GERRY ADAMS has warned that the political process faces its greatest challenge since the Good Friday Agreement negotiations in 1998. “The political process is in trouble,” the Sinn Féin leader said.
In what was described by Sinn Féin as “a keynote statement” issued on Friday, Gerry Adams said that the unionist axis against the Good Friday Agreement (which includes the mainstream unionist parties, the Orange Order and smaller parties linked to the UVF and the UDA), the pro-unionist stance of British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and the refusal of Downing Street to honour its own obligations are combining to create the most serious threat to the political institutions in the North in recent years”.
Most worryingly, Gerry Adams said, there is no evidence from Downing Street, the NIO or the unionist leaderships of any likelihood of a real negotiation on all of these issues commencing in September.
The Sinn Féin leader was also critical of what he called the Irish Government’s “passivity”.
He said that all of this presents a very significant challenge to everyone who wants to see progress and to all those who support the Good Friday and other agreements, including leaders of civic society, the community sector, the trade union movement, the business sector, as well as political parties.
Instead of actively and determinedly working with the joint First Minister Martin McGuinness to maximise the potential for a new beginning, Gerry Adams said, former First Minister David Trimble and now Peter Robinson have minimised the promise and potential of the Good Friday Agreement.
“The fact is that the anti-Agreement axis has been very active in asserting a negative agenda,” Gerry Adams said. “Too many in the pro-Agreement axis, with some notable exceptions, have been passive. This includes the Irish Government.
“The DUP has repeatedly demonstrated an unwillingness to participate positively in any of the institutions. Instead, it has adopted a tactical approach aimed at serving the political agenda of a fundamentalist rump in their party rather than the needs of the whole community.”
The Sinn Féin leader recalled that Martin McGuinness has noted: “We are in government with unionists because we want to be; they are in government with us because they have to be.”
The unionist axis, including the Orange Order
Gerry Adams said that the Tory-led government in London wants to impose changes to the welfare benefits system mirroring similar changes that have been introduced in England, Scotland and Wales, “changes that have resulted in disastrous consequences for the disabled, the unemployed and those in low-paid jobs”, Gerry Adams said.
“These should be opposed by a united Executive. These changes are not about reform. They are about cuts and they are part of a Thatcherite agenda designed to dismantle the welfare state. And Sinn Féin will oppose them.
“The effect of all of this and of the British Government’s handling of the political situation has been to reinforce political logjams.
“The political process is in trouble.”
The Sinn Féin leader said:
“The British Secretary of State is contemplating conceding to another of the recent unionist demands by setting up some form of inquiry into the Parades Commission decision on the Ardoyne march – a move that would dangerously damage the integrity of the Parades Commission, undermine the residents and further undermine the Haass proposals.
“Regardless of political allegiance, everyone who values a future based upon equality must become a champion for progress in their own community, in the workplace, in the voluntary and community sector, across the trade union movement, in the churches and the media.
“If the unionist leaderships refuse to engage positively in new negotiations then the Irish and British governments, as co-equal guarantors of the Agreement, must ensure that outstanding issues are implemented.”