Irish American Information Service

08/24/04 10:28 EST

Sinn Féin chief negotiator Mr Martin McGuinness has called for direct dialogue between Sinn Féin and the DUP.

Mr McGuinness made the call in a statement to mark the tenth anniversary of the IRA ceasefire. He said republicans had sought to engage with their opponents and to develop ways to overcome difficulties and differences with their adversaries.

"The challenge now is to continue the forward movement and not allow the advance we have made to be undermined by complacency, intransigence or lack of imagination," he said.

He said Sinn Féin’s objective in the all-party discussions next month was to see the political institutions re-established on a stable basis, the transfer of powers on policing and justice away from London and completion on a range of other issues, including demilitarisation, equality and human rights.

The former Stormont minister for education said the peace process was faced with "deep difficulties" but said it was the responsibility of politicians to work towards a resolution.

He said Sinn Féin believed "completely" in the need to build relationships with unionism and acknowledged the results of the November election and the European elections had brought about a new political reality.

Mr McGuinness said: "Sinn Féin and the DUP are now the main political parties in the north. The new reality must bring with it a new political realism. It certainly places a huge responsibility on the two governments, the DUP and Sinn Féin to act responsibly to find a way forward."

The best way to do this, he said, was through direct dialogue, including between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Sinn Féin's objective was clear, he said; - to restore the political institutions and end the crisis in the process.

The Mid-Ulster MP said discussions needed to focus on a number of key issues. These included: -full participation in stable political institutions;

-the resolution of outstanding matters on policing and justice, including, critically the transfer of powers away from London;

-armed groups and arms;

-and human rights, equality and sectarianism.

Mr. McGuinness also said there were also matters which were the responsibility of the two governments across the human rights, equality and demilitarization agendas.

"Progress on many of these issues has been obstructed and blocked by elements in the Northern Ireland Office which, despite the peace process, has adhered to a pro-Unionist and securocratic agenda. This was dramatically evident in the events around disputed loyalist parades over recent weeks which undoubtedly damaged our political project but which had the potential to do much greater damage. The British government needs to bring its system in Ireland under control."

He said Sinn Fein was committed to playing a full and productive role in resolving all of the outstanding issues, including issues of concern to unionists.

Sinn Fein recognized that this meant "more challenges ahead" for Irish republicans," said McGuinness.

He said Unionism must come at the discussions in the same "sprit of generosity and with a willingness to listen to, and deal with, the issues of concern to the nationalist and republican community".

Sinn Fein believed, he said, that was possible to achieve a comprehensive package, which deals with all of the outstanding matters in a way that was "definitive and conclusive".

"The enormous progress which we have achieved over the past 10 years is proof positive that an approach based on inclusivity; equality and mutual respect does work. It requires hard work and, at times, even harder decisions. But that is the nature of peace making," said McGuinness.

"The challenge for all of us in the time ahead is to build on that work and ensure that progress continues. Our history on this island, and our relationship with our closest neighbor, has been difficult and at times destructive. Sinn Fein wants to find a lasting peace between republicanism and unionism on this island and between Britain and Ireland. To do so we must put the failures of the past behind us. We must face into renewed discussions with an energy which matches our duty, as elected representatives, to find agreement and a better future for all our people. We must see the outstanding matters, not as obstacles to progress, but as difficulties which can be overcome. That is the challenge to all of us in political leadership as we face into renewed discussion in September. It is a mammoth task but it has to be done sometime. Why not now? I am confident that if we apply our collective energy, experience and talent that we can be successful," McGuinness concluded.

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