15/01/2004

Adams warns of 'dangerous' political drift

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has expressed concerns about what he said is "a dangerous and deeply worrying sense of drift in the political situation since the Assembly elections in November".

Setting out the Sinn Féin position on the Good Friday Agreement review to students at St Malachy’s College in Belfast, Mr Adams described as "intolerable" the failure of the two governments to fulfil their commitments or to provide a satisfactory explanation for reneging on their commitments.

The Sinn Féin leader said in reality a review could be conducted in a week and that the party had asked that it be completed within a month.

"Any attempt to make it a protracted exercise had to be resisted," he said.

"This places a heavy responsibility on the two governments – and especially on Mr Blair and Mr Ahern – to provide the essential political leadership that this dangerous crisis urgently demands".

On the review process the Sinn Féin President said: “The principles, structures and obligations of the Agreement cannot and must not be subverted.

"The review as set out in the Good Friday Agreement is about improving the delivery of the Agreement. It was never envisaged that it would take place during suspension of institutions – indeed the British government had no right to suspend the institutions, and had to step outside the Agreement to unilaterally take that power on themselves.

"The review was never meant to deal with a process which is on hold. So while the review may find there are ways of improving the delivery of the Agreement it cannot resolve the current difficulties."

But he said that Sinn Féin would bring a positive attitude to the review even though it could only perform a limited function.

Mr Adams again called on the British government to lift the suspension of the institutions and to allow the process defined in the Agreement to take its course.

He asked for the two governments not only to honour their obligations made in the Agreement, but also those made in last year's Joint Declaration and those made in subsequent discussions over the past five years.

He said Sinn Féin would set no preconditions whatsoever on talking to the DUP and were not opposed to sharing power with them, despite what he said was "the record of some of its most senior members".

Mr Adams called on the British and Irish Prime Ministers to "do what they promised without further delay" as a "vacuum would only serve to encourage those who wished to tear down the process."

The Sinn Féin leader added: "They have to build trust and confidence back into a process badly damaged, especially at this time, by their failure to keep to commitments."

Yesterday in the Commons, Mr Blair pledged to do whatever he could to break the NI political deadlock.

(SP)

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