SIGN OF CHANGE
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has said a breakthrough deal on
power-sharing following the first-ever direct talks with DUP leader
Ian Paisley means that "a new and unprecedented opportunity for
progress now exists".
Extraordinary television images of the two party leaders sitting
together following the announcement of the deal on Monday have been
widely hailed as heralding the dawn of a new era in the Six Counties.
Mr Adams, wearing an Easter lily in his lapel to commemorate those who
died in the 1916 Easter Rising, sat just across the table from Mr
The two parties have agreed to share power on May 8, six weeks later
than originally planned by the Dublin and London governments -- but it
is the first time the two parties have jointly signed up to any plan
to run the Six Counties. On May 8th -- just weeks ahead of the
expected election date in the 26 Counties, powers will be transferred
to a Six-County executive headed by Ian Paisley as First Minister and
Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister.
The deal should see the full implementation of the St Andrew's
Agreement, a document issued by the two governments in October and
based on the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The parties also agreed to
make further attempts to increase the 'peace dividend' which will be
transferred from the British Exchequer to fund the new institutions,
and to begin a work programme of high-level discussions on future
Although negotiations continued up to Sunday night, most of the focus
on Monday shifted to the new public spirit of agreement and
co-operation between the former enemies. The so-called 'optics' of the
deal had an immense impact on the national and international media,
while the statements subsequently released -- particularly that by Mr
Paisley -- were genuinely historic in their tone of reconciliation.
However, there have been signs of mounting dissent within the DUP this
week, while Mr Adams has warned there was still "much work to be
Expressing confidence that the process would now succeed, the Sinn
Fein leader thanked supporters across the world for helping the party
reach this point.
"People are more hopeful now than at any time since the Good Friday
Agreement," said Mr Adams.
"Of course, there is still a long way to go and much work to be done
but I believe it is right and proper that we take this time to thank
all of those who helped create this opportunity. Particularly those in
the international community who backed the search for peace and
supported the centrality of inclusive dialogue and negotiations, when
such concepts were not popular.
"I want to especially thank the Irish diaspora around the world.
Irish or of Irish descent who make up Irish America, or live in Canada
and Australia and elsewhere who have played a pivotal role in the
development of the peace process.
"There are many such far sighted people from all walks of life. From
the corporate world, NGOs, the Labour movement, the Arts and literary
world as well as political representatives. Too many to name. But I
think of leaders like Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London who was
vilified in the British and Irish media for daring to speak away back
in the early 1980s to Sinn Fein and Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn and
many others in London.
"And then there are a whole host of others like President Clinton;
Senator George Mitchell; former South African President Nelson Mandela,
the current South African President Thabo Mbeki; President Fidel
Castro; Cyril Ramaphosa; Martti Ahtisaari; Senators Kennedy and Dodds,
and Congress members like Jim Walsh and Richie Neal and Peter King. And
many, many more.
"I also want to thank President Bush who has remained focused and
committed to the peace process throughout his time in office and who
has appointed a succession of special envoys who have played a key role
in the peace process.
"I want to see a very public and heartfelt go raibh maith agaibh
thank you - to all of them. We are where we are because of their trust
and confidence in us. They never gave up - even when things looked bad.
"Our responsibility to the people of Ireland and to all of our
international friends and comrades is to commit ourselves to never give
up, and to keep pushing this process forward to the day when we achieve
Irish freedom and a free united Ireland."