Full text of Gerry Kelly’s speech at the Newry commemoration of the Easter Rising follows statement below.
Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has appealed today to the Loyal Orders to step up to the mark and enter into a new phase of reconciliation.
The North Belfast MLA was speaking at a Republican commemoration in Newry to mark the 1916 Easter Rising.
Gerry Kelly said:
“Another group which appears to be anti-peace and reconciliation will be marching past St Patrick’s Catholic Chapel and Carrick Hill tomorrow.
“They will also march through the Republican areas of Ardoyne, Mountainview and the Dales in North Belfast.
“The Loyal Orders have not stepped up to the mark in trying to move past conflict and into a new phase of reconciliation. Unfortunately their intransigence is not just tolerated but is encouraged by Unionist politicians.
“A small start would be for Unionist politicians themselves to show a little respect. I appeal to the various loyal orders to get into meaningful dialogue with residents. All resolutions start with meaningful dialogue.”
And the Sinn Féin MLA accused Republican dissidents of waging war on the Nationalist community.
“There is another small minority in our community who are attempting to derail any progress in policing, in the peace process and the political process. They have an agenda of a return to a conflict.”
However, Gerry Kelly accused dissidents of being heavily involved in criminality and sais they were at war with their own community.
“To date the biggest percentage of any killings carried out by these dissidents have been in internal feuds.
“This is not a struggle for Irish Freedom! If they are at war it is with each other and the Nationalist community.
“Groups with no popular support, no public face and no strategy for the achievement of republican objectives are now merely killing people for the sake of killing.” CRÍOCH/ENDS
The speech delivered by Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly at the Newry Easter commemoration 2014
Tá áthas mór orm a bheith anseo inniu le cupla briathar a rá ar na daoine a fuair bás ar son saoirse na hÉireann nócha is a hocht bliain ó shin.
Easter week 1916 did not just inspire generations of Irish Republicans. It showed many peoples throughout the world that they could rise up against the tyranny of colonial rule and oppression – no matter how large the enemy or how few the rebels.
Our comrades who gave their lives then and in generations since were about achieving a free independent and united Ireland based on a bedrock of equality.
I want to welcome all of you here today, especially the families of our fallen comrades who have suffered so much personal loss and grief. I want to pay tribute to the bravery, leadership and commitment of the IRA and the other revolutionary groups in this generation who took to the streets of our towns and the highways and byways of our countryside.
Volunteers in the IRA knew that military action on its own could not achieve our goal. They and others knew that our opponents and enemies had to be faced up to in every sphere of life.
What can be said of those who paid the supreme sacrifice? They were ordinary people like any of us standing here. They had family and friends who they loved and who loved them. They came from North, South, East and West and what bonded them together was a profound love of Ireland and its people.
What made these ordinary men and women extraordinary, was that they had a vision of a New Ireland based on freedom and equality. They rose to the challenge of that vision, despite the fact that they might have to forfeit their own lives or liberty. They led from the front, prepared to sacrifice their all so that others could live in a free Ireland.
This phase of our struggle has gone through many stages. Irish Republicans are highly respected around the world-especially in conflict zones – because of our ability to strategise and versatility in adapting to changing circumstances while keeping focused on our primary objective of uniting Ireland.
Throughout the past half century we have also had to face up to counter-strategies and resistance to freedom by those wedded to partition and the failed politics of the past.
The most recent example of this can be seen in the ‘key note speech’ given by the British Secretary of State-whose name, believe me, will not go down in Irish history. In dealing with the most sensitive of issues she tried to instruct those dealing with the legacy of the past to concentrate less on killings by state forces.
She effectively repudiated the Haass/O’Sullivan proposals for bringing truth and justice to individual victims and survivors by advocating a bias in favour of State Forces. Instead of the British Government showing the necessary leadership in supporting the compromise proposals alongside the Irish Government, the US Administration, Sinn Féin, SDLP and Alliance, it supported the prejudice of rejectionist unionism.
Villiers was quickly followed by Gregory Campbell’s statement on Radio Foyle that killings by state forces were ‘miniscule’. Typically he casually insulted the memories of hundreds of victims and their loved ones still living.
Ironically, while Unionism and Villiers are trying to unpick power-sharing and international agreements a confident and cohesive Sinn Fein leadership participated fully in the Irish President’s state visit to Britain. This was an unprecedented initiative to further strengthen the process of change started by the Irish Peace Process. It was also aimed at advancing national reconciliation in Ireland by promoting outreach to the Unionist section of our community as well as peace between the islands.
Despite the recent attitude of political unionism it is important for Republicans to contribute in a significant way to the continuing change in Ireland and between the island of Ireland and Britain.
Many Unionists grabbed on to the issue of the ‘On the Runs’ as an excuse for non-engagement with Republicans. Indeed, to their shame leading members of the SDLP scrambled to outdo Unionists in their outrage. So let me put the record straight. There was no secret deal. The British and Irish governments made a joint, public statement in 2001 at the Weston Park negotiations that it was their intention to resolve the issue.
Despite protestations, all the parties have had briefings on the issue fairly regularly over the intervening years. Members of political parties sitting on the Policing Board, for instance, received information on OTRs on no less than 22 separate occasions.
Sinn Féin made it clear that part of a developing peace process had to deal with the ability of people to return to normal family life in a post-conflict situation. This, not surprisingly, is a common issue in post-conflict situations around the globe. What seems to have taken Unionists by surprise was, perhaps, that Sinn Féin had put forward the names of over 200 people for processing. We make no apology for assisting so many people in returning to their families.
Furthermore the issue of OTRs is not going away as there are still cases to be resolved and commitments given by the British and Irish governments, which have to be implemented. We will be holding them to those commitments.
It is no coincidence that those most vociferous in their opposition are the same people who opposed the release of political prisoners. Many of them also opposed the overall Good Friday Agreement.
Of course, that is not the only cabal trying to hinder and attack progress. There is a small minority in our community who are attempting to derail any progress in policing, in the peace process and the political process. They have an agenda of a return to a conflict that they seem to be more comfortable with – despite the fact that many of them took no active part in that struggle.
I get angry when Republicanism's reputation is sullied by small groups, which are involved in criminal activity. Whether it’s in Dublin, Derry, Belfast or Tyrone ordinary people are finding it more and more difficult to detect any semblance of political struggle when it comes to these small groups, no matter what grand titles they choose for themselves.
On Good Friday last we had another example of where these various groups are at, with the shooting dead of Tommy Crossan, one of their own, in Belfast. In fact the present mishmash of small armed groups, despite their vacuous claims of being military organisations, have been concentrating on killing each other or other members of the community.
These other wannabe groups trying to claim the title of freedom fighters have no strategy to speak of; otherwise they would be presenting it to the world. Whether they call themselves The New IRA, The Old IRA, the Belfast Continuity IRA, the Limerick Continuity IRA, Oglaigh na hEireann, RAAD, CAAD or SAD – a name or title does not give them legitimacy.
Extorting money from drugs dealers is no better than drugs dealing itself because it allows them to continue their dealing – of course at a price.
Robberies for personal gain are not revolutionary acts. So-called ‘punishment shootings’ of young people does not resolve any problems especially when some of these actions are driven by personal fall-outs.
To date the biggest percentage of any killings carried out by these dissidents have been in internal feuds. This is not a struggle for Irish Freedom! If they are at war it is with each other and the Nationalist community.
Groups with no popular support, no public face and no strategy for the achievement of republican objectives are now merely killing people for the sake of killing.
In the history of Irish Republicanism, choosing armed struggle was always a decision of last resort and it was never acceptable for personal gain.
Let me say this loud and clear to this alphabet of organisations – There only was one IRA, one Irish Republican Army. Ceann amháin! Óglaigh Na hÉireann!
While being very critical of these organisations let me also say that I do not tar every individual with the same brush. I know that there are genuine people, especially young people, who see that there are still injustices to be rectified. They may feel that there is no other way to change things.
But, let’s remember that the Good Friday Agreement was not the resolution of our long struggle for Irish freedom. It was however an agreement to set up structures for a peaceful and political way to right wrongs and to achieve our goal of a United Ireland.
As we remember our fallen comrades today, it is the right time, I believe to criticise those who would falsely or mistakenly claim their mantle but let me also appeal to those among them who genuinely believe in a united Ireland, to take up the offer of dialogue made many times by Republican leaders.
Another group, which appears to be anti-peace and reconciliation will be marching past St Patrick’s Catholic Chapel and Carrick Hill tomorrow – yet again. They will also march through the Republican areas of Ardoyne, Mountainview and the Dales in North Belfast.
Many of the Loyal Orders have not stepped up to the mark in trying to move past conflict and into a new phase of reconciliation. Unfortunately their intransigence is not just tolerated but is encouraged by Unionist politicians.
Respect is not a huge demand in 2014. Respect isn’t even a concession. Unionist politicians over the last number of months have not shown themselves ready to lead from the front. A small start would be Unionist politicians themselves showing a little respect. I appeal to the various loyal orders to get into meaningful dialogue with residents. All resolutions start with meaningful dialogue.
And let’s remember what this is all about. Fundamentally this is about equality. Equality is a threat to no one. The united Ireland Sinn Féin seeks to build is inclusive, pluralist and where all cultures are comfortable, secure and can find the fullest expression of their identity. That includes Irishness and Britishness as well as other cultures. We must deal with the reality that we are fast becoming an inter-cultural society.
Irish unity makes political, economic and social sense. We believe that a new, agreed united Ireland is best achieved through a genuine process of national reconciliation. But, let’s be clear – there is no miracle in a United Ireland. We have to prepare for the type of Ireland that we want, the type of Ireland as described in the 1916 Proclamation.
The Good Friday Agreement provides for a poll on Irish unity. To secure this means building support so that the Irish and British governments are moved to fulfill their obligations to hold one.
All those who wish to see a united, independent Ireland need to mobilise and campaign to persuade the people of Ireland to support unity and the creation of a New Republic.
Partition created two conservative states on this island. Both were the antithesis of the republican vision of Tone, and of the 1916 leaders. Their vision, Sinn Féin’s vision, of a genuine republic governed in the interests of all its citizens, is shared by a growing number of people.
Today, people across this island are suffering. Hundreds of thousands are struggling to survive and young people are flooding out of the country to Australia, Canada and elsewhere. Indeed it is reminiscent of the Ireland of the 1950s and ‘60s.
This is the result of the policies of both Fianna Fáil and their successors in Fine Gael and Labour, implementing failed austerity policies written for them by their political masters in the EU and IMF.
But across Ireland, North and South, Sinn Féin is leading the political fight-back against austerity and cuts and for a New Republic.
Sinn Féin is a party on the rise. In the North we are the undisputed voice of Nationalism and are transforming a society moving out of conflict and into a new shared future. In the South we are providing the credible, radical opposition and alternative to the gombeenism, corruption and lack of vision of a political establishment, which has failed the Irish people.
98 years ago the Easter Rising brought together republicans, nationalists, trade unionists and the women’s movement in the cause of Irish independence. Building alliances to increase political strength in our pursuit of a united Ireland is still a very relevant part of struggle today.
Republicanism on this island has never been so strong, so organised and so capable of achieving its objectives of a 32-County Republic with social justice and equality at its core. But we still have not achieved the necessary political clout.
Sinn Féin is the only all-Ireland party and we have elected representatives throughout the country. But we need more. We need to build the party by opening it up to more and more people and especially to women and young people.
We face into local and European elections next month right across the whole island. We are standing in the region of 350 candidates, young and old, female and male. We have never had a better opportunity to make a huge surge forward in political representation and strength. It is no accident. It has taken hard work and it will take more. We all need to go from here into overdrive for the upcoming election with the intent of making this the best election any of us have ever been involved in. Let’s surprise all those watching. Let’s surprise ourselves!
Let me return to our fallen comrades before finishing. More specifically let me quote two fallen comrades very relevant to today.
The first is the great James Connolly, one of the 1916 martyrs. Speaking at Wolfe Tone’s graveside, he said:
“We who hold his principles believe that any movement which would successfully grapple with the problem of national freedom must draw its inspiration, not from the moulding records of the past, but from the glowing hopes of the living present, the vast possibilities of the mighty future”.
Ní raibh Séamas Ó Conghaile ina phríosúnach don stair. A chomradaithe agus a chairde, inniu agus as seo amach tá muid ag déanamh ár staire féin agus ár dtodhchaí féin.
James Connolly was no prisoner of history. Comrades and friends, today and into the future we are shaping our own history and destiny.
This generation has the greatest opportunity since partition to finally achieve genuine national self-determination. We do not underestimate the challenges ahead. Indeed as Republicans we embrace challenge, we embrace struggle and we embrace the responsibility that comes with activism.
Since we last came together we have lost another great comrade and supporter as well as an international statesman; Nelson Mandela. A colossus, that the British Establishment called a ‘Terrorist’. I had the privilege of meeting Madiba on three occasions. He was a living legend and his huge legacy lives on. I would like to dedicate a quote from this great freedom fighter, to the young people here who are continuing our great struggle in another generation:
OUR DEEPEST FEAR…… is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that frightens us most….. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you…. As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to DO THE SAME. As we are liberated from our own fear…OUR PRESENCE AUTOMATICALLY LIBERATES OTHERS.
In 1916 men and women from all walks of life came together to advance the struggle for a united independent Ireland.
We come here all these years later with a live political project and the commitment, determination and confidence to finish that historic task.
Ar aghaidh linn le chéile.