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Scourge of sectarianism must be tackled – McKay

21 April, 2014 - by Daithí McKay


North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has said that republicans should renew their focus on building genuine relationships with unionist communities and tackling the 'scourge' of sectarianism.

Speaking at today's Easter commemoration in Clones, Co Monaghan he argued that setting aside differences between nationalists and unionists and cherishing citizens equally was a key part of the 1916 proclamation.

He said,

“The 1916 Proclamation reads: 

Cherishing all the children of the nation equally & oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.’

"The ‘differences carefully fostered’ by British governments over centuries, as referred to in the Proclamation, need to be addressed.

"Sectarianism is one of our country’s greatest scourges and tackling it must be a priority. Unionist engagement and the building of relationships needs to be authentic, it needs to be embedded in all republican structures and it needs to be challenging.

"We don’t achieve anything, and we have achieved nothing, from taking easy decisions and staying within our comfort zones.

"It was within this context that Martin McGuinness & Sinn Féin took part in the President’s visit to Britain.

“What that was about primarily, was the people of this island, the divisions among us and seeking to address those divisions.

“The visit was good for our peace process, it was good for our diaspora in Britain and it was good in building relationships that lead to more positive change on this island.

It was also difficult for many of us, and understandably so.

“But it is now incumbent on the British and Irish governments to build on the potential created by the visit to promote a process of national reconciliation.” CRÍOCH/ENDS

The full text of Daithí McKay’s oration at the Eater Commemoration in Clones 22/4/14

It is a great honour to be asked to speak here in Co Monaghan, a county with a great republican tradition, from the Tan War to Operation Harvest. From the election of Kieran Doherty (Anti H-Block candidate and hunger striker) to the Dáil, which shook the 26-County establishment at the time to the republican success we will see here in the coming weeks which will demonstrate that the old establishments north and south are rightly resigned to the history books.

On this the 98th Anniversary of the rising we commemorate all of our revolutionaries proudly. We are also marking the 100th anniversary of Cumann na mBan, we recall Constance Markievicz, the first woman MP elected in 1918 and the 1st female cabinet Minister in not only Ireland but Europe.

This was not just a national revolution, 1916 and the fight that was undertaken was an international event that rippled across the globe.

Terence MacSwiney – the Mayor of Cork died on hunger strike in Brixton in 1920 but after his death a collection of his writings were collected and printed, not only here in Ireland but also in many different languages in India. They had a huge influence on those that went on to resist British rule there including Gandhi.

So the revolution that the republican movement of that time undertook was seismic. The Proclamation was a radical document in its time and still is. The struggle set an example to the world in terms of the equality of women and we showed the world that small nations could successfully challenge the empires that dominated that era. Irish republicans influenced those that became involved in many independence struggles elsewhere among which was Ho Chi Minh who went on to lead resistance against colonialism in Vietnam.

And of course that struggle, all of our resistance struggles continue to inspire us. Not only in terms of the great feats that we all hear about but the individual sacrifices of each volunteer, each volunteer’s family. The commitment, the selflessness, the courage to put their own lives on the line, the grief and loss that many had to endure and still suffer to this day and into the future. Physical injury, the trauma of individual events, of imprisonment, of torture, of the loss of a loved one. That isn’t history, that is very much part of our present and something that is not mentioned enough often because of the selflessness of many of those people.

That is why the work of ex prisoners groups continue to be important and I am glad to see that there is one operating in the local area, Clones Fáilte. Such groups are vital in addressing the health and wellbeing needs of ex prisoners and their families.

In two years time we will celebrate the centenary of the rising, we will celebrate the vision of the Proclamation and promote the core tenets of that document that are just as relevant today.

“ The right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland.

“A Sovereign Independent State.

“Guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights & equal opportunities to all its citizens.

“Establishment of a National Government elected by all her men & women

“To pursue happiness and prosperity of the whole nation.

“Cherishing all the children of the nation equally & oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.”

The ‘differences carefully fostered’ by British governments over centuries, as referred to in the Proclamation, needs to be addressed.

Sectarianism is one of our countries greatest scourges and tackling it must be a priority. Unionist engagement & the building of relationships needs to be genuine, it needs to be embedded in all republican structures and it needs to be challenging.

We don’t achieve anything, and we have achieved nothing, from taking easy decisions and staying within our comfort zones.

It was within this context that Martin McGuinness & Sinn Féin took part in the President’s visit to Britain. What that was about primarily, was the people of this island, the divisions among us and seeking to address those divisions.

It was good for our peace process, it was good for our diaspora in Britain and it was good in building relationships that lead to more positive change on this island.

It was also difficult for many of us, and understandably so.

But by challenging ourselves we challenge others. Unionism is in a leadership crisis because at the moment it has no leadership!

 What we are now witnessing in the north is the last throes of the sectarian unionist tradition. The sectarianism that drove Catholics out of the Belfast shipyards, that denied a house to a Catholic family has now been reduced to a rump of a few flag protestors and some members of the main Unionist parties, which refuse to recognise that times are changing. Gone is the Ulster Workers Strikers, gone is the Anglo Irish protestors, gone are the Drumcree blockades – and that is a sign of the disappearance of the mobs that unionist politicians have used and wound up with their rhetoric of fear and religious hatred for over 100 years.

 Flags, parades and the past are continually being used to rake up the sectarian coals, so we need to address them and the Haas talks should have been the start of that.

 Instead unionism leaders stalled and their stalling has been reinforced by the British secretary of state adopting a unionist agenda on the past, an agenda, which denies the true extent of collusion that went right to the very top of the Tory government of the time.

 Insulting victims in this way does nothing to move things forward, only back.

 It demonstrates once again the need for a process totally independent of the British Government who has a clear interest in maintaining their narrative of the conflict. What we need to see is a truth process that helps to address the hurt that all parties caused during the conflict and that contributes to community reconciliation. What we also need to see is the Dublin government re-engage as they have effectively neglected the peace process for the past number of years. That is a huge indictment on a government that has not taken their responsibilities in regard to the north seriously.

 The Dublin government don’t take many of their responsibilities to citizens here seriously either. Labour is content to facilitate the introduction of water charges, the same water charges that Sinn Féin blocked in the Six Counties. The government is content to aim the majority of the cuts at those least able to afford them.

There is a better way. Sinn Féin believes that a more equal society makes for a better society. A society where obscene amounts of money are not paid out in wages to bankers, whether or not they have get out of jail free cards. A society, where everyone is treated equally, and where public services are free of corruption and interference.

 We recently lost a great friend of Irish republicanism in the late Nelson Mandela, someone who knew all about a lifetime of struggle. I have a quote of his on my office wall, and I am sure many other republicans have the same, which states that

‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’

And I’m sure that the Rising & the war against the British empire seemed impossible until that Easter Monday in 1916. The same could be said of the election of Kieran Doherty here in 1981 with over 9,000 votes or the election of the first Sinn Féin TD of modern times here in 1997.

But we achieved those goals and when we achieved them we set new ones. And when we achieve them we set the bar higher again.

In 4 weeks we will elect the strongest SF local government team and highest number of MEPs, that we have seen in our lifetimes.

Be in little doubt that we will soon become the largest party on this island, that we will be in government north and south and that we will effectively address the ‘differences fostered’ to which the proclamation refers.

These objectives do not seem as impossible as they once were and we can now realise the republican goal of an independent republic, self governing and working in the interests of equality and social justice. Much of the hard work has already been done, what we need to do is finish the job. CRÍOCH/ENDS

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