Gerry Adams – 2000 Speech to Sinn Fein Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Gerry Adams to the Sinn Fein conference on 27th February 2000.



The British government made a huge mistake and miscalculation on 11 February when it endorsed the unionist view that the issue of decommissioning was a precondition on the continuation of the institutions. Whatever reason is put forward to justify the British government’s decision, this is the reality. It is also totally contrary to the Good Friday Agreement and is the biggest single mistake made by the British Labour Party since it took power in May 1997.

It is totally contrary to the Good Friday Agreement because the Agreement took the wise course, the conflict resolution course, which saw the resolution of the arms issue as an objective of a process but not as a blockage on progress on all of the other matters.

However, the ink was barely dry on the Agreement when the British Prime Minister stepped outside of this framework and produced his side letter for the Ulster Unionist Party. From then on, this issue has been treated as an issue of tactical political management.

It ceased to be an objective of a peace process. Instead, from that point it became a precondition dogging the process. This reduced the Good Friday Agreement to something less than the people voted for. It also subverted the electoral mandates of genuinely committed pro-agreement parties. The value of the vote and the implementation process is now subject to unionist terms. From this point, the current vacuum was a crisis waiting to happen.

That’s the flaw which the British government introduced into the Good Friday Agreement.

That is the virus that has infected the process.

This is what has subverted all of Sinn Féin’s efforts to resolve this issue.

All of these efforts were based on our view that the purpose of any peace process must be for opponents or enemies to see each other’s point of view and find a compromise, an agreement, an accord which accommodates the difficulties that exist.

On a number of occasions we went far beyond our obligations under the terms of the Agreement as we tried to resolve this arms issue. Personally, I have lost count of the number of efforts we made to break through the barriers erected by the unionist leadership.

Last November we acted in good faith during the Mitchell Review negotiations to find a resolution to this weapons issue. Of course, the unionists have never dealt with this issue of arms in anything other than a tactical way. No mention of the one hundred and forty thousand legal weapons in their hands.

Sinn Féin isn’t prepared to sit back and allow the democratic rights and entitlements of nationalists living in the North to be filtered through a unionist prism. Equality is equality is equality.

If the task of creating a level playing field is causing so much difficulty within unionism that is in no small way a measure of how unbalanced the situation is or how they perceive it to be.

There is a huge challenge for the unionist section of our people to come to terms with all of that and a huge challenge for Irish republicans to engage with them constructively on an ongoing basis to win more progressive liberal and pluralist elements, more modern elements of unionism, over to this broader view. I am pleased to say that even in these troubled times that dialogue is continuing.

And while we are committed to this dialogue and to listening as well as talking to unionists, I am very very conscious that we can hardly blame David Trimble for behaving as he does when the British government endorses his position. We can hardly blame David Trimble for threatening a British government when, from his point of view, his tactics pay off. So in all of this the London government cannot escape its responsibilities.

Peter Mandelson said that they had to suspend the institutions because Mr Trimble would resign unless they did so. There is now no question of David Trimble resigning. In the USA last week Mr. Mandelson said that the institutions could be restored as easily as they were suspended. Why then are the institutions not back in place? Could it be that if Peter Mandelson restored the institutions then David Trimble would once again resurrect his resignation letter? Or could it be that the British government supports the unionist terms for decommissioning? One thing is certain – the way that Peter Mandelson has dealt with the crisis issue has not only prevented an opportunity to get a resolution but it has also made it more difficult to get one in the future.

In November last we persuaded the IRA to enter into discussions with the de Chastelain Commission in return for the unionists going in to the institutions. One outcome of that was that de Chastelain issued a positive report in which he said that “the Commission believes that this commitment [from the IRA], on the basis described above, holds out the real prospect of an agreement which would enable it to fulfil the substance of its mandate”.

Of course, given the rejection of this position by unionism and the British government, and given their undermining of the de Chastelain Commission, this may never be tested.

So, with hindsight I now think that our efforts to resolve this issue in the Mitchell Review was a mistake by us because we relied on others to keep to their commitments.

It was a good faith engagement by Sinn Féin but it was turned on its head by new deadlines and another side agreement with the British government to collapse the institutions if republicans didn’t jump to David Trimble’s demands. In my view David Trimble did not go into the institutions on the basis which emerged – the Mitchell Review. Instead he went forward on a different promise and that was on the basis of a commitment from the British government that he would have Peter Mandelson’s full support – seeking the suspension of the institutions.

There is no need for me today to deal in detail with what happened on February 11th. That has been spelt out in detail in a series of statements and public engagements and it is clear that our position has been vindicated and our accusation of media management, of manipulation and lies has been borne out by the facts.

Let me make it absolutely clear that this Sinn Féin leadership will support efforts to resolve the arms issue.

We remain wedded to our objective of taking all of the guns out of Irish politics. However, I do not accept any special responsibility on our party to do this above and beyond the responsibilities of every other party in this process. This is only possible response to the rejection and misrepresentation of our efforts, and to a UUP leadership which was never serious about a resolution, other than on its own terms which amounts, despite protestations to the contrary, to nothing more or less than a surrender by the IRA.

And if a British government, with all of its military firepower and muscle could not get an IRA surrender in 30 years of war then unionist leaders or British ministers cannot expect a Sinn Féin leadership to do it for them.

So where is the peace process to from here.

Is everything to be thrown away?

This is a question that all the parties to the Good Friday Agreement and especially the British government must ponder on. This could possibly be the most defining point in this process thus far.

There is a vacuum.

There is the possibility that all of the good work of recent years could be frittered away. This has to be prevented. The priority at this critical point in the peace process must be to get the institutions back in place as soon as possible. This is the sole responsibility of the British government and Peter Mandelson should do it now.

The two governments must also co-operate to operate all outstanding aspects of the Good Friday Agreement. The reality is that we are still awaiting delivery of the:-

– Equality Agenda

– Justice Matters

– Human Rights

– Cultural Rights

– A new Policing Service

– And Demilitarisation.

But if the British government continues to behave in an illegal way, if it continue to maintain its unilateral suspension of the institutions then the Irish government has to move to protect its position. This should see the Irish government introducing legislation in Leinster House to amend the British-Irish Agreement Act 1999, and the related British-Irish Agreement (Amendment) Act in order to remedy the defective legal basis of the southern leg of the all-Ireland institutions. I feel very strongly that what Peter Mandelson did on February 11th was to give British support for the closure of one phase of this process. Of course, it may not be if Mr. Mandelson moves to restore the institutions. However, I see no sign of that.

And of course, the decision by a British Secretary of State to unilaterally tear down the institutions and set aside the Good Friday Agreement exposes the absence of real democratic rights and real self-determination.

Remember how we were told by leading partitionists and others that the Good Friday Agreement, endorsed in referendum north and south, is the exercise of self-determination by the Irish people.

Sinn Féin took a more measured and accurate view. We said it wasnt. It was clear now who was right given the actions of a British politician two weeks ago? Self-determination for the people of this island has yet to be achieved. And this party and others of similar mind must set our sights on achieving that objective.

So, we have to move forward on the basis that a new phase is now opening up and how it is managed will be critical to the success of all our hopes.

Sinn Féin has been and will remain in contact with the British government

Sinn Féin has been and will remain in contact with the Irish government.

Sinn Féin has been and will remain in contact with all of the pro-Agreement parties and others.

We have to be about creating the space in which people can take ownership of the peace process.

On Friday I appealed to people to again take to the streets in support of peace. I repeat that appeal today.

At different times in recent years there have been widespread public manifestations of support for the peace process and for the Good Friday Agreement. People throughout this island, as well as voting for the Good Friday Agreement, marched, lobbied, wrote letters, put up posters, held forums, placed ads in the newspapers and generally used their imagination to support the process for change.

I am appealing today for a renewed commitment from all these people.

I am appealing to all of those who voted Yes in the referendum to stand up for their democratic rights and entitlements.

I am appealing to civic society, to the churches, to ordinary people the length and breadth of this island to take the initiative and to win back the potential for change that is required to underpin the search for a lasting peace.

I am calling especially on republicans and nationalists to return to the streets in the weeks and months ahead to mobilise, to organise, to build the political strength needed to counter balance the unionist veto.

We must also take a hard look at the job of building Sinn Féin political strength. It is worth recalling that it was the comparative weakness of the nationalist position against the strength of unionism that ensured unionist success in pulling down the institutions.

We should also recall that during the negotiations leading to the Good Friday Agreement that if Sinn Féin had been a stronger player the progressive elements of that Agreement would have been much stronger.

If the Good Friday Agreement is lost because the British government caved into unionists demands one thing is certain. At some point in the future a new agreement will be negotiated. We have to ensure that Sinn Féin is there in a better position to negotiate a better agreement than the one which is there now in tatters.

So we have to be about building our political strength.

It means reorganising; it means updating our analysis; preparing policy positions, based on our republicanism, that are relevant and practical and effective; it means preparing for political challenges; it means recruiting; it means reaching out into those parts of this island which have not heard the real republican message.

It means identifying our weaknesses and removing them and targeting our strengths and building upon them.

Gerry Adams – 1994 Speech in the United States

Below is the text of the speech made by Gerry Adams on 24th March 1994.


Seventy years on from partition, it is universally accepted that partition has hampered and damaged the economic development of the island. This affects not only trade, industry and agriculture but, by association, all parts of the economy – including employment, health, education and social welfare systems – leaving them marginalised and critically underfunded. The people of Ireland are the victims of this process condemned to lower living standards. Up to £3 billion of funding is lost in so-called security costs every year. The Dublin government spend more than twice as much money every year on border ‘security’ as they do on industrial development.

This fact has been recognised by the business community in Ireland. Plans for an island economy have been endorsed by the Dublin government and the Northern Ireland Office. The plans include import substitution, export partnerships, combined economic planning and infrastructural development.

The belief underpinning this plan is that these moves towards a form of economic unity would boost monetary wealth. A 1991 confederation of Irish Industry report that up to 75,000 extra jobs could be created has been used by a range of politicians to endorse the plans. However optimistic the jobs target seems, it is clear that there is an ability for the current political structures to create an economic environment where efficiencies would create wealth and extra employment.

However, there are two fundamental problems with this process. One is the lack of democracy and democratic control of the economy. The second is the inefficiencies in present structures and policies.

Creating an island economy without creating democratic structures will leave the economy in the hands of a minority of financial institutions and business interests. So far it is Irish Business and Employers Confederation and the Confederation of British Industry that have put in place the structures for this island economy. Democratic control of any economic initiative is a prerequisite.

No better example of why this should be can be found in examining the performance of the Industrial Development Board (Six Counties) and Industrial Development Authority (26 Counties). A 1993 report found that “the manufacturing industry in Northern Ireland has not performed well since partition”. Northern Ireland Economic Research and Social Council stated in 1993 that IDB grants had “acted as a substitute for low productivity”.

In 1993, the IDB admitted that only half the jobs it assisted between April 1987 and March 1989 were still in existence after 12 months. The British Auditor General found that the IDB spent “millions of pounds funding unnecessary projects”. Last year in the 26 Counties, for every new job created by the IDA, another was lost. For this, the IDA spent £154 million. The IDA has spent £3 billion since 1969.

This inefficiency is only one example of the failure of NIO and Dublin government economic policies. The potential benefits of the “island economy” strategy in its present form will be reduced if the failed industrial and economic policies being implemented now in both economies are merely recreated on a larger scale.

There is no doubt that wealth is being created in the 26 and Six County economies. Creating a united economy could increase the potential for wealth creation, but without an economic democracy it will create less wealth and concentrate it in fewer hands.

Recognising that a national economy must reflect everyone’s interests democratically, must be part of the process of building a new Ireland. Irish unity and independence will form the only basis for creating an economic democracy.

Expectations Raised

Since the IRA cessation last August there has been an unprecedented turn around in public perception and expectations of economic development in the partitioned Irish economy.

This has happened for two reasons:

(1) There is a genuine belief that a lasting peace in Ireland will have a twofold effect on the whole Irish economy. Firstly, both the Dublin and London governments will earn a peace dividend as the financial costs of the conflict dissipate. Secondly, there is a public belief that lasting peace will create a positive economic environment, increased domestic economic growth and increased inward investment.

(2) It now also seems possible that after seventy years of the negative and damaging effects of partition a democratic island economy is a real possibility and that this will also yield a range of positive results for the whole economy.

The Role of the US Government and Investment

Sinn Féin welcomes the decision by the US President, Bill Clinton, to host the White House Conference for Trade and Investment and the other economic initiatives proposed in the 1st November, White House statement.

Sinn Féin recognises that US inward investment has for over 30 years been a significant contributor to employment and economic development in Ireland. The role US investment plays throughout the Irish economy is a crucial one that needs to be examined now more than ever as the prospects of lasting peace offers tangible new opportunities for mutually beneficial inward investment.

The November 1 statement said that the aim of the conference is to “show US companies that sustained peace is dramatically improving business opportunities on the island of Ireland and particularly in Northern Ireland and the border counties. American business should be in on the ground floor of these new opportunities.”

Sinn Féin believes that the chief benefits of any new investment should be in increased employment and enhanced local economic development, particularly in those areas and communities most affected by the conflict.


The history of structured political discrimination in the Six Counties is well documented and a matter of public record.

The responsibility for discrimination against Catholics lay for decades with the unionist controlled government at Stormont which functioned under the Authority of the London government. A system of political, economic and cultural apartheid was institutionalised under this system.

The British government, as the sovereign power, had the ultimate responsibility for allowing this situation to exist.

Since taking direct political control in 1972 the British government has passed two anti-discrimination laws. They have had little impact on the disparity in employment between Catholics and Protestants.

Indeed an internal British government report in September 1992 for the Department of Economic Development concluded that the unemployment differential between Catholics and Protestants is not likely to change over the next ten years.

Catholics are still over two times more likely to be unemployed. (23% of Catholic males are unemployed as against 9% Protestant males.)


It is for all of these reasons that we welcome US concern and interest. President Clinton has brought a particular positive focus to this issue.

The appointment of Senator George Mitchell, the conference for trade and investment and the other initiatives are all evidence of the administrations pro-active interest.

Sinn Féin believes that progressive opinion in Ireland clearly supports the need to address a number of areas in order to enhance the potential for inward investment and to build on the hopes for a lasting peace.

These are:

–  Parity of esteem between the two major political allegiances in Ireland and the communities who hold these allegiances.

– Equality of treatment.

– Equality of opportunity.


Investment should complement local economic activity, and not be used as has happened sometimes in the past as a substitute for domestic economic activity. The net result of badly planned investment in the past has resulted in the inward investor and the host local communities both losing out.

Sinn Féin proposes that for inward investment to be at its most effective in enhancing the benefits of a lasting peace, three sets of criteria need to be met.

One, is that new investments meet a set of minimum labour and environmental standards with positive efforts made to site new plants and operations in the most deprived areas of Ireland and to hire workers from the most deprived communities.

Two, new investment must not prop up the existing status quo of discrimination against Catholics in the Six Counties. It must seek to reverse the disproportionate level of discrimination suffered by Catholics. The British government must be encouraged to introduce new and effective anti-discrimination laws.

Three, is that a new economic strategy for areas most affected by the conflict should be developed in parallel with new investment programmes. It is in the interest of both the investor and the host communities that every effort is made to maximise the benefit of new investment. This could come in the form of aiding the development of support clusters around an inward investing company, or planning strategies to harness the increased employment created by new investments to stimulate other commercial developments in the local economy.

Developing links between local communities and the inward investor is a necessary prerequisite of any new investment initiatives.