all speed.

I also believe that there exists for the first time since partition an opportunity for all those political parties who espouse Irish unity to co-operate in bringing together a plan to achieve this goal. All republicans, nationalists and socialists should be debating and planning for the sort of Ireland we want to build. What is required is a political strategy. A strategy which addresses the concerns of unionists but nevertheless carries forward the necessary work of removing partition, ending British jurisdiction and building a national Republic on the island in a planned and systematic fashion. Sinn Féin will be discussing all of these matters with the Irish Government and the Opposition parties in the time ahead.

Our main priority in the days and weeks ahead is to do all that we possibly can to stabilise the peace process. There are more challenges to come, including loyal order marches later this month which could create problems. Dialogue needs to happen now. I would also appeal to people throughout Ireland, including those in the unionist community, to seize the opportunity that has been created and to work with nationalists and republicans on the best way forward.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News