Northern Ireland elections: Sinn Féin

A victorious Gerry Adams yesterday gathered Sinn Féin's 24 new assembly members at Stormont to deliver a blunt message to Ian Paisley.

A victorious Gerry Adams yesterday gathered Sinn Féin's 24 new assembly members at Stormont, the former bastion of Unionist rule, to deliver a blunt message to Ian Paisley.

As Northern Ireland's largest nationalist party, Sinn Féin will not countenance any renegotiation of the Good Friday agreement and says the "unfinished business" of the peace process must be implemented in full.

Sinn Féin, in common with the Irish government, believes the Good Friday agreement cannot be rewritten because it was endorsed by the Irish people as a whole in 1998. "The principles, structures and obligations of the agreement cannot and will not be subverted," Mr Adams declared.

Republicans also believe that Tony Blair must live up to his commitment to deal with the "unfinished business" of the peace process by stepping up the process of "demilitarisation" - removing army watchtowers and reducing troop numbers - and by reforming policing arrangements.

Mr Adams holds out no prospect of reaching an agreement with Mr Paisley, who holds a veto over Northern Ireland's future as leader of the largest unionist party. But Mr Adams yesterday took the unprecedented step of writing to the DUP leader to ask him for talks. "Either the letter will go in the bin or they will reply," one Sinn Féin source said. "Let's hope they reply."

Mr Adams accepts that the man who has built a career out of saying no in various forms over five decades will refuse to have anything to do with Sinn Féin. This means it will concentrate, for the moment, on the "unfinished business".

Winning concessions from Mr Blair would help Sinn Féin in two ways. First, it would demonstrate to hardline republicans that "politics can work" even if the DUP is the largest party. Second, it would undermine the DUP's position within the unionist community by showing that Mr Paisley's electoral pledge to block concessions to nationalists was an empty promise.

Sinn Féin also wants to resume its talks with the Ulster Unionist Party even though it has lost its position as the largest unionist party. "The discussions with the UUP over the summer were one of the most important developments in the peace process in recent years," one Sinn Féin source said. "There was an agreement - it was just that when it started to become public David Trimble put it on hold."

Sinn Féin hopes that a new agreement with the UUP, which would involve the IRA offering significant concessions to show that it has abandoned violence for good, would achieve two goals.

First, the talks would undermine the DUP by showing that the moderate David Trimble can win concessions from republicans. Second, Sinn Féin would like the talks to mark the beginning of a "pro-agreement axis" which could eventually revive the assembly and the power-sharing executive.

Contributor

Nicholas Watt

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Sinn Féin expels two members
Two Sinn Féin members have been thrown out of the party over the Robert McCartney murder, the party's president Gerry Adams has revealed.

Press Association

26, Apr, 2005 @12:44 AM

Sinn Féin seeking 'partnership of equals'
The Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams, today said he wanted a deal to restore the power sharing government in Northern Ireland, but would not accept a "process of humiliation".

Staff and agencies

01, Dec, 2004 @5:04 PM

Sinn Féin upbeat about peace talks
The Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, was upbeat about the prospects of an agreement as he arrived at talks to revive Northern Ireland's peace process today.

Tom Happold

16, Sep, 2004 @11:00 AM

Jason Walsh: Sinn Féin's response to the killing of British soldiers in Northern Ireland is significant

Jason Walsh: The party had to condemn the killings without offering any support to the presence of British troops in Northern Ireland

Jason Walsh

09, Mar, 2009 @12:04 PM

Blair threatens to 'lock out' Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin were warned today they would be "locked out" of Northern Ireland devolution unless the IRA gave up criminality, as Tony Blair met Gerry Adams for talks at Chequers.

Matthew Tempest and agencies

28, Jan, 2005 @3:21 PM

Sinn Féin suspends seven after bar murder
Sinn Fein last night suspended seven members over the murder of Robert McCartney after his family presented a list of names suspected of being involved to Gerry Adams.

Angelique Chrisafis, Ireland correspondent

04, Mar, 2005 @2:28 AM

Article image
Can Sinn Féin make a breakthrough in Ireland? | Michael White
Michael White: The recession has hardened Irish hearts and no one knows how the Republic's voters will come to see Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin

Michael White

13, Dec, 2010 @3:26 PM

Article image
Martin McGuinness denounces arrest of Sinn Féin colleague
Bobby Storey, northern chairman of party, is one of three men being questioned about killing of Kevin McGuigan

Henry McDonald and Frances Perraudin

09, Sep, 2015 @1:46 PM

Sinn Féin to challenge Blair over listening bug
Gerry Adams accused the government of 'gross hypocrisy' before tomorrow's peace talks after a bugging device was found hidden in a party office in west Belfast.

Angelique Chrisafis, Ireland correspondent

15, Sep, 2004 @12:32 AM

Article image
Stormont assembly censures Sinn Féin members over funeral
Service for Bobby Storey last June drew a large crowd of mourners in breach of Covid rules

Rory Carroll Ireland correspondent

01, Apr, 2021 @4:35 PM