Keynote address by SF President Gerry Adams at Stormont
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP MLA today gave a keynote
address to senior Sinn Fein activists at Parliament Buildings.
In his speech Mr. Adams said: "the political process is the
responsibility of political leaders. We created the Good Friday
Agreement. It is our job, whatever about the approaches or
actions of others, to make politics work, to make conflict
resolution work. This is a collective responsibility. We all have
a choice to make. The Sinn Fein leadership's position is clear. I
believe that the IRA statement, unmatched by any from the IRA
leadership in this or indeed any other phase of their struggle,
points the way forward.
"Now the two governments and the leadership of the UUP have to
make a choice ... The Joint Declaration and all other statements
should be published. It is as simple as that. The commitments
contained in all the statements, including the IRA statement,
should be implemented in full. The Assembly Elections should
proceed as planned."
The following is the full text of his address.
Sinn Fein's focus in the last five years has been to see the Good
Friday Agreement fully and faithfully implemented.
The Agreement was born out of decades of division and conflict,
and almost 30 years of war. It reflects a deep desire on the part
of the vast majority of people on this island to build a just and
lasting peace for everyone.
The substance of the Good Friday Agreement is about the rights
and entitlements of citizens. It is about a new political
dispensation on the island of Ireland and a new relationship
between Ireland and Britain.
It is about change - fundamental and deep-rooted change -
including constitutional and institutional change - across all
aspects of society.
Five years after the Agreement there has been progress. The
institutions, when they functioned, did so effectively and were
While for some people, including bereaved families and victims of
sectarianism, the situation is worse the reality is that for most
people things are much better today than they have ever been.
We have all come a long way in recent years. A problem, which was
previously described as intractable, has proven not to be so.
But we still have a lot more to do.
Important aspects of the Agreement have not been delivered on, as
Prime Minister Blair freely acknowledged last October.
The purpose of the Joint Declaration and of the negotiations
which Sinn Fein and the two governments were locked in for
months, was to ensure that those rights and entitlements not yet
in place become a reality in the time ahead.
While committed to our republican objectives it is Sinn Fein's
view that the Good Friday Agreement, despite the difficulties,
continues to hold the promise of a new beginning for everyone.
I believe we have now reached a defining moment in that
The Joint Declaration commits to progress across a range of
issues and indeed significant progress in some areas; albeit on a
conditional basis. It also contains other difficulties, some of
which are wholly unacceptable to Sinn Fein. We have made this
clear to the two governments.
The two governments, for example, intend to introduce sanctions
aimed at Sinn Fein and the Sinn Fein electorate, which are
outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. These sanctions
would contravene the safeguards built into the Agreement and are
Let us be clear about the Joint Declaration. The commitments
given by the two governments, and especially the British
government, in the Good Friday Agreement and the Joint
Declaration, if and when acted upon would see the commencement of
a process. This could see the implementation in full of the Good
The Joint Declaration is not an act of completion. It is, at
best, a commitment to a process towards completion.
Nor is there any certainty about the UUP's position or its
intentions in respect of the stability of the political
institutions, a timeframe for the transfer of powers on policing
and criminal justice, or the establishment of the north/south
inter-parliamentary forum and so forth.
There is no certainty from the Unionist paramilitaries.
There is no certainty about the positions or the intentions of
But despite these very real and serious difficulties, it is Sinn
Fein's view that on balance the Joint Declaration presents an
important opportunity to move the process forward.
Consequently, the IRA leadership was persuaded to take yet
another initiative to support and give space and momentum to the
peace process. A draft text and other concepts were passed to the
two governments and the Ulster Unionist Party. There followed a
period of sustained leaking and misleading briefings to the media
Then on April 12 the two governments, in a public statement said
that it is important that all parties and groups join the
governments in upholding and implementing the Good Friday
Agreement in full. They also said that OEfulfilling the promise
and potential of the Good Friday Agreement is a collective
So there was agreement that the basis for definitively ending
conflict - conflict resolution - is a collective one.
On Sunday, 13 April, Martin McGuinness and I gave the two
governments the final copy of the IRA statement.
This detailed statement setting out the IRA leaderships view of
the current phase of the peace process was accomplished in the
most difficult circumstances. It contains a number of highly
significant and positive elements unparalleled in any previous
statement by the IRA leadership, either in this or in any
previous phase of their struggle.
A copy was also shown to the Ulster Unionist Party leadership.
The two governments have publicly recognised the many positive
aspects of the IRA statement, the obvious progress and,
crucially, the British and Irish governments said that the
statement shows a clear desire to make the peace process work.
Such an IRA statement and such a response to it would have been
unimaginable ten or even five years ago.
The IRA statement sets out the status of the IRA cessation, its
future intentions and its attitude to the issue of arms. It also
makes clear the IRA's resolve to a complete and final closure of
the conflict, and its support for efforts to make conflict a
thing of the past. This is unequivocal.
On the 23 April the British Prime Minister publicly raised three
questions about the IRA statement.
Mr. Blair asked first, whether activities inconsistent with the
Good Friday Agreement, such as targeting, procurement of weapons,
punishment beatings and so forth, were at an end; second, whether
the IRAs commitment was to put all arms beyond use; and thirdly,
whether the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and
commitments in the Joint Declaration would bring complete and
final closure of the conflict.
I have stated in the course of the extensive private contacts
that have taken place with the governments my belief that the IRA
statement is clear on the issues raised, but for the public
record, my answers are as follows.
Firstly, the IRA leadership has stated its determination to
ensure that its activities will be consistent with its resolve to
see the complete and final closure of the conflict.
I have already acknowledged in my address to the Sinn Fein Ard
Fheis, and at other times, the difficulties caused for the
pro-Agreement unionists and others by allegations of IRA
activities in the recent past.
In particular these have been cited as an excuse for the
suspension of the political institutions and the current impasse
in the Good Friday Agreement process.
Sinn Fein is, with others, an architect of the Good Friday
Agreement. Martin McGuinness and I have raised allegations of IRA
activity with the IRA leadership.
Mr. Blair has also raised these issues in one of his questions.
In my view the IRA statement deals definitively with these
concerns about alleged IRA activity. And any such activities
which in any way undermine the peace process and the Good Friday
Agreement should not be happening.
The IRA statement is a statement of completely peaceful intent.
Its logic is that there should be no activities inconsistent with
Secondly, the IRA has clearly stated its willingness to proceed
with the implementation of a process to put arms beyond use at
the earliest opportunity. Obviously this is not about putting
some arms beyond use. It is about all arms.
And thirdly, if the two governments and all the parties fulfil
their commitments this will provide the basis for the complete
and final closure of the conflict.
Sinn Fein's peace strategy has always been about bringing an end
to physical force republicanism by creating an alternative way to
achieve democratic and republican objectives. We have negotiated,
and campaigned and argued to have the Good Friday Agreement
implemented not only because that is our obligation, not only
because it is the right thing, but also because it fits into a
strategy of creating an alternative to war and a means of
sustaining and anchoring the peace process.
The IRA statement contains another key element. Some time ago the
Ulster Unionist Party leader publicly stated that he would not
call a UUC meeting to discuss his party going back into the
institutions until after the IRA had acted on the arms issue.
For its part the IRA had set its engagement with the Independent
International Commission on Decommissioning in the context of
functioning political institutions.
There was also deep scepticism within the republican constituency
because there was no indication that the UUP would reciprocate
even if the IRA moved on the arms issue.
This stand off had to be broken.
So, despite the suspension of the institutions the IRA leadership
authorised a third act of putting arms beyond use to be verified
under the agreed scheme by the IICD. This act was timed to
facilitate the Ulster Unionist Party holding a UUC meeting. This
followed a suggestion by me that I would point up this difficulty
in a public statement. Mr. Trimble was to respond to this with a
public commitment that he would recommend to his party that they
actively support the sustained working of the political
institutions and other elements of the Good Friday Agreement.
The IRA leadership was then prepared to act in advance of the UUC
meeting and in the context of suspended institutions.
My understanding is that all of this is still doable at this time
if there is a positive response from the two governments and Mr.
Let me tell you that the Sinn Fein leadership have put in a huge
amount of effort to save this process. But there is a limit to
what we can do.
There is considerable unease within the republican activist base
and the wider republican constituency over recent developments.
The Sinn Fein leadership, while mindful of this, has not been
deterred because our commitment is to making this process work.
We are also conscious that other constituencies have their
The IRA leadership has once again demonstrated in an
unprecedented way its clear willingness to support the peace
I, along with the vast majority of people in Ireland, value the
IRA cessation. It is the main anchor for the peace process. But
let me be clear, the political process is the responsibility of
political leaders. We created the Good Friday Agreement. It is
our job, whatever about the approaches or actions of others, to
make politics work, to make conflict resolution work.
This is a collective responsibility. We all have a choice to
make. The Sinn Fein leadership's position is clear.
I believe that the IRA statement, unmatched by any from the IRA
leadership in this or indeed any other phase of their struggle,
points the way forward.
Now the two governments and the leadership of the UUP have to
make a choice.
So what has to be done? There is no magic formula waiting to be
discovered. The next steps in this process are not secret.
Everyone knows what is required.
The Joint Declaration and all other statements should be
published. It is as simple as that. The commitments contained in
all the statements, including the IRA statement, should be
implemented in full.
The Assembly Elections should proceed as planned.
Republicans have stretched ourselves repeatedly to keep the peace
process on track. Sinn Fein is in this process to the end.
Nationalists and unionists, republicans and loyalists have to
come to terms with and recognise each others integrity. We need
to forge a real partnership that manages the changes that are
taking place and builds a better future, a democratic and
Our collective task, in fact our collective obligation, is to
make that change peaceful and constructive for all.
We have to work together to move this process forward.
That is the challenge for all of us, for Sinn Fein for the two
governments and, critically, for the leadership of the UUP.
That is the way to achieve a permanent peace.