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Declan Kearney - Reconciliation Speech - Ard Fheis 2012.

25 May, 2012


Not far from here at Ballyseedy Cross on 6 March 1923, 8 republican prisoners were horrifically killed after being tied to a mine by Free State forces.

The previous day at Knocknagoshel 5 Free State soldiers were killed in an IRA attack.

The day after Ballyseedy 4 more republican prisoners were executed in similar circumstances here in Killarney, and on 12 March, another 5 republican prisoners were again tied to, and killed by a landmine in Cahirciveen by the Free State.

That month in Kerry is a stark reminder of the terrible suffering inflicted throughout our civil war.

However, nothing was done in its aftermath to reconcile the seismic hurts caused.

No reconciliation was put in place in this state to try and heal the human effects of that conflict.

The divisions created became trans generational. They blighted Irish society for 9 decades.

We should learn from our history, and avoid the past repeating itself.

The end to our recent political conflict has given way to peace and political progress.

We are right to be satisfied, but have no right to be complacent.

The war caused huge pain for republicans, unionists, and all our people, north and south.

Sinn Fein recognises that pain and hurt remain to be addressed among our people, and we are committed to developing an authentic reconciliation process to do that.

We believe it is possible to open a new phase in our peace process, facilitating dialogue on how all hurts can be acknowledged, reduced and if possible healed.

There is a political and moral responsibility on us to work collectively and create the best circumstances for our children to grow up in a better Ireland than we did.

We are republicans in the tradition of Tone and McCracken, dedicated to a united Ireland, and unity of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter.

An Ireland at peace with itself is a pre requisite to achieving an Ireland of Equals.

As agents of change we believe the peace process can be powerfully advanced through reconciliation, supported by economic and social rights and opportunities for every citizen.

Republicans have been central to achieving peace. 

We believe now is a time to begin forging new relationships, among and between our diverse communities, north and south; a time to make new friendships; and, a time to begin authoring a new future for our children.

That needs a shared commitment from us all to begin understanding and knowing each other better, based upon our common humanity and increased mutual respect.

In recent months, I and Martin Mc Guinness have publicly encouraged dialogue in which, we listen to each other unconditionally; language is humanised; and, all voices are heard, north and south; republican, unionist, nationalist and loyalist.

Since then citizens from the Protestant and unionist community have welcomed this as a genuine initiative.

A range of Protestant and unionist people have been engaged privately with myself and other Party colleagues to explore our respective concepts, principles and language. They have come from within Protestant churches, loyalism, business, community and civic life.

In those meetings I have outlined our vision of an authentic reconciliation process.

These have been important discussions, and we are inspired by the encouragement expressed for the leadership shown by Sinn Fein.

Our Party wants to build on this challenging work and promote dialogue across all sections of Irish society.

Through listening, persuasion, and a willingness to be persuaded, republicans are pledged to try and heal our divisions.

This evening I particularly urge political unionism to help us develop that dialogue. Unionist leaders have an important contribution to make.

Conversations such as these – no matter how uncomfortable – are key to reconciliation.  

Republicans and unionists must become partners and leaders in reconciliation.

Visionary leadership from all parties is required.

No section of our people has anything to fear from reconciliation, equality and the protection of citizens’ rights.

The prize is greater than any sectional interest. We will all need courage and compassion to bring it about: but the possibilities far outweigh the risks involved.

The peace process has been a transformational journey for us all. Reconciliation and trust are its next phase.

More imagination and compromises will be necessary.

But this is the road to a new republic.

The heavy lifting of the peace process is finished.

 Now is the time for the big thinking to begin, about Ireland’s future, and how we cherish and celebrate all our people and diverse traditions.

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