Address by Gerry Adams at Balmoral Hotel
The following is the corrected text of Sinn Fein President
Gerry Adams speech in the Balmoral Hotel this morning.
I welcome this morning's announcement of an Assembly election
on November 26th.
This was a point of principle and a core issue for Sinn Fein.
It is the context for today's developments.
The people assembled here today will be representing Sinn
We will be seeking an endorsement of our strategy and of the
positions I will outline today.
I appeal to the electorate to use their vote and to use it
wisely in support of a continuing process of change and a
peaceful and just future for all our people.The last 10
years of the peace process, and especially the last 5
years, have been a political and emotional rollercoaster ride
for republicans and unionists, nationalists and loyalists.
We have been through a lot together.
As republicans we have been faced with enormous challenges.
We have confronted those challenges.
Each year, and sometimes more than once in a year, we have
reached what some have described as another 'crossroads' in
Some years ago I compared all this to a journey. For us the
destination is an Irish republic. Completing the journey
means having a political strategy to get us there.
It means engaging with and putting our case to our opponents.
It means taking the political offensive, taking
initiatives, and engaging in the battle of ideas.
Sinn Fein is a united Ireland party. But being an Irish
republican means more than paying lip service to the 1916
Proclamation or to the ideal of 'The Republic.'
It means refusing to stand still. It means taking risks.It
means reaching out to others. It means moving forward.
Republicans are not quitters. We have refused to give up.
We have refused to countenance a continuation of division,
discrimination or injustice.
We have campaigned, agitated, lobbied and challenged those who
want to return to the old failed policies of the past.
We have sought and are seeking to change minds and attitudes.
We are trying to build new and better relationships between
the people of this island, and between us and the people of
In recent months, and especially in the last few weeks, the
Sinn Fein negotiating team has been involved in intense
discussions with the Ulster Unionist Party and the two
Much of the media focus has been on the IRA.
The reality is that all of the participants, and the two
governments have significant contributions to make if the
institutions are to be restored and the Good Friday
Agreement made to work efficiently and effectively.
It isn't just down to republicans. It never was. Making this
process work is a collective responsibility. Republicans
need to know that the two governments will honour their
Republicans need to feel confidence in a unionist leadership
working the institutions and the Agreement and joining with
us as partners in the task of building a better future for
Equally, Unionists need to have confidence in republicans. In
this context let me make some remarks about the current
situation. The initiatives taken in April and May by
republicans to resolve outstanding matters were rejected.
There was a lot of justifiable anger about that. But now we
need to move on.
The Joint Declaration produced by the two governments at that
time has good and positive elements in it, particularly
around those aspects of the Agreement which have yet to be
implemented. It is generally acknowledged that the focused
work of Sinn Fein's negotiating team, led by Martin
McGuinness, brought the governments to this position. I want
to commend all our team and to thank them for their
The commitments in the Joint Declaration to finally resolve
the outstanding issues are welcome. These and key issues of
the Agreement are about creating a stable society. They
* Sustainable political institutions.
* Equality in all its dimensions.
* Acceptable, accountable policing.
* The transfer of powers on Justice and Policing.
* The demilitarisation of society.
* The entrenchment and effective protection of human rights.
* The anomalous situation of people On The Run.
Other aspects of the Joint Declaration are unacceptable. The
establishment of the so-called International Monitoring
Commission is a breach of the Agreement and it contravenes
the safeguards built into it. It takes the right of
democratic accountability from the elected Assembly and gives
the power of sanction and exclusion over political parties
in Ireland to a British Minister with no electoral mandate
Republicans have worked to have the Good Friday Agreement
implemented, not only because that is ourey are determined
that their strategies and actions will be consistent with
Implementation by the two Governments and the parties of their
commitments under the Agreement provides the context in
which Irish Republicans and Unionists will as equals pursue
their objectives peacefully, thus providing full and final
closure of the conflict.
Actions and the lack of actions on the ground speak louder
than words and I believe that everyone - including the two
Governments and the Unionists - can now move forward with
As President of Sinn Fein, I have set out a peaceful direction
which I trust everyone will follow. Sinn Fein's position is
one of total and absolute commitment to exclusively
democratic and peaceful means of resolving differences. We
are opposed to any use or threat of force for any political
purpose.Sinn Fein wants to see all guns taken out of Irish
There is also an onus on the two governments, and particularly
the British Government, to underpin and validate the
primacy of politics.
I want to appeal directly to those organisations which are not
on cessation at this time. While calling on all armed
groups to desist I want to appeal especially to
organisations which present themselves as Republican. I appeal
to them to join with the rest of us, Republicans and
Unionists, Nationalists and Loyalists, in taking a leap
forward together and collectively building a new future
based on justice and peace.
Anyone looking at this situation during the 1960's, the
1970's, the 1980's and for much of the 1990's, could be
forgiven for believing that there are some conflicts which
simply never end, where distrust and hatred are so much a
part of the fabric of the society that things will never
But things have changed.
Our success in bringing this about was not a matter of chance,
it was a matter of choice. And republicans helped shape and
give voice to that choice. For our part Sinn Fein is totally
committed to establishing an entirely new, democratic and
harmonious future with our unionist neighbours. Like it or
not we're all in this together.
Sinn Fein has been involved in intensive discussions with the
UUP over recent weeks. This direct and open dialogue
between Unionists and Republicans is in itself a profoundly
important development and the key to ongoing political
Consequently, we understand the importance of reaching out to
unionists, of learning about unionist concerns, fears and
aspirations. Of explaining to them how we feel.
One of the big things we have to do together is to tackle the
scourge of sectarianism. This remains a huge challenge for
unionists and loyalists, republicans and nationalists.
Good work is being done in this regard, particularly at local
government level by Sinn Fein representatives, like Armagh
Mayor Pat O'Rawe, Mayor Anne Brolly, Councillor Francie
Molloy, Mayor Sean McGuigan and former Belfast Mayor Alex
This needs to be built on.
It will not be easy, but it is not impossible.
Many unionists, particularly working class unionists, are
already conscious of the way in which they have been
exploited. Unionist working class areas face enormous
social and economic problems. Families, the elderly and the
young are weighed down with poverty, deprivation and a sense
of despair. This is totally unacceptable.
When Sinn Fein demands equality it is for everyone.
We also have to reach out to those who are in negative mode.
We reject exclusion and isolation. They are the politics of
We have to encourage engagement and to persuade everyone to be
part of the process of conflict resolution to be part of
I believe we have the collective knowledge and the means to
make this century the most peaceful, prosperous, productive
time in the history of Ireland.
The question is do we have the wisdom and the will?
I believe we have.
I believe that together we can build a future of equals on
this island. A peaceful future which empowers, and enriches
and cherishes all the children of the nation equally. The
people of this island have the right to be free. To live
free from discrimination and inequality, without violence and
Sinn Fein means to journey on from there, to be part of
building a republic worthy of the suffering and sacrifice
of all of those who have gone before us.
I want to appeal to Republicans throughout Ireland and abroad
to continue to support Sinn Fein's peace strategy.
Initiatives by republicans cause pain and difficulty for
all of us.
I know activists will have reservations about much of this.
But we have to look at the bigger picture. We have to look
towards the common good.
Bobby Sands summed it all up best for me. Despite great
hardship, deprivation and physical hurt he never lost sight
of his vision for a new Ireland, an Ireland in which our
revenge will be the laughter of our children.
It is always easier to begin a journey. The hard thing is to
Sinn Fein is in this process to the finish.