Martin McGuinness MP MLA – Easter 2010 - Carrickmore
Republicans across Ireland will gather today as we have here in Carrickmore to remember and to pay tribute to those who have paid the ultimate price in the pursuit of Irish Freedom.
We do so because this is a time for us to reflect on where our struggle is at, to look back on where we have come from but most importantly to map out where we want to go in the coming period.
We remember with pride the inspiration republican men and women of 1916 and their comrades in the IRA in the years since then.
In the most recent phase of armed action, County Tyrone republicans in unity with republicans from Crossmaglen to Derry, from Dunloy to Monaghan and throughout Ireland were once again in the vanguard of the struggle. This came at a heavy price. Many of the people gathered here served in the ranks of the IRA. Many here today spent long years in prisons both at home and abroad. And I pay tribute to all of you for the role you have played in bringing our struggle to this point. You can be rightly proud of the fact that there are now more Irish Republicans in the north than at any time in our history.
I also want to make special mention of the families of those brave patriots from this county who made the ultimate sacrifice in the course of the last four decades. They were ordinary men and women volunteers who in extraordinary and difficult circumstances found the inner strength, determination and courage to stand against injustice and oppression, and to demand the rights and entitlements of the Irish people. They had the vision to see beyond the conflict, beyond the centuries of occupation, and to embrace the republican spirit of Tone, of Emmet and Connolly, and to stand up for justice, equality and freedom.
I also want to salute their families and to particularly welcome those who are with us here today. You hold a special place within this struggle. We as a republican community owe you a great debt. We have a massive responsibility to ensure that the families of our Patriot dead are treated with respect and equality that they deserve.
We will also resist absolutely ongoing efforts by revisionists in the media and elsewhere to retrospectively criminalise the IRA, its dead Volunteers and the proud communities from which it came. And we should be under no illusions that that is what is now underway. Long time opponents of Irish Republicanism are seeking to damage the struggle and sully the memory of our patriot dead through a vile onslaught of negative propaganda. They do this not for monetary gain but also out of hatred for what we have achieved. Unfortunately a tiny number of former activists who should know better have allowed themselves to be used in this effort. But just as the revisionists in the past sought to demonise the men and women of 1916 and failed, the Irish people will reject the modern day revisionists also.
Let me be clear - we are unapologetic about the right of the Irish people to be free. It is what we are about. It is not negotiable. It is not a bargaining chip. It is a live political project to which we have dedicated our lives. Our struggle is about Irish Freedom – not about positions, or egos, or personalities, or militarism.
Republicans and the leadership of the IRA in particular did not take the difficult strategic decisions that they have over the course of the last 15 years to please or curry favour. Difficult decisions were taken with one objective in mind – the reunification of our country and the establishment of a 32 county Irish Republic on the island for the first time.
Tom Paulin, the well known northern poet wrote a poem called ‘of a Difference it makes’. This poem is based on the fact that since Partition, in fifty years of unionist dominated rule at Stormont, the only piece of legislation nationalist representatives were able to get passed was ‘The Wild Birds Act’. Our generation of Irish republicans have brought that domination to an end. I am in government with four other Sinn Féin Ministers with decision making powers over a budget of billions of pounds and many other matters. This is beyond the wildest nightmares of the then unionist leaders who had more regard for the welfare of animals than the rights of northern republicans and republicans.
The world as they knew it has changed. And that change continues.
The recent negotiations at Hillsborough saw the leader of the DUP, Peter Robinson face down the TUV, the Ulster Unionists and those within his own party, all of whom were attempting to put the brakes on an agenda for change based on partnership and equality. This represents real progress. On partnership and equality there can be no compromise! And it is disappointing that there are still those unionist political leaders who disagree with Mid-Ulster Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney when he wrote that ‘it is neither stupid nor insulting to ask unionists to consider consenting to some political adjustments that would give nationalists equally undisputed rights to the grounds of their Irish identity’.
Likewise we too we must continue to stand up and demonstrate to those in our community the absolute folly of opposing change which has the overwhelming support of republicans and of the people of Ireland.
We now find ourselves in the leadership of the power sharing institutions here in the north linked to all-Ireland Ministerial institutions. Irish politicians taking decisions about Irish affairs in this part of Ireland! But welcome as this is it is not the end game for us. Of course it brings better government. Of course it gives us an effective say in our everyday lives.
But it is not a settlement as we see it.
As a republican leadership we have mapped out a strategy which has the potential to deliver Irish unity. But a united Ireland will not happen simply because there is a strategy in place to deliver it. It will only happen if we as republicans make it happen.
If we continue to build political strength and use it!
If we continue to make our message relevant!
If we continue to republicanise Irish society!
That is our job.
And the strategy of steady political change is working.
The Orange State is gone and along with it, second class citizenship, the UDR, the RIR and the RUC confined to history. All-Ireland political institutions in place and more powers shifting from London to Ireland all the time! Unionism is in a place where people said it would never be. This was achieved because you made it happen. You drive the process of change. And in the coming weeks you will have the opportunity to once again play your part in the ongoing republicanisation of the north by again electing three Sinn Féin MPs in County Tyrone.
That is why it is important that all republicans keep pulling in the right direction. Otherwise we risk giving our opponents and the opponents of Irish freedom a leg up. Republicans don’t have to agree on everything. But we have more that unites us than anything else. All genuine republicans want a united Ireland and an end to British government involvement in Irish affairs.
We should all be able to agree on the reality that armed struggle was never, throughout our history, a republican principle. It was a republican tactic. From Tone, through Pearse and Connolly and onto the present generation of activists it was republican politics which bound us together.
When offered a peaceful path to Irish unity and independence it is my view that we have an obligation to our children and grandchildren to press ahead along that road. We must continue to move forward. We must continue to take risks. We must continue to grow and develop our struggle and ultimately if we bring together the sum parts of our individual efforts we will build a national movement for freedom which will become unstoppable.
In the last election here in the north our party, an Irish Republican party became the largest political party.
That this has happened for the first time in the north sends a very powerful message that change is continuing.
That there are increasingly more and more people who believe as we do that Irish Republicans have the right not just to govern, but to be free.
Let us leave Carrickmore today inspired by those who struggled with us, let us leave here in the knowledge that unity is our strength and in the absolute belief in ourselves and our abilities to achieve the republic to which we have dedicated and will continue to dedicate our lives.