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Gerry Kelly Addresses Drumboe Commemoration

23 March, 2008

Sinn Fein Assembly member for North Belfast Gerry Kelly today addressed the Easter Commemoration in Drumboe County Donegal. As part of a wide ranging address Mr Kelly reflected on the momentous political development of the past year and urged the Irish government to begin to play its role in bringing about Irish reunification.

“This has been an extraordinary year.  Who would have taken a bet on the power sharing Assembly and the all-Ireland institutions going up and staying up.  Who would have thought that we would have, not only seen Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley leading a power sharing executive but that within that same period see Ian Paisley himself announcing the demise of his own political dynasty.

“Let that be a small indication of the Rubicon which unionism has crossed with difficulty. 

“There are turning points in a nation’s history that change the course of that nation’s people.  The 1916 rising was such an event as was the hunger strike of 1981.  The IRA statement of July 28th, 2005 stating that the War is over is another such event.  The IRA provided a golden opportunity to advance a new era in our long struggle.  The agreement last year between Sinn Féin and DUP, leading to the setting up of the power sharing executive and the all-Ireland institutions on May 8th is the latest crucial event in driving our struggle forward.

“The historic engagement we are now involved in provides a solid basis upon which to move forward into a new future of politics on this island.

“I am privileged to have been chosen as one of the five republican ministers involved in the power-sharing executive.  Republicans are exercising real political power.  We are taking decisions that can change people’s lives for the better.  We cannot and do not want to do this on our own.  Republican people on the ground must make their voices heard in the corridors of power.  Together we can make a difference.

“Sinn Féin is different from other political parties and is proud of that fact and determined to remain so.  Politics is not just about winning seats or achieving ministerial posts.  Sinn Féin is a party born in struggle with our membership and elected representatives coming from the communities most under the strain of political and economic exclusion North and South.  We must understand and reflect the needs of people struggling to survive in their daily lives.  That understanding and connection with our community is the bedrock of our struggle.

“The government in Dublin cannot sit on its hands on the question of Irish unity either.  Instead of handing over more and more authority to the EU under the Lisbon Treaty it should be producing a Green Paper on Irish Unity; it should be expanding the existing All-Ireland implementation bodies; it should be giving speaking rights to “Northern MP’s in the Dail and voting rights to citizens in the 6 Counties, in Presidential Elections.  It should be engaging Unionism to promote and seek support for the re-unification of Ireland.

“There is massive potential in the All Ireland developments under the Good Friday Agreement.  Unionism no longer has a veto over Irish unity.

“The Government of Ireland Act by which Britain claimed a part of Ireland has been repealed.  While orangeism may remain, the spectre of the orange state has gone never to return.

“What we are left with is a new situation.  Legislatively, constitutionally and under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement the British government have agreed to legislate to end its jurisdiction over the North of Ireland if a majority of people in the North want it.

“Republicans have a responsibility to reach out to unionists and to others to engage with them about the nature and form of our future.  We seek a united Ireland and we must convince unionists that we are implacably opposed to doing to them what was done to nationalists and republicans.

“We will never again accept the status of second-class citizens.  Neither will we ever impose second-class citizenship upon anyone else.  This is evermore important in the changing Ireland of today, we are now becoming more and more intercultural society.

“In recent weeks and months elements in the DUP have been sounding increasingly offensive and abusive, particularly on the Irish Language Act and the Transfer of Powers on Policing and Justice.  Despite this we will make progress.  We will not allow those opposed to change to stop the agenda of change.  Unionists should be assured that Republicans are totally committed to Equality.  That is Equality for everybody.  Despite the objectionable behaviour of some bigots good work is being done at grass roots level by some local unionist and republican leaders in areas in the North.  Sinn Féin commends this work.

“Our goal as Irish republicans is an Irish unity that is inclusive, that unionists and others will feel welcome in, that they are a part of.” ENDS

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