Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Delivering Real Change - Adams

22 April, 2009 - by Pat Sheehan

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams speaking at a public meeting this evening in Galbally, County Tyrone said:   “The goals of Irish republicanism are simply stated – Irish unity and independence; freedom, justice and equality.   These are our national and democratic goals and everything we do is set within this context.   Republicans can only achieve these goals if we have the active support of citizens across this island.   That is what our strategy – our plan – is about achieving.   It involves popularising republicanism.   It means making republicanism relevant to citizens in their everyday lives.   It means delivering for people across a range of issues which are important to them.   It means party building; that is building a strong empowered Sinn Féin organisation across this island.   It means campaigning on social and economic issues, on every issue related to equality.   It means thinking nationally and acting locally.   It means fighting and winning elections; negotiations; publicity.   It means internationalising the struggle.   In summary, it is about building and using political strength to enable us to deliver real change and to achieve our national and democratic goals.   Persuading Unionists   Partition remains the great immoral interference with Irish national rights.   The Good Friday Agreement transcends partition. It is an all Ireland agreement. Is it good enough?  As a settlement? No it is not good enough as a settlement. But then it does not pretend to be a settlement.    However because it deals with the issues needed to bring about an accommodation, because it was capable of winning the support of all the main political parties on this island and because it opens up the potential for a settlement in the time ahead, democrats and republicans support the Agreement.   Our responsibility is to work the agreement and to build on it in the future.   That means defending the Agreement and engaging with unionism on every aspect of it.   It means pointing out to them that the main principles are their legal guarantees of fair treatment in a new shared Ireland.   It means persuading unionists of the merits of all Ireland co-operation and partnership.   It means persuading them of the logic and good sense of Irish unity.   This dimension of our work is about dialogue, good neighbourliness, consensus building. It is about eradicating sectarianism.  It is about making friends with unionists. It is about nation building.   Organise for Freedom   It is also about persuading the British government to do the right thing by Ireland.   Lack of time prevents me from dealing with that dimension tonight. Suffice to say that we cannot expect or wait for the British government to do the right thing. We must organise for freedom.   The British government will only leave Ireland, when the Irish people – together – demand that they leave.   We also must be about maintaining internal republican unity and cohesion and building political alliances.    I said earlier that we must act locally and think nationally. Let us be very clear about this. If we are not building locally then we cannot build nationally.   I meet republicans all the time who complain about the slow pace of progress. There is validity in that. But struggle is like that, especially this phase of struggle and there really is no room for spectatorism or hurlers on the ditch at this time.   We don’t have to agree about everything. There is plenty of work to do and room for everyone to do it.   No Place for Militarism, Elitism or Ego   Some former activists, including former IRA volunteers, hark back to the 70s or 80s. This is not the 70s or 80s.    Some have formed armed groups which purport to be the IRA - the CIRA, the RIRA, Oglaigh na h Éireann, the INLA and the IRLA. None of these groups are the IRA.   They have no right to hijack its name or to mimic its actions. They cannot match the IRA for ingenuity, resourcefulness, courage and capacity.   The IRA took armed struggle as far as it was possible to take it.   They fought when it was a time to fight and they took the initiative leading to an end to conflict and sued for peace when peace became possible by other means.   Some involved with these so called dissidents may be genuinely motivated.  But that is no excuse. Others are undoubtedly motivated by ego, self gain and opportunism.   All actions have to be judged by how they advance the struggle.   Militarism, elitism or adventurism is no substitute for strategy, good tactics or common sense.   Some take exception to remarks by republican leaders and seize on these in an entirely self serving and negative way.   Others threaten to kill us. Or they actually attack our homes or offices.   Let me make it clear that Sinn Féin is not going to roll over and surrender our struggle to any of these elements. They will come and they will go and the struggle for freedom will prevail and persist and succeed. We will not be deflected.   Significant Progress has been made   40 years ago the Civil Rights movement began the fightback for equality and human rights.   Much has changed since then.   Significant progress has been achieved – not least in the fact that there are more republicans now and more Sinn Féin elected representatives today, than in the last 80 years.   The Orange State is gone.   Its legacy still exists in discrimination, in the inequalities and divisions which persist – not least here west of the Bann – but today republicans and nationalists have made major strides forward and the momentum for change continues.   Of course, it may take time for some unionists to catch up with this changing reality but their leaders know that there is no going back to the old days of sectarian domination and two-tier citizenship.   Over a decade ago, when we achieved the Good Friday Agreement, I said that it would be a battle a day making the institutions work.   Working and negotiating with the DUP is very like that.    Only with some of their representatives the battles are sham fights – more style than substance.   Remember this is a party established 40 years ago to oppose Civil Rights; a party which set its face against power sharing.   This is a party which pledged to smash Sinn Féin.   This is the party that wouldn’t take its seats at the Executive table the last time the institutions were in place and which wouldn’t attend all-Ireland Ministerial meetings.    Where is it today? For the past two years the DUP has been at the Executive table; attending all-Ireland meetings; in government with Sinn Fein, and sharing the office of First and deputy First with Sinn Féin as equals.   And their leaders are to be commended for this.   But let’s be clear about it all.   Like the Afrikaners some unionists continue to oppose change.   The DUP seeks to end power sharing – what it calls ‘mandatory coalition’.   They are reluctant partners. They don’t like equality. They don’t like democracy. They don’t like being part of a system which they cannot dominate.   But one of our tasks is to keep working with the DUP and other unionists because we believe that they are capable of doing bigger and better things.   As genuine democrats and republicans, we recognise the validity and wisdom of Tone’s great call for the unity of Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter and we are committed to bringing this about.   Popularise Republicanism   In the meantime, as we progress toward that goal, we must ensure that the political institutions are soundly based and deliver equality and justice for every citizen.   The relationship between the North of Ireland and Britain has also been fundamentally altered and an increasingly confident republican community is taking co-ownership, as is our right, of every sphere of public, political and institutional life here.   A peaceful and democratic path to a united Ireland has been opened up.   So, Sinn Féin’s historic duty is to popularise republicanism, and to mobilise the Irish Diaspora across the world behind the demand for Irish unity.   For many people the dire economic situation is the number one issue today.   Predictions of half a million citizens on the dole by Christmas give some sense of the difficulties facing working people across this island.   I noted assertions by DUP ministers after the layoffs at Bombardier, FG Wilson and Visteon that there is little that a devolved administration can do in the face of a global crisis. I disagree.   We can always do more. We can be imaginative and innovative.   This is particularly the case today when the British Chancellor unveiled his budget.   And if we have not enough powers, as the DUP appears to suggest, then it makes economic sense as well as political sense, that we should take whatever powers we need to do the job we are elected to do.     Why should we be on the cusp of British Treasury concerns? Why not develop our own economic future across this island?   Sinn Féin is working to build an economy which serves the needs of Irish society and not the other way around.   While working to improve the quality of life in the here and now, we see a united Irish economy as the best option.

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