SINN FEIN REJECTS MARGINALISATION
Sinn Fein has responded to its political critics with an
extraordinary annual conference in Dublin this weekend.
In his keynote address to the conference, party president Gerry
Adams challenged deeply-held republican beliefs to urge that
those accused of the murder of Robert McCartney -- allegedly
killed by republicans, including IRA members, at a Belfast city
centre bar in January -- be brought before British Crown courts
in the North of Ireland.
The party's Ard Fheis took place at Dublin's Royal Dublin
Society arena in the midst of a barrage of political attacks on
the party in the run-up to the British general election in the
Six Counties and by-elections in the 26 Counties.
The presence at Mr Adams' address yesterday of the family of
Robert McCartney provoked cheers by political delegates. They
unanimously backed an emergency motion, tabled by the party
leadership, supporting the family in its pursuit of justice.
In the debate on the political process today, Sinn Fein's
Mitchel McLaughlin unveiled a novel and revealing account of the
party's negotiating strategy in the talks.
"The objective we set ourselves with regard to the DUP has
confounded many," he said. "We had been accused of being
unrealistic, of being naive, of being fooled by noises from
within the DUP before and after the Assembly election in
November 2003 when they publicly espoused a willingness to do a
But he claimed his party was "testing the DUP's conversion to
partnership, power-sharing and inclusivity".
However, following the rejection of an historic peace offer by
the Provisional IRA, Mr McLaughlin said the DUP, with its demand
for 'humiliation' photographs of the IRA putting their arsenal
beyond use, had "signalled clearly that they were not yet
prepared to leave behind the sectarianism, bigotry and
intolerance that marked the political life of the northern state
Mr McLaughlin also said that the Dublin and London governments,
"in the knowledge that the DUP would fail to come across the
line, tried to shift the blame onto republicans" by supporting
the demand for photographs.
"And of course," he addded, "the governments themselves
refused also to honour their part of the political package".
The incoming general secretary called on delegates to shift
their focus from the growing polarisation in the 26-County
politics to upcoming elections for the Dublin and London
parliaments, and on building policies and party support.
"In the coming months we have an opportunity once again to seek
an increased endorsement of our strategy, to ensure that when we
return to discussions, we will do so with an increased mandate."
Controversially, Sinn Fein justice spokesman Gerry Kelly called
on party delegates to brace themselves for a "new beginning"
policing in the Six Counties.
"It is not an impossible task and Republicans need to be acutely
aware that this in turn will raise fundamental questions and
problems for all activists.
"But we will pursue proper policing and justice with all our
Equally controversially, delegates also voted to keep the
party's coalition options open in the 26 Counties after the next
General Election to the Dail in Dublin.
Dail leader Caoimhghin O Caolain said: "Keep them all guessing.
Stay in the mix. Affirm our political platform and goals and
restate time and time again what others must do to measure up."
Delegates also passed motions calling for the release of all
Republican prisoners and for the Colombia 3 men, on the run from
a miscarriage of justice, to be brought home.