Adams calls for 'united front' to fight spending cuts by British government
DAN KEENAN Northern News Editor –Irish Times - Thu, Apr 29, 2010
WESTMINSTER 2010: Northern Ireland Election: SINN FÉIN has published a “manifesto for the future” based on the linked policy objectives of peace, equality, jobs and Irish unity.
In an address at the publication of the document, party president Gerry Adams emphasised the importance of political leadership.
Referring to the Hillsborough negotiations in February on the devolution of policing and justice powers, Mr Adams said: “This was a hugely important moment.”
Citing the successful transfer of powers, he said: “Sinn Féin did this by making the two governments and the DUP face up to their political responsibilities. As a result, policing and justice were transferred in April.”
The manifesto outlines 87 aims and commitments listed under 11 headings ranging from health, education, regional development and agriculture to international affairs, equality and Irish unity.
On regional development the manifesto addresses many policies on an all-Ireland basis, calling for greater investment in road and rail, as well as in the area “west of the Bann” in Northern Ireland.
The party will press for a new White Paper on agriculture, invest the equivalent of £400 million in rural communities and fishing, insist on all-island planning and make all aspects of public policy “rural proof”.
Mr Adams said the two education systems in Ireland should be harmonised, there should be additional new schools, as well as the continuation of free school meals and of education minister Caitríona Ruane’s reform programme in the North.
He also called for specific programmes to address mental health issues, perinatal needs, obesity and suicide. The manifesto calls for more funds for children’s cancer services and advocates new criteria for the payment of the winter fuel allowance.
On criminal justice, Mr Adams said Sinn Féin was setting the agenda on policing and would work to enhance the equality, transparency and quality of the criminal justice system.
Plastic bullets should be banned, the British agencies MI5 and the Serious Organised Crime Agency should leave Northern Ireland, and the Public Prosecution Service should be reformed, the manifesto says.
It also calls for an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane and the holding of all investigations under the PSNI rather than British agencies.
Mr Adams called for “an independent, international, comprehensive truth-recovery process” to examine the history of the conflict.
The manifesto has a significant section on the need for an Irish-language Act and a range of supports throughout Ireland for the renewal of the language.
The party president said Sinn Féin would continue to offer assistance to those involved in other peace processes throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East and the Basque country.
The manifesto contains a specific demands to end the Cuban blockade, to halt the building of a separation wall by Israel and to end settlements in the West Bank.
Mr Adams demanded a Bill of rights for the North and an all-Ireland charter of rights as referred to in the Belfast Agreement.
The manifesto outlines a series of legislative proposals to clamp down on discrimination.
It also claims “Ireland cannot afford partition” and refers to 22 proposals under the headings of a stronger economy, a better quality of life and Irish unity. Mr Adams said the British government should amend its policy from one of upholding the union to one of becoming a “persuader for Irish unity”.
In answer to a question about Sinn Féin’s policy of abstention at Westminster, Mr Adams said there was a lessening of “connectiveness” between the Northern electorate and the House of Commons. “Whoever is there doesn’t govern in our interests, that’s a fact,” he said.
“We need to build up a united front which will face the next British government particularly on this issue of [public spending] cuts. We need to be opposing that in a thoughtful and strategic way, and in a united way.”
The manifesto main points
Combined opposition, with other parties, to British public spending cuts in Northern Ireland
Push the British government to become “persuaders for Irish unity”
Transfer fiscal and tax-raising powers from London.
Remove MI5 and the Serious Organised Crime Agency and ban plastic bullets.
All-island planning on agriculture, infrastructure and transport.
Harmonise the education systems in Northern Ireland and in the South and continue reforms in the North.
Demand an Irish-language Act and range of supports for renewal of the language
Establish an international truth-recovery process independent of the British government
This very Socialist leaning wish list as outlined could best be described as Utopian in nature and is probably, in reality, unattainable. However, a question which must be asked and answered regarding “truth recovery” is: Would the international truth recovery process referred to in this manifesto include a full investigation into the heinous murders of Robert McCartney and Paul Quinn? If it did not, it would be a total waste of time and an absolute affront to any commission or process with the word “truth” attached to it.
In regard to the Cuban Blockade, Israel and the West Bank, and Basque Country, Sinn Fein would be well advised to focus their attention and concentrate their efforts on solving some of the myriad of problems which still face Ireland today.
Jack Meehan, Past National President
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America