|Year 2006 No. 33, April 16, 2006||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBBOOKS||SUBSCRIBE|
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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún, speaking yesterday, April 15, at a Commemoration in Ireland of the 1916 Easter Rising, said, The Irish patriots who we remember here today gave their all in pursuit of freedom. Their commitment, their dedication, their selflessness and their integrity inspire all of us who describe ourselves as Irish republicans. As we look back over generations of struggle we see that each phase in our long journey has been different from what went before. That is the nature of struggle. A freedom struggle cannot stand still. It always has to be advancing. Our basic republican principles remain the same. There can be no compromise on Irish unity and independence. The British government has no right to rule in Ireland.
The Easter Rising of 1916 was a watershed in Irish history. Historians now recognise the other major event we commemorate this year in similar terms, as a watershed whose impact on the politics of Ireland today has yet to be fully realised.
Successive Irish governments have failed to deliver on the social and economic principles set out in the 1916 Proclamation. Natural resources have been sold to multi nationals. People continue to live in poverty. And just as Connolly stood against the war being waged by the British Empire in which tens of thousands of young Irishmen were used as cannon fodder in its army, we oppose Irish airports being used as a staging post by the US troops in the war in Iraq. We also oppose their use for the transfer of prisoners to centres where they may be subjected to illegal detention and torture.
Now that the Irish government has decided once again to commemorate 1916 they must move decisively to deliver on the promise of the Proclamation.
Despite the current campaign by our political opponents the republican struggle will continue to grow. That is what the opponents of change fear most. Our struggle continues to grow because republican ideals continue to inspire one generation after another. The road to freedom was never going to be easy. Opponents of peace and democracy in Ireland have too much to lose for that to be the case. As a collective leadership we will not be deflected from our task. We will continue to lead the struggle forward.
As part of a speech to the annual Easter Commemoration in Portadown, Donegal Sinn Féin Councillor Padraig McLochlainn challenged Tony Blair to come clean on the British States role in the murder of citizens in both jurisdictions on this island.
Cllr. McLochlainn said: "Here in North Armagh the nationalist and republican community know only too well the effects of the British sponsored loyalist death squads who stalked this area for three decades.
"In my own home town of Buncrana we also know of that cost. My predecessor as a Sinn Féin councillor in the town, Eddie Fullerton, was gunned down by one of the same Brit surrogate gangs.
"The Fullerton family in common with so many others in areas like this have had to rely upon their own strength and courage as they have sought to break down the barriers to the truth. Shamefully in the Fullerton case it is not just the British who have questions to answer. Elements of the 26 County system have still many questions to answer about the events of that evening in 1991. But as with all of these cases brave and courageous families, supported by communities who know the truth, will not allow the lies to continue unchallenged.
"I would send out from this gathering today a clear challenge to the British Prime Minister Tony Blair as he approaches the end of his time in office. It is now time to come clean on Britain's dirty war in our country. If he fails to do so then a linkage to the murder machine which was planned, co-ordinated, funded and supported by previous British Labour and Tory governments will forever tarnish him and his legacy."
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has called on all those who support Irish unity to join together to form a national coalition, regardless of what political beliefs they have.
Speaking at the Easter Commemoration in Dublin yesterday, April 15, he welcomed the call of the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic to return to "the core values of Irish republicanism".
He went on to say that the men and women of 1916 were very definite about the type of Republic they wanted to create. The Proclamation makes that clear. In it they use words like sovereignty, independence, equal rights, civil and religious liberties and cherishing all of the children of the nation equally. It is words and values like these that continue to guide Sinn Féin in 2006.
Gerry Adams called on all those who support Irish unity, regardless of political affiliation, to come together in a national coalition for Irish unity. He stated that such a coalition could come together under the three basic principles of the sovereignty of the people, the unity of Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter and the unity of Ireland and its people.
Addressing the current peace process, the Northern Irish MP said that it would become apparent before the summer months whether the Good Friday Agreement would be upheld by the British and Irish governments.
Gerry Adams said that he hoped Ian Paisley would "share" the power of the government when the time came as an "executive with Sinn Fein" is the only "reality which faces him today". But regardless of Ian Paisleys decisions, Irish Republicans have a mighty job of work ahead of them, he concluded.
Full Text of Speech
I want to dedicate these words today to our friend Siobhan O Hanlon who died this week in Belfast.
90 years ago this Easter an alliance of Irish republican organisations and others, including elements of the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizen Army, Sinn Féin, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the woman's movement, trade unionists and Irish language activists, rose up against British rule in Ireland and declared a Republic.
On Easter Monday 90 years ago Pádraig Pearse stood on these steps and read out The Proclamation of that Republic. Six days later, and with the centre of this city in ruins the leaders of the Army of the Irish Republic ordered the surrender.
In the weeks which followed 15 of the leaders were executed, and four months after that Roger Casement was hanged in London.
The British hoped by the speed of their actions and the scale of the executions that the flame of freedom would be extinguished in Ireland. They were wrong.
At his court martial Pádraig Pearse got it exactly right:
'Believe that we, too, love freedom and desire it. To us it is more desirable than anything in the world. If you strike us down now, we shall rise again to renew the fight. You cannot conquer Ireland. You cannot extinguish the Irish passion for freedom.'
I believe that passion for freedom is to be found in the heart of almost every Irish person of every man and woman. And why wouldn't it?
The desire for freedom, of the right to be treated properly and with dignity, to be acknowledged and cherished in your own place, is part of the human condition.
It is not uniquely Irish but for those of us who are Irish there is no better cause than the struggle for the freedom of our island and the emancipation of our people.
In my view the vast majority of Irish people recognise this. That is why the decision to re-establish the state commemoration of 1916 is a popular decision.
That is why OConnell Street will be thronged with people tomorrow.
That is why in every county on this island, and in the United States and Canada and Australia, and in England and other parts of the world, Irish republicans will gather to celebrate and commemorate the men and women of 1916 and of all the generations since then.
I welcome the reinstatement of the governments commemoration of 1916. It should never have been abandoned in the first place.
And let us not forget that successive governments didnt just abandon this event, they also banned other commemorations.
On one shameful occasion, the daughter of James Connolly, Nora Connolly OBrien, by then an old woman, was arrested here for daring to do what Irish republicans have never failed to do to honour our patriot dead.
The Taoiseach has recently said that tomorrow's state event is to commemorate what the Irish Defence Forces have done for the state and for the United Nations. That is a good thing to do but it is not what the Easter Commemoration will be about.
Since 1916 there has been an almost continuous struggle for the liberation of our country and the freedom of our people. It's little wonder that this struggle is so well known in the history of freedom struggles, not only here but also throughout the world.
I am proud to be part of that struggle. It is a struggle which continues. There is now a need for a great national effort to bring it to a conclusion. The Irish government should be part of that effort.
The Core Values of Republicanism
The Taoiseach has called for a return to the core values of Irish republicanism. I welcome that call. That is what the Easter commemoration is about.
The heart and soul of Irish republicanism its core values are to be found in the Proclamation of 1916. It is suggested, by some within the Irish establishment, that the Proclamation has been delivered on. This is a great untruth.
Yes, there has been progress and no one can gainsay that. Yes, there has been a lot of great work done. But in truth The Proclamation is unfinished business.
It is unfinished business which the vast majority of the Irish people want to see brought to completion.
Are there any real doubts about where Tom Clarke, Sean Mac Diarmada, Thomas MacDonagh; Pádraig Pearse; Ceannt, Connolly or Joseph Plunkett, would stand on the great issues of our time?
The Proclamation is about self-determination and democracy. Does anyone think that the men and women of 1916 would settle for a partitioned Ireland?
Does anyone believe that they would block northern representatives being accorded speaking rights in the Dáil?
Does anyone believe that they would settle for anything less than an active engagement with the British government and unionism to promote and seek support for reunification?
The Proclamation promises to cherish all the children of the nation equally.
Today, despite the unprecedented prosperity in the Irish economy we have one of the most inequitable societies in the developed world.
In this state one in seven of our children live in poverty.
There is a two-tier public/private health care system which is grossly unequal. We have hospitals in which patients linger on trolleys.
There was never any excuse for this type of system. But at a time of great wealth such conditions are a direct result of a policy which holds that inequality is good for society. It sees health as a private business, as opposed to a public service.
The Proclamation says that the ownership of Ireland belongs to the people of Ireland.
Successive governments have sold off natural resources to powerful multi-national corporations. In their Proclamation the ownership of Ireland belongs to Shell or to the National Toll roads and other big businesses.
This government is also about the business of selling off public or state bodies to their cronies in the private sector.
The ideology, which underpins the privatisation of our health services is evident also in the sell-off of Aer Lingus. What part of the Proclamation does this fulfil?
In 1916 Pearse and Connolly and Markeviez stood against the war being waged by the big powers of that time. Today the Irish government hands over Shannon airport to be used by a big power waging war in Iraq in this time.
In the spirit of the Proclamation we also say it is vital that the new communities who have made their home in Ireland, people from all over the world who have come here to work and study, should be made welcome.
So, I urge the Taoiseach to follow through on the logic of what he has said.
The men and women of 1916 were very definite about the type of Republic they wanted to create. The Proclamation makes that clear. In it they use words like sovereignty, independence, equal rights, civil and religious liberties and cherishing all of the children of the nation equally.
It is words and values like these that continue to guide Sinn Féin in 2006.
Sinn Féin doesn't have all the answers but there are enough people on the island of Ireland to make partition history if we work together.
I want to send out a call to all those who support Irish unity, regardless of political affiliation, to come together in a national coalition for Irish unity.
I believe such a coalition could come together around three basic principles.
the sovereignty of the people, to democracy in its fullest sense.
unity of Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter and the rejection of sectarianism of any kind.
unity of this island and its people, national self-determination, an end to partition and the establishment of a sovereign 32-County Republic.
So there is a lot of work for all of us in the time ahead if the Proclamation is to be made real.
I hope that those in political leadership of all the parties will put partisan politics to one side when the Dáil returns and support Sinn Féin's motion to prevent the sale and export of irreplaceable historical documents.
They should be kept here in Ireland and in the ownership of the people.
Dialogue with Unionism
A central part of the work of Irish republicans in the time ahead is to engage with unionists, to talk to, debate with, but ultimately to seek to persuade unionists that their future and that of their children, lies on this island.
The fact is that no British politician has ever governed in any part of Ireland in the interests of nationalists and republicans and unionists.
They have always governed and exercised power in British interests. And they have used and exploited and deepened the divisions and fears of people to advance British interests.
The result has been exclusion, conflict, division, inequality and poverty. And no section of our people has been immune from these.
Why should a British Minister take decisions on the future of our children?
Why should a British Minister have the power to decide the priorities in our health or education services?
Irish republicans believe that in an independent and united Ireland we have the best chance of effectively tackling these issues.
Unionists have a different opinion. That's fine.
Let's talk about these matters. And let us begin by reassuring unionists that we are not in the business of coercing them into a united Ireland.
Instead as we seek to build a shared space in which we can move forward we all must appreciate that, as some northern protestants have said to me, 'the wise man builds his house upon the rock'.
In this case that means a meaningful, working partnership between nationalists and republicans, unionists and loyalists.
I believe the opportunity to do that now exists.
The Peace Process
I believe there is a huge opportunity to fulfil the historic destiny of our people by uniting orange and green in unity and justice and on the basis of equality.
And it exists in no small measure because of the courage and wisdom of IRA Volunteers.
Since we last met in 2005 momentous events in Irish politics and in the life of this country have taken place.
The announcement by the Irish Republican Army on 28 July to formally end its armed campaign was a historic development.
I want to pay tribute to the Volunteers of the IRA for taking this courageous and unprecedented step in order to advance the cause of peace with justice in Ireland.
Despite the profound difficulties of all this for many republicans, the IRA has provided a unique opportunity to significantly advance the peace process and to open up a new era in politics and relationships on this island and between Ireland and Britain.
It is vital that this opportunity is availed of and the peace process advanced.
This must include the release of all republican prisoners and an end to the ongoing discrimination against republican ex prisoners. It must include the full delivery of the Good Friday Agreement.
Decision time for the governments and the DUP
So there are many challenges ahead. There are many decisions to be taken. But the challenges presented by the IRA initiative of last year are not confined to Irish Republicans.
The two governments are now faced with a stark choice. Are they going to stand by the Good Friday Agreement or are they going to continue to pander to rejectionist unionism.
The answer to that question will become clear before the summer months.
The governments have said that they will lift the suspension of the Assembly on May 15th. Sinn Féin will be in Stormont that day. We will be there for one reason and one reason only the election of a government in line with the Good Friday Agreement.
We are not interested in talking shops or shadow assemblies. This also has to be the focus of the Irish and British governments.
Republicans have taken the hard decisions over the past number of years. We have honoured and stood by every commitment entered into. Decision time now looms for others. And I speak specifically of the DUP.
Ian Paisley has a decision to make. He has failed in his campaign to smash Sinn Féin. He has failed in his bid to see unionist majority rule returned. The only way Ian Paisley will exercise political power is in an Executive with Sinn Fein. I do not say that to be triumphalist in any way. I say that because that is the reality, which faces him today.
If Ian Paisley continues to refuse to recognise the rest of us as equals then the two governments must deliver on their commitment to jointly implement all other elements of the Good Friday Agreement and increase substantially all-Ireland harmonisation and management.
But regardless of the decisions taken by Ian Paisley, either to share power or not and I hope he decides to share power we as Irish Republicans have a mighty job of work ahead of us.
Building unity building peace
An unprecedented opportunity to open up a new era in politics both on this island and between Ireland and Britain now exists. It is vital that we grasp this opportunity.
Republicans have mapped out a peaceful path which can deliver Irish unity. But we have to build a party which can achieve it.
That means building a truly national movement. It means recruiting more people. It means opening up our party. It means building alliances with others. It means more campaigning, more activism.
The events of the past year have placed a heavy responsibility onto the shoulders of each and every one of us here today.
I believe that the republican struggle is in better shape today than at any time since partition. There are more republicans on this island now than at any time in our history. That is a good thing.
But there will be many battles in the time ahead. Especially here in the capital. I want to commend all of our Dublin members and activists I want to commend you for the mighty work you are doing.
In many ways you are the pace setters for the other parties who envy our volunteerism and sense of idealism and energy. I want also to commend our councillors and TDs and our MEP, Mary Lou McDonald.
It was your success, which culminated in the election of Mary Lou and triggered the most recent campaign of vilification against us. That campaign has failed. But we cannot be complacent.
The entire focus of the establishment parties has been about stopping the growth of Sinn Féin, particularly in this state and especially in this city.
Well, let me tell them that we have the leadership in Dublin which will see off any effort to put us, or our electoral base in second place.
We are a first class political party, representing first class people, who have the right and the desire to build an alternative to the mediocre politics of the other parties.
Building political strength is one of the key tasks, which face us. It has been the historic failure to do this that has allowed more conservative parties to engage in the rhetoric, but not the reality of Irish republicanism.
A good example of this is to be found in the hunger strikes of 25 years ago.
So as we gather today to remember the momentous events of Easter week 90 years ago, we should also reflect on those long and difficult months 25 years ago when a British government cruelly and cynically allow ten of our comrades to die on hunger strike.
The Irish government of the day stood back and let the hunger strikers and their families down, safe in the knowledge that republicans at that time had neither the political strength nor organisation to stop them.
That is a lesson, which we all must learn from.
By this time 25 years ago Bobby Sands had already been elected as MP in Fermanagh & South Tyrone. Thatcher had already been exposed to the world for what she was.
But the struggle in the Blocks was to go on for another six long and agonising months.
The women in Armagh and the men in the H Blocks were extraordinary people who when faced with repression and tyranny resisted in the only way they could.
Their stand, their determination to assert their rights and the rights of the Irish people continue to inspire us, and we owe them and their families a massive and continuing debt.
It is vitally important that all of us use this anniversary year to tell a new generation of Irish republicans the story of 1981, just as it is vital that the idealism and vision of 1916 is never lost.
So let us go from here today determined to complete their work.
Proud of the sacrifices of all our patriot dead. And determined to make the Proclamation a reality.
Bobby Sands had a word for it, which echoed what Pearse and Connolly said here 90 ago.
In the last entry in his diary he wrote: "If they aren't able to destroy the desire for freedom, they won't break you. They won't break me because the desire for freedom, and the freedom of the Irish people, is in my heart.
The day will dawn when all the people of Ireland will have the desire for freedom to show."
Comrades and friends let us go from here to continue the work for that certain day.
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