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Sinn Féin National Chairperson calls of British government to reengage with Peace Process

16 February, 2014


Speaking today Declan Kearney said: "Sinn Féin endorsed the Haass compromises, because they were in the wider interests of our society.

"The Irish government has agreed they represent the best way forward; and the US administration also shares that view."The British government now needs to say the same; the British government needs to get on to the same page as the rest of us.

"Comments and interventions by British politicians and officials which fail to concentrate minds on the need to embrace the Haass compromises are entirely counterproductive.

"That approach will deepen current difficulties, and reinforce unionist intransigence."The British government has to reengage with the Peace Process.  It should immediately and unambiguously support the Haass compromises, and call for their implementation.

Below is the full speech by Declan Kearney.

Sinn Féin National Chairperson, Declan Kearney, addresses John Davey Commemoration

Diograiseoir na Poblachta den t-sean deanamh ab ea John Davey.  Briseadh croi na Gluaiseachta aitiula nuair a maraiodh e. Chailleamar laoch den chead scoith. Agus, guimis go leir comhbhron le clann Davey inniu; le Mary, Pauline, Maria‘s Eugene.I first met John in 1980.  He was a big man in so many ways, known in our, other homes, as Big John. He commanded huge respect. There was a real affection and esteem for him across Derry and Antrim.

He was of course, like others among us, another Antrim man, on loan to Derry!

John Davey was to these counties, what Gerry Adams or Martin Mc Guinness were to Belfast or Derry City. John was a child of the orange state. He grew up under the shadow of the unionist one party state, the B-men, and 2nd class citizenship. But he became a father figure to the many who became involved in the resurgent struggle for national democracy and independence, from 1969 onwards.

John created the foot print for the political and electoral strength Sinn Féin enjoys locally today. He was an incredibly important leader particularly in relation to the electoral strategy; entering local councils; and, the abstentionist debate in 1986.

He was a pioneer of modern republican strategy in this area. Experience is an important teacher. As a veteran of the Border Campaign, John had political experience in spades, and a sharp, practical instinct.During the late 1980’s the British launched an intensified counter insurgency offensive against republicanism. John Davey quickly realised what was happening.

I recall a conversation with him in the summer of 1987, when he forecast that things would be become very dangerous for us all. He was right. A new period of increased repression and targeted executions was beginning. In that coming period many Sinn Féin members, and dozens of ordinary Catholics were targeted. 

Local comrades such as Gerard Casey, Tommy Donaghy, Bernard O Hagan, Danny Cassidy, Malachy Carey, Peter Gallagher, and too many others were assassinated. Two days before John was killed, Pat Finucane was executed.The assassination campaign of that period wasn’t random. It was aimed at removing leadership figures and designed to deter those of us opposed to injustice, repression and inequality. It failed.

Sinn Fein in these counties and across the north got bigger. Eight years later Martin McGuinness was elected MP in Mid Ulster.

Ghandi once said, “First they ignore you; then they laugh at you; then they fight you, and then you win”. There’s something to that statement, because, in the face of the adversity from British forces and their surrogates, the struggle for progressive change became unstoppable.

W B Yeats famously wrote,“Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart”. John’s family, and so many others carry burdens of unimaginable pain, and we, his friends and comrades suffer his loss.The war brought great pain to all sides.

But despite all the suffering republicans have never lost our humanity.We want a better future for our children and ourselves based upon equality, respect and democracy. 

We want that for everyone.We all lived through a terrible past, and that must not be allowed to define our future.

So, Sinn Fein endorsed the Haass compromises, because they were in the wider interests of our society.

The Irish government has agreed they represent the best way forward; and the US administration also shares that view. The British government now needs to say the same; the British government needs to get on to the same page as the rest of us.Comments and interventions by British politicians and officials which fail to concentrate minds on the need to embrace the Haass compromises are entirely counterproductive.

That approach will deepen current difficulties, and reinforce unionist intransigence. The British government has to reengage with the Peace Process.  It should immediately and unambiguously support the Haass compromises, and call for their implementation. However, the prevarication and intransigence of political unionism is also no longer sustainable.  That too must end.

There is no alternative to the implementation of the Haass compromises or the exercise of real power sharing.  It is not acceptable for unionist and orange extremists to continue exerting a veto over political progress, power sharing, and the viability of the political institutions. Six weeks after the Haass negotiation has concluded; it is now time for political unionism to state without further delay, whether it will step away from the extremists and wreckers; stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of us; and, agree to implement the Haass package.

Holding progress and the interests of wider society hostage to selfish electoral interests will create a political vacuum.  The British and Irish governments share a responsibility to stop that happening.

There is no future for any of us in the politics of the blame game.All pain is the same.  War is war.  It cannot be romanticised.  Killing occurred on all sides. Those unionists who try to say otherwise should remember that both British and unionist politicians contributed to the political context which led to the execution of John, Pat Finucane, and many others.

There can be no hierarchy of victims or humanity.The grief of John Davey’s family today deserves the equality and respect, which the northern state denied to John in life.

But we can agree a future.  And we must all be courageous as republicans and unionists in bringing that about. Big John will never be forgotten.

There are monuments to his memory all around us - Gulladuff Hall: Lavey Club, of which he was an honorary President: and, the symbolism of hundreds of young people from this area expressing their Irish identity with confidence through our games, language, music and dance. I think John would have been really proud of all that, and what we have achieved as a Party. But John Davey continues to live in the hearts of all us who knew him.

The greatest tribute we can make to him, and his family, Mary, Pauline, Maria and Eugene, is to realise the future of the agreed, united Ireland, at peace with itself, which he aspired to achieve.

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