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
“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
However, Gerry Kelly accused dissidents of
being heavily involved in criminality and sais they were at war with their own
“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
speech delivered by Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly at the Newry Easter commemoration
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
money from drugs dealers is no better than drugs dealing itself because it
allows them to continue their dealing – of course at a price.
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!
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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”.
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.
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.