19 February 2006

England 'at war' with Irish peace

news.com.au

From: Agence France-Presse
From correspondents in Dublin

February 19, 2006

POWERFUL figures in Britain still have a war mentality and regard the Northern Ireland peace process as war by other means, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said in his keynote address to his party conference in Dublin overnight.
In an hour-long speech broadcast live by the RTE state TV company, Mr Adams said he had made it clear that from the republican perspective the war is over.

"But, unfortunately, powerful elements within the British system have both a war mentality and the resources to sustain this. For them the peace process is war by other means," Mr Adams said.

"We have told the British Prime Minister that this is not acceptable. The British government has a responsibility to dismantle its war machine, to decommission its spy rings and spymasters and to take to its troops out of Ireland."

Last year the party's Irish Republican Army (IRA) military wing dumped its weapons arsenals and moved into "a new peaceful mode".

Mr Adams said the decisions by the IRA were undoubtedly deeply difficult for many.

"There are republicans still trying to come to terms with it many months later.

"Undoubtedly there are some who believe that the IRA has made a mistake. They are entitled to their opinion but to no more than that.

"No one should harbour the notion that the republican struggle can be advanced any further by an armed campaign. This leadership is firmly opposed to such a departure."

The mainly Catholic Sinn Fein is involved in talks with the Northern Ireland parties brokered by the Irish and British governments in an effort to re-establish the suspended power-sharing government in Belfast.

Mr Adams said he had "huge reservations" about how the governments were approaching the talks and accused them of pandering to the Protestant Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) led by hardliner Dr Ian Paisley.

The DUP are refusing to share power or even to talk directly to Sinn Fein in the negotiations and are deeply sceptical about whether the IRA has fully embraced democracy.

Mr Adams said his party must deepen its engagement and understanding of unionism if they are to be partners in conflict resolution.

"The imperative of conflict resolution begs another question of Ian Paisley - Ian, is your war over?"

Sinn Fein's task was to advance the peace process and ensure that the 1998 Good Friday Agreement was implemented in full.

"Included within this will be the deeply problematic issue of policing in the north."

The two main themes of the three-day Ard Fheis (conference) in the Royal Dublin Society conference are unity and equality and Adams said the sole purpose of the party going into government north or south of the Irish border was to bring about the maximum amount of change.

"We will be in a power-sharing government in the north once again. And if we have the mandate and if we can secure an inter-party government and a programme for government which is consistent with our republican objectives, we will look at being in government in the south.

"We will never meekly serve our time. Our objective is an all-Ireland parliament for all of the people of Ireland."

Over 1,000 party delegates from north and south of the Irish border are debating almost 500 motions at the conference which ends on Sunday.

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