Sinn Fein conference
On February 26, Sinn Fein held its annual Ard Fheis [conference] in the Mansion House, Ireland's first parliament, at which over 500 delegates voted in support of the IRA cease-fire of September 1. At this conference it was agreed to hold a special national conference in the near future to decide Sinn Fein's strategy towards the "framework" document agreed by the British and Irish governments.
The framework document proposes an assembly for Northern Ireland, a cross-border political body and changes to the Irish Republic's constitutional claims over the North.
Gerry Adams said the document should clear the way for inclusive talks and the next phase of the peace process. Its publication was a clear recognition that partition and British rule in Ireland had failed.
He added that the document was neither a solution nor a settlement and that the onus was on both governments — particularly Britain — to move speedily into inclusive dialogue.
Sinn Fein vice-president Martin McGuinness told the conference that the party was not looking for victory over Unionists or anyone else. "Republicans are going to live alongside Unionists and we are willing to enter into friendly relations with them. We want to, indeed we must, make friends with these people because they are as much a part of this island's future as we are. We must build it together as equals."
He said that all-party negotiations were now inevitable. "From this platform we say to the Unionist people — let's make change together, all of us — the people who live on this island. All roads are leading to the negotiating table. Everyone but the Unionists has accepted the need to get around the negotiating table."