Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD gave the main speech at yesterday’s (Sunday) march and commemoration in Camlough, in South Armagh, to mark the 30 anniversary of the 1981 hunger strike.
The Sinn Féin leader described the prison struggle, like the struggle outside the prisons, as a battle of wills. It was about the right of the Irish people to self-determination and independence and freedom.
Mr. Adams said the struggle “was about uniting Ireland and that struggle continues today.
And core republican objectives are at the heart of everything we do today.
“The Sinn Féin political strategy is about achieving these objectives.
“And let there be no doubt about it. We have a viable project and we have made, are making, and we will continue to make significant progress.
“Thirty years ago the north was embroiled in war. British troops were dug in on these hilltops; people were dying in their scores; nationalist areas were under military occupation and unionists were entrenched behind their laager mentality.
“The Sinn Féin strategy brought the British and the unionists and the Irish government to the negotiating table.
“Thirty years ago there was an Orange State. The Orange State is gone. The Government of Ireland Act is gone. The right of citizens to opt for a United Ireland is equal to that of those who wish to retain the union.
“Sinn Féin is from that democratic tradition which believes that the British government never had any right to be in Ireland; does not have any right to be in Ireland and never will have any right to be in Ireland.
“There is now an entirely peaceful way to bring an end to British rule. Our duty is to develop democratic ways and means to achieve and to unite behind the leadership and the campaigns which will bring this about.
“Yes it will be challenging! Yes it will be frustrating! The enemies of change are strong. But that never stopped us in the past. Remember once upon a time Margaret Thatcher – remember Margaret Thatcher? Remember she claimed that the north was as British as Finchley! It never was. Britain’s claim to the north is now reduced to a simple majority vote.
“Of course we have a huge job of work to do to persuade unionists of the merits of the republican and democratic position. But we are also in a very good place to do this.
“Sinn Féin is the largest nationalist party in the Assembly and on local Councils. There are five Sinn Féin Ministers, including our leader Martin McGuinness, who as Deputy First Minister shares the Office of First and Deputy First Minister with Peter Robinson as an equal in all matters.
“The DUP and UUP, who opposed power sharing, are sharing power in government. There are all-Ireland political functioning institutions.
“And in all of these political institutions Sinn Féin is defending the rights and entitlements of all citizens and promoting our republican agenda for unity and equality.
“This year Sinn Féin increased our political representation in local councils and in the Assembly in the north. In the Oireachtas today, we have a Sinn Féin team of fourteen TDs and three seanadoirí. And in constituencies across the south, especially those where we came close to winning Dáil seats, Sinn Féin is growing organisationally and electorally.
“In Leinster House our new Dáil team is proving itself to be effective and efficient. For many we are now the real opposition party, challenging the Fine Gael and Labour government as it imposes a disastrous austerity programme and introduces new stealth taxes on working families.
“The fact is that Irish republicanism is stronger today than at any time since partition.
But to make further advances and to be able to exercise even greater political influence and power, we need to build our struggle.
“There is no more important time than this for the republican principles of equality, fraternity, and freedom.”
The Sinn Féin President concluded:
“Achieving our republican goals will not be easy.
“While Unionist leaders now see the benefits of working on an all Ireland basis, they remain opposed to a united Ireland. So there is work to be done peacefully and democratically with them. Sinn Féin is up for that work.
“The British government, despite its protestations to the contrary, and its systems, has yet to face up to its responsibilities to the people of this island. It can best do this by leaving us to manage our own affairs.
“The Irish government, and in particular the Irish political establishment, is partitionist.
“That is evident in so many ways, for example, in the resistance thus far, to extending voting rights in Presidential elections to Irish citizens living in the north.
“But there are many people in Ireland who want rid of outsiders ruling us whether from London or the IMF and EU. They want a free and united and independent Ireland.
“I believe there are many people in Ireland who share our goals of a free and united and independent Ireland.
“By building political strength and developing alliances we can achieve our goals.
“Sinn Féin is clear about our strategy, clear about our goals and clear about the road map to the future. We will not be distracted or put off course. We have a vision of a new future, a better future, and we have the spirit and the confidence to work with others to achieve this.” ENDS