ADAMS SEEKS UNIONIST VOTES
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams tonight urged unionist voters
to vote for his party in the Belfast Assembly Election on
As Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble challenged his main
rival Ian Paisley to a television debate, Mr Adams addressed
the issue of transfers between parties under the proportional
In a surprise appeal to unionist voters, the West Belfast MP
said: "It might seem a sort of a quantum leap for them to
consider voting for republicans.
"But those unionists who live in deprived areas and
economically disadvantaged areas, what value is the Union for
"Those unionists who think there is going to be a united
Ireland anyway, why don't they endorse what we are doing in
terms of the work that is being done across a range of issues
- the seismic shifts, the quantum leaps, the imaginative
initiatives which have come from republicans?
"So rather than be a spectator in some internal unionist
debate or absence of a debate, we are in there pitching for
pro-Good Friday Agreement votes from all the parties and also
appealing above and beyond the Agreement for people to vote
republican and to vote for a united Ireland."
The former SDLP Deputy Leader Seamus Mallon yesterday urged
unionists who support the five-year-old Good Friday Agreement
to support his party.
The veteran SDLP figure said his party was vying with the
anti-Agreement DUP for the last seat in a number of
He declared: "I ask, unashamedly, pro-Agreement unionists in
those areas to transfer to SDLP candidates so we can create an
executive and make political progress."
South Belfast Sinn Fein Representative Alex Maskey said that
Mallon's comments were an act of desperation and "an
acknowledgement by the SDLP that Sinn Fein has the support of
the majority of nationalists in this election".
Cllr. Maskey said: "Sinn Fein's position is to ask for votes
for Sinn Fein candidates and beyond that for people to
transfer to other pro-Agreement candidates in order of their
"A number weeks ago in advance of the election, Gerry Adams
proposed a pro-Agreement transfer pact to [SDLP leader] Mark
Durkan. The SDLP rejected this.
"The SDLP's appeal for unionists to vote for them is not, as
alleged, about protecting the Good Friday Agreement. It is
about protecting the SDLP and is a further sign of a party in
"The SDLP position is an acknowledgement that Sinn Fein has
the support of the majority of nationalists in this
Mr Adams dismissed as nonsense claims from the SDLP that the
battle was between them and Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist
Party in key consistuencies.
And he accused the DUP of "engaging in a huge con trick" by
suggesting it could ould renegotiate the Good Friday
The DUP was also criticised by David Trimble, who claimed
there were inconsistencies in Paisley's claim that they would
not sit in government with Sinn Fein.
"Dr Paisley is running around the countryside avoiding
studios, avoiding debate, avoiding participating with others,"
Mr Trimble said.
"So here's a challenge.
"I have participated in debates. I have been dealing with
monkeys while the organ grinder is elsewhere. Now I want to
have a proper debate at leadership level."
The DUP's Nigel Dodds claimed it was the tactic of a leader
who knew his party was losing the election.
"Mr Trimble has very little support out on the ground and
within his own party," the North Belfast MP retorted.
"He surrounds himself with nodding dogs which he can't even
allow on TV."
PRO VS ANTI
The pro-Agreement parties have brushed off the latest poll
suggesting a decline in support for the peace accord.
According to the opinion poll, 61 per cent of Protestants and
33 per cent of Catholics want the Agreement renegotiated. A
further 18 percent of Protestants and 6 percent of Catholics
said it should be discarded entirely.
But Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin McGuinness has predicted
that there will be over 70 Assembly members, out of a total of
108, who will be clearly pro-agreement in the new assembly.
Mr McGuinness indicated that there were many people within
nationalism, republicanism, and inside the pro-agreement
section of unionism who do understand the importance of voting
in the election and transferring votes.
He said that "people do understand there is an opportunity for
pro-agreement parties sticking together to put the DUP in
Mr McGuinness said Sinn Fein's message to their electorate was
to maximise the nationalist and republican vote.
They said that education and health remain a priority for Sinn
Fein and the party will be seeking these departments once
again in the new assembly.
In a joint statement, they said: "It is our belief that we
will be in a position to achieve either the first or deputy
first minister. In addition to this we want to continue the
work that we started in Education and Health and will be
seeking these Departments once again in the new Assembly."
He declined to say whether their party president Gerry Adams
would the automatic choice to become First or Deputy First
Minister if they achieved enough votes in the assembly
When asked yesterday if it should be taken as read that Mr
Adams would be the choice for these top positions, Mr
McGuinness replied that this would be an option the party
would consider but "not the only option".