This morning Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD and party colleagues Martin McGuinness MLA and Michelle Gildernew MP attended the funeral of Tony Benn in St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey.
Gerry Adams said:
“Tony Benn was a tireless and articulate campaigner for democracy, social justice and equality in Britain. He was an internationalist, as well as a stalwart friend and advocate for peace in Ireland and for Irish unity.
“Tony strenuously opposed the policy of austerity and rejected both Tory and Labour cuts to the rights and entitlements of citizens, especially welfare cuts.
“My earliest recollection of meeting Tony was in London in July 1983, a month after I had been elected for the first time as the MP for West Belfast. I have met him many times since then and occasionally he travelled to Ireland to speak at events.
“In an interview Tony explained his attitude to British policy in Ireland succinctly. He said:
‘The problem is not an ‘Irish problem’ in the United Kingdom, but a British problem in Ireland. Once you get that straight you can see it quite differently. I’m not a nationalist but I support the right of people to control their own affairs and to that extent I am really strongly in favour of getting the British out of Northern Ireland.’
“Three years ago Sinn Féin organised an event in the London Irish Centre to mark the 30th anniversary of the Hunger Strike. Tony was the final speaker. He spoke of how necessary it is to see the Irish struggle for self-determination not simply as a small isolated fight, but as part of a huge and general struggle against colonialism worldwide. He spoke with conviction that Irish reunification would happen.
“On behalf of Sinn Féin I want to extend my condolences to Tony’s many friends but especially his children; Stephen, Hilary, Melissa, Joshua.”