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  • Writer's pictureGreg O'Loughlin

Gerry Adams on The Good Friday Agreement and the future

Former Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams this month addressed the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement of the Oireachtas.

In his statement to the Committee Gerry Adams described the Agreement as “probably the most important political agreement of our time in Ireland.”

Mr. Adams also says: “Very few countries get a chance to begin anew. Ireland, North and South, has that chance.”

Commenting on the key issue of consent Gerry Adams said: “Previously this was interpreted as referring specifically to the consent of the unionist majority defined in Article 4 of the Sunningdale Agreement as “represented by the Unionist and Alliance delegations.”

"The Good Friday Agreement is clear. Constitutional change requires the consent of a majority. This is the democratic position. Of course, the sensible goal for all democrats must be to persuade the largest number of people to vote YES. That is obvious and common sense.”

Describing the intent of the Good Friday Agreement he said: “It is important to understand that the Good Friday Agreement is not a settlement. It never was. It doesn’t pretend to be. It is an agreement to a journey without agreement on the destination.

"The promise of the Agreement is for a new society in which all citizens are respected; where the failed policies of the past are addressed; and where justice, equality and democracy are the guiding principles. It also provides for the first time a peaceful democratic pathway to achieving Irish independence and unity.

"This was crucial and central to the decade’s long effort to provide an alternative to armed struggle as a means to advance these legitimate goals…”

"Finally on the issue of Irish Unity, the role of the Irish government, future relationships with Unionists he stated: “No Irish government has ever produced a strategy to build a new and inclusive Ireland and give effect to Irish unity. Now there is a mechanism to achieve this. The absence of Irish government planning is indefensible and incredibly short-sighted. There is no excuse for this.

"What is needed is the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, including setting a date and planning for the referendum on the future. This requires inclusive discussions about the future to ensure that not only do citizens take informed decisions but that the new Ireland which emerges when the Union ends is one in which everyone is valued and social and economic rights are upheld.

"The Irish government should establish a Citizen’s Assembly or series of such Assemblies to discuss the process of constitutional change and the measures needed to build an all-Ireland economy, a truly national health service and education system and much more. This makes sense.

"Very few countries get a chance to begin anew. Ireland, North and South, has that chance. Most leaders would embrace this, welcome it and be excited by that prospect. Most leaders with a vision for the future would carefully and diligently seize this opportunity. But not here.

"Political parties which have enjoyed being in power in this state since partition don’t wish to give up that power. That’s why our outgoing Taoiseach Micheál Martin refuses to establish a Citizen’s Assembly to plan the future - an inclusive, citizens centred, rights based society of equals. It is certainly Sinn Féin’s desire to encourage and help create such a new departure for all the people of our island. It’s all about democracy. The people should decide.

"At a time when the debate on constitutional change is dominating much of our politics and opinion polls are being produced regularly, it makes no sense not to plan – not to prepare for the unity referendums. The Irish government has a responsibility to plan for constitutional change.

"The government and the rest of us need to be totally committed to upholding and promoting the rights of our unionist neighbours – this includes the rights of the Orange Order and other loyal institutions. The protections in the Good Friday Agreement are their protections also. This is their land, their home place.

"There needs to be a clear commitment by the rest of us to upholding their rights and to working with them to make this a better place for everyone. In the words of Martin McGuinness, “I am so confident in my Irishness that I have no desire to chip away at the Britishness of my neighbours.”

"Surely the new Ireland planned and built by all of the people of the island can accommodate and celebrate our differences and diversity. Irish Unity will profoundly transform the political landscape. A new multicultural society, embracing and respecting all traditions will emerge.

"At the core of the progress, we have already made is dialogue. Dialogue - talking and listening to each other - is the key to resolving conflict. Dialogue is key to building an inclusive society. Yes, there will be many challenges but there will also be many opportunities. I look forward to the future with hope and optimism.”

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