Published Tuesday, 01 April 2014
Sinn Féin leader and Louth TD Gerry Adams. (© PA)
At a constituency meeting on Monday night, Gerry Adams criticised what he called the "negative approach" of the British government in dealing with proposals on flags, parades and the past.
He also claimed that it was mostly young working-class people who were "paying the price" as a result of failure to find viable solutions on controversial issues which have led to violence.
"It is they who are receiving prison sentences - not the leaders who encouraged them or those who failed to actively discourage such negative, sectarian and illegal behaviour," Mr Adams said.
"It is said that there can be no change in this situation until after the May local government and European elections. I do not accept this."
According to Mr Adams, public confidence has been damaged by a lack of support for the Haass proposals and the political structures of the Good Friday Agreement undermined over the OTRs.
He insists that reaching an agreement on the key issues raised in the talks chaired by US diplomat Richard Haass is possible before the European and local government elections in May.
I believe that an agreement on the Haass proposals in advance of the elections would send out a powerful and positive message of hope. That will be Sinn Féin's objective in the week ahead.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams
"However, to achieve this will require the British government taking up a clear position in support of the Haass proposals," Mr Adams said.
"The Irish government has already agreed that Haass represents the best way forward and the US administration has endorsed this in recent weeks."
Claiming that the political process in Northern Ireland was facing its greatest challenge in recent years, Mr Adams added: "Citizens do not want the process slipping back.
"This requires genuine power sharing and partnership. It also requires the focus of the two governments, but especially the British government and a change in direction by the unionist leadership."
Accusing Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt of "posturing with the NO men on the extremes of unionism", Mr Adams further added: "Middle unionism must feel badly let down by the clear effort on the part of political unionism to roll back on the progress that has been made since the Good Friday Agreement was achieved 16 years ago."
However, speaking at the UUP AGM over the weekend, Mr Nesbitt had already hit back at Sinn Féin criticism of his party and of his leadership as "a major disappointment".
"I commend all our elected representatives who do what's right for Northern Ireland. We understand it is not easy," he said.
"It's not easy at Stormont while the DUP and Sinn Féin cancel each other out in a stalemate that is, to coin a phrase, a "major disappointment".
"But Ulster Unionists seek a way around the impasse."
© UTV News