Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams speaking this evening during the party’s PMB on the Good Friday Agreement warned that the British government is “seriously undermining the work of the Executive and of the political institutions”.
Teachta Adams cautioned that the “Executive’s ability to demonstrate that peace can deliver real economic change is being damaged by the British government’s significant cuts” to social welfare, the block grant and the investment package announced at St. Andrew’s 7 years ago.
The Sinn Féin leader described the Good Friday Agreement as “a defining moment in recent Irish history” which for the first time since partition “brought peace, stability and hope, and the opportunity for a better future for the people of this island”.
Full text of his remarks:
The Good Friday Agreement was a defining moment in recent Irish history.
Comhréiteach stairiúil a bhí ann - a compromise between conflicting political positions following decades of conflict, the roots of which are to be found in the British government’s involvement in our country.
For the first time since partition the Agreement brought peace, stability and hope, and the opportunity for a better future for the people of this island.
It most directly affected the north but it has also positively impacted on this part of the island and on the diaspora.
It ushered in 15 years of relative peace.
Seasann próiseas síochana na hÉireann mar shampla do áiteanna eile ina bhfuil troid.
George Mitchel, who did such a remarkable job of charting a difficult course through the negotiations, correctly anticipated that agreeing the deal was the easy bit.
The hard part was going to be implementing it. And he was right.
The twists and turns from April 10th 1998 to May 2013 have been many.
At times the process has collapsed.
At other times it looked as if securocrats and the naysayers and begrudgers were going to succeed and the whole process was going to unravel.
But with patience and perseverance difficult issues, including those of weapons and of policing were overcome.
Along the way the UUP was replaced by the DUP as the largest unionist party.
Few imagined Sinn Féin and the DUP ever reaching agreement on the institutions.
But that’s what happened and Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness demonstrated enormous courage and vision to make power sharing work.
Two years ago an inclusive democratically elected local government, with all-island interlocking implementation bodies and a Council of Ministers, successfully completed a full term of office.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that everything is working smoothly.
Making peace is a process, not an event.
But unlike previous efforts, which were largely imposed by the British, with the support of successive Irish governments, and which excluded sections of political opinion, the negotiations that created the Good Friday Agreement were genuinely inclusive.
The Agreement also addressed the broad range of issues that had been previously ignored.
It deals with constitutional issues, political matters, and institutional issues.
It put in place a mechanism to hold a border poll to address the issue of partition and to achieve democratically and peacefully Irish unity.
It also set up political structures that provide for the sharing of power while including checks and balances to prevent a recurrence of past political abuses.
The underlying ethos of the Agreement is equality.
Agus cuireadh bearta i bhfeidhm chun comhionannas a bhaint amach.
This is reflected in the fact that the word ‘equality’ is mentioned 21 times in the Good Friday Agreement.
It is not mentioned at all, for example, in the Sunningdale Agreement.
Since then there have been further negotiations, mostly notably at Weston Park and St. Andrews and at Hillsborough Castle.
Regrettably, once the political institutions were stabilised and the hard issues of policing and weapons dealt with the government here took its eye off the issue.
The British Tory/Lib Dem government has also not honoured commitments as it should have.
Consequently, there are a number of outstanding issues arising from the Good Friday Agreement, including a Bill of Rights for the north; an all-island Charter of Rights; the establishment of the North South Consultative Forum; and the introduction of an Acht na Gaeilge (Irish language Act).
The British government has also failed to act on its Weston Park commitment to hold an independent inquiry into the killing of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane.
At the same time the securocrats continue to abuse human rights, most clearly in the continued detention of Marian Price and Martin Corey.
Both governments have also failed to address the need for a victim centred truth and reconciliation process.
But the greatest threat to the Agreement at this time comes from the British government.
The decisions taken by Mr. Cameron and his colleagues are seriously undermining the Good Friday Agreement and the political institutions.
At the centre of this is a failure to support a society moving out of decades of conflict.
Citizens and communities need hope and economic investment.
Citizens whose lives have been blighted by war or by generational sectarianism and division need to see that peace can change their lives and those of their children.
That is why all of the parties agreed to a significant peace dividend and investment of £18 billion at St Andrews.
One of the first actions of the current British government was to renege on this commitment.
This decision removed from the Executive the ability to deliver a major capital investment programme which would have had the dual effect of providing much needed employment in the construction industry while bringing our roads, hospitals and schools up to the necessary standard.
The next action of the British government was to cut the Block Grant by £4 billion.
Within the fiscal constraints of the Executive the parties managed to raise some additional revenue and tried to offset the worst effects of the cut to the block grant.
But this approach was clearly stretching their finances to the limit.
The British government has also refused to devolve powers on Corporation Tax.
Now the Tory/Lib Dem government, in pursuit of austerity, is seeking to impose £1 billion of welfare cuts that will take millions out of the local economy and hurt disadvantaged and vulnerable families.
This is unacceptable and Martin McGuinness recently told the British Prime Minister this very directly.
Last week Martin and Peter Robinson also met the British Secretary of State Teresa Villiers to discuss an economic package for the Executive.
It was another bad meeting.
Ní féidir le seo leanúint ar aghaidh.
The British government is seriously undermining the work of the Executive and of the political institutions.
People need reassurance that peace will bring a real and positive change in their lives.
The Executive has achieved much, including £8 billion of investment and the creation of thousands of jobs through inward investment.
Today Allstate announced that it will create 650 jobs in the north. That’s good work by the Executive.
But the Executive’s ability to demonstrate that peace can deliver real economic change is being seriously damaged by the British government’s significant cuts.
It must be challenged on this.
The Irish government is an co-equal guarantor with the British government in the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements.
The government needs to urgently intervene and challenge this foolish and short-sighted approach by the British government.
It needs a strategy to keep London to its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement and to remove the threat to the Executive and institutions created by its cuts agenda.