Adams rejects British statements
Adams rejects British statements

A referendum within the Six Counties on the future of the border in Ireland is “inevitable”, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has said.

Mr Adams was responding to comments by British Direct Ruler Owen Paterson who last week said he had no intention of calling such a ‘border poll’, and had not been asked to do so.

The Good Friday Agreement provides for a border poll when it appears likely to Paterson that there is a majority within the Six Counties in favour of a united Ireland. Paterson commented on the issue after an opinion poll suggested that support for a united Ireland in the North had declined.

Mr Adams hit out at Mr Paterson’s handling of the matter along with a series of other sensitive issues, and criticised his time in office.

“The political landscape in the North has been transformed in recent years and there is growing support for a united Ireland. A border poll is inevitable. Mr Paterson knows this. It is only a matter of timing,” said the Sinn Féin leader.

He said by definition that time would come “when the people of our island have formed a cordial union of Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter.

“When a border poll is held Owen Paterson will have no vote on that issue. That is as it should be, entirely a matter for the people of Ireland.”

The Louth TD, who was speaking ahead of a party meeting in Gulladuff in County Derry, accused Paterson of blocking an inquiry into the killing of Human Rights lawyer Pat Finucane -- despite this being part of an inter-governmental agreement at Weston Park in 2001.

He said Paterson had blocked a Bill of Rights for the North “and he has been less than helpful on other matters like the Irish language. And his imprisonment of Marion Price is entirely stupid and unjust,” Mr Adams continued.

“But Mr Paterson would not be one the most adroit or skillful British Secretaries of State to have been imposed on us. His remarks on the border poll have to be seen in this context.

“Mr Paterson is also a supporter of the Union. That is the position of his government at this time.”

Mr Adams said Sinn Féin was “not naive” about Tory support for the Union. He said the Tories “had to be pulled kicking and squealing into the peace process. But now under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement the Tory/Lib Dem government has specific obligations.

“Despite the foot dragging that has characterised its attitude to this agreement and other agreements so far, Sinn Féin has no intention of acquiescing to British Tory game playing.”

Mr Adams said Paterson was one of a “long line of political overlords” that Irish republicans have had to deal with, “with great patience in the past”, he added.

“Obviously there are elements of the Good Friday Agreement that Owen Paterson is unhappy about but he should not presume to arrogantly dictate to people here how we will conduct our affairs. Those days are over.”

Mr Adams said the united Ireland that Sinn Féin seeks is “inclusive”.

“All elements of society on the island of Ireland must be comfortable and secure in the system of governance that is agreed. It is essential that everyone has the fullest expression of their identity without intruding on the rights and entitlements of others. Diversity, equality and tolerance is the key to this.

“Sinn Féin wants a united Ireland. Both governments are obliged to legislate for this. Like everyone else who is working for this very legitimate and logical objective Sinn Féin must demonstrate to unionists that a peaceful and prosperous future can best be achieved in a new union of the people of this island. Unionists must be persuaded that this is in their best interests.

“Currently unionists remain isolated on the margins of the British political system where they make up two per cent of the population. In a united Ireland unionists would make up 20% of the population and be able to exercise real authority, power and influence.”

Mr Adams said increased dialogue and engagement with the wider unionist constituency would “challenge republicans”.

“We need to engage in a full and open dialogue, including listening to unionist views, fears and apprehensions unconditionally,” he said.

“It is important that every opportunity is taken to increase understanding and mutual respect. Republicans need to reach out in a real effort to heal differences and create trust with unionists.

“Real reconciliation also means dealing with the legacy of conflict. That will challenge everyone -- republicans, unionists and the Governments in London and Dublin. But it is essential as the process of change currently under way moves from conflict resolution to an entirely new society.”

Despite Mr Adams’s statement, both the Dublin and London governments appeared keen to put the North’s political process behind them in a high-profile meeting at Downing Street on Sunday.

In a statement, the two leaders signed a “declaration” to deepen and improve relations between the two countries over the next decade, promising greater prosperity for all.

Touting the importance of Dublin’s relationship with London, Mr Kenny said the declaration recognises that “the relationship is at an unprecedented high level of co-operation”.

Mr Cameron viewed the declaration as the starting point. “All the friendship between our peoples, the shared culture and sport are flowering to their true and fullest extent. Enda and I are determined not to roll back on our heels on this, but actually to roll up our sleeves and make the relationship mean even more.

“What is most new about this is its existence,” he said, “Think of previous occasions with prime ministers and taoisigh would have stood in this room or in Dublin we would have been talking about political processes, parades, policing.

“Instead of that, there is another ‘p’ which is an entirely positive agenda between Ireland. It is about two countries which are friends and neighbours,” said Mr Cameron.

Commenting on the meeting, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said it had been a ‘missed opportunity to rebalance Irish-British relations’.

“For too long successive Irish governments have allowed the British government to dictate the pace on relations between the two countries,” he said.

“They have acquiesced to the British approach on a whole range of important issues. This approach needs to change.

“It is the job of the Irish government to assert Irish national and democratic rights and to put the case for a united Ireland as strongly as the British Government promotes the maintenance of the Union.”

Mr Adams said there were contradictions in the manner in which the Weston Park commitment to the Finucane family had been ignored, and Britain’s refusal to assist in the Inquiry into the Dublin/Monaghan bombings.

“Instead of coming away with firm commitments from Downing Street on important outstanding issues Enda Kenny has been given little more than platitudes by David Cameron.”

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