Gerry Adams warns peace process faces ‘serious threat’

SF president claims actions of unionists and British creating a threat to power sharing

The Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has warned the power sharing Stormont administration is facing its most “serious threat” in recent years. Photograph: Alan Betson /The Irish Times

The Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has warned the power sharing Stormont administration is facing its most “serious threat” in recent years. Photograph: Alan Betson /The Irish Times

Fri, Aug 8, 2014, 13:17

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has warned the power sharing Stormont administration is facing its most “serious threat” in recent years.

Mr Adams in what Sinn Féin described as a “keynote statement” issued today said the political process “is in trouble” and that it faces “its greatest challenge since the Good Friday Agreement negotiations in 1998”.

Mr Adams made his hard-hitting statement following a period of serious disagreement between DUP First Minister Peter Robinson and Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness over issues such as welfare reform, failure to reach agreement on departmental budgets and developing a peace and reconciliation centre at the Maze prison site.

The Sinn Féin leader was particularly critical of unionist leaders, the British government and Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers, and of the Irish Government.

He accused Mr Robinson of “bad manners, bad politics and bad economics”.

Mr Adams also appeared to solely blame unionism and the British government for IRA violence and the violence of the Troubles generally. “The Orange state was built on partition, unionist domination, inequality and injustice. It was an apartheid state in which citizens were denied the right to a vote, to a job, to a fair justice system and to a home,” he said.

“The failure of unionism and of the British government to agree fundamental reform in the 1960s led to a militarisation of the situation and to decades of conflict,” he added.

Mr Adams accused British prime minister David Cameron’s government of being “explicitly partisan in championing a unionist agenda”.

“The anti-Good Friday Agreement axis within unionism, the pro-unionist stance of the British secretary of state, the refusal of Downing St to honour its own obligations are combining to create the most serious threat to the political institutions in the north in recent years,” said Mr Adams.

He accused unionists and the British government of failing to get talks underway on the Haass issues of parading, the past and flags.

“Most worryingly there is no evidence from Downing Street or the NIO (Northern Ireland Office) or the unionist leaderships of any likelihood of a real negotiation on all of these issues commencing in September,” he said.

“This therefore presents a very significant challenge to everyone who wants to see progress and to all those who support the Good Friday and other agreements, this includes leaders of civic society, the community sector, the trade union movement, the business sector, as well as political parties,” he added.

Mr Adams continued, “David Trimble in his day and Peter Robinson, despite some positive periods, have undermined their role as First Minister. Instead of actively and determinedly working with the Deputy First Minister to maximise the potential for a new beginning they 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. Too many in the pro-agreement axis, with some notable exceptions, have been passive. This includes the Irish government.”

Mr Adams said that that the DUP had repeatedly demonstrated an unwillingness to participate positively in any of the power sharing institutions. He said that 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”.

“As 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.’”

Sinn Féin has come under severe criticism for refusing to sign up to British government welfare reform which has resulted in reductions and pressures on Stormont budgets. Mr Adams however defended the Sinn Féin position and said welfare reform should be resisted by the Northern 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.

And he warned, “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.”

Mr Adams warned against Ms Villiers setting up a commission of inquiry on parading, as unionists are demanding, because “that would dangerously damage the integrity of the Parades Commission, undermine the residents and further undermine the Haass proposals”.

“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,” said Mr Adams.