Vote for SF vote for inclusive dialogue - Adams


THE Sinn Fein president said yesterday a strong vote for his party in the Westminster general election would send a clear message to the British government and the unionists that inclusive dialogue is the only way forward.

Mr Gerry Adams said he was hopeful of political movement after the election "The incoming British government will be a new one. All the parties will have received fresh mandates. This could spur everyone on by creating a new sense of purpose in the search for peace.

He was speaking at a press conference to formally announce Sinn Fein's candidates. The party is contesting 16 of the North's 18 constituencies. It is not running in North Down or East Antrim, which have minimal nationalist populations.

Sinn Fein hopes to win seats in West Belfast, where Mr Adams is standing against the sitting SDLP MP, Dr Joe Hendron; Mid Ulster, where Mr Martin McGuinness's main rivals are the DUP MP, the Rev William McCrea, and Mr Denis Haughey of the SDLP; and West Tyrone which the party's vice president, Mr Pat Doherty, is contesting.

The leading republican and Sinn Fein negotiator, Mr Gerry Kelly, is running in North Belfast. "We are entering this election in a confident frame of mind," Mr Adams said.

"It is our clear intention to maximise the Sinn Fein vote. In Mid Ulster, Fermanagh/South Tyrone, West Tyrone and North Belfast we offer nationalists the only credible alternative to the unionist parties, which have misrepresented them for too long.

"Sinn Fein's priority is to rebuild the peace process and the opportunity for peace which John Major and the unionists squandered. This election presents a new opportunity to do this.

"This election could well be historic, not only because it could be the last one this century but also because it could recreate the hope, optimism and expectation that was generated by the IRA's cessation of August 1994."

Mr Adams said that despite the election rivalry between his party and the SDLP, he would continue to work to restore the peace process with Mr John Hume.

He said Sinn Fein would be contesting the election on the basis of "positive and honest engagement in the search for peace and on our record of effectively representing the electorate".

Sinn Fein is regarded as the runaway favourite to win West Belfast, despite Mr Adams's fear of tactical voting by unionists.