Sinn Féin - On Your Side

De Brún - Truth on collusion must come out

11 April, 2004


Sinn Féin West Belfast Assembly member Bairbre de Brún speaking at Belfast Easter parade, Milltown Cemetery said: "Republicans understand only too well the challenges which arise from the peace process and from the agenda for change contained in the Good Friday Agreement. This process presents great challenges for all but also great opportunities.

That is why republicans continue to negotiate with the two governments. That is why republicans have on occasions taken initiatives to save this process and advance our agenda of change. Republicans have again and again faced up to the challenge of peace building and national reconciliation. Others must do the same."

Addressing the issue of collusion Ms de Brún said "The Finucane family have called for the campaign for a full international judicial inquiry to continue and we support them in that demand. What hope can there be for truth when the state responsible for the policy of collusion is also responsible for setting the terms of reference, structure and membership of any inquiry?

Sinn Féin will also closely scrutinise those inquiries that are established.

The refusal of the Chief Constable Hugh Orde to provide essential information to inquests in Tyrone, the refusal of the British government to co-operate with the Barron report into the Dublin-Monaghan bombs, the Bloody Sunday example of a British system subverting an enquiry, and the long fingering of the Finucane case, are all indicative of the effort being made by those within the British state who are determined to prevent the facts from emerging.

Nor should we forget that the apparatus of collusion still exists and that collusion remains part of British state policy in Ireland. If the British government cannot accept that collusion has happened and does happen, how can we be confident that it will end?"

Full text of speech

A chairde

Is onóir dom bheith linne anseo inniu chun na fir agus na mná a fuair bás ar son saoirse na hÉireann a chomóradh. Tá mé thar a bheith sásta gur i mBéal Feirste atá mé ag labhairt, ceantar inar sheas muintir na háite an fhód le linn na coimhlinte is cuma cé chomh deacair agus a bhí cúrsaí agus ceantar ina bhfuil éacht mhór déanta ag an pobal mar atá fás na Gaelscoileanna, na tacsaithe dubha, agus féilte mar Féile an Phobail.

We meet today on the 88th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, an uprising which saw men and women from urban and rural areas challenge the might of the British Empire and bring about unprecedented and profound change in an Ireland where people were told that no change could or should be expected.

The 1916 Rising came about as a result of many different threads in Irish society of that time:

* the cultural revival led by people who rejected the notion that Irish was backward or second best

* the self sufficiency of those who believed that Irish commerce and industry was the equal of those anywhere

* the fighting tradition of those who wished to bring about political independence; and

* the labour and women's strands who believed that prosperity in Ireland was not enough if that prosperity was not shared among all its people

Ireland in 1916 and in the period leading up to it was a hotbed of politics, a place where people saw the possibility of a different type of society and went about organising to make it happen.

Many of those at the forefront of the great national movements were very young, very idealistic and like those who have led the movement for change in more recent years, were motivated not by hatred or in the hope of personal gain, but by the fact that they saw great wrongs around them and wanted to put them right. They were very ordinary men and women who, in extraordinary times, did extraordinary things.

Tá cuimhne orainn mar sin de chan amháin orthu siúd a fuair bás i 1916 ach ar na fir agus na mná a rinne an íobairt céanna i ngach ghlún ó shin go dtí an lá atá inniu ann.

So today we remember not only those who gave their lives in 1916 but those who made that sacrifice in every generation since then. Many people today will have a special memory of an uncle or an aunt, a parent, brother or sister or indeed a neighbour or friend who has died in the most recent period of this long and painful conflict. In every decade since 1916, republicans have made that sacrifice for liberty, justice and equality.

I want to acknowledge the positive and constructive role played by the Leadership and Volunteers of Óglaigh na hÉireann in creating and sustaining the conditions for the peace process.

This August marks the tenth anniversary of the 1994 cessation. It was this initiative which more than any other made the peace process possible.

Indeed there would be no peace process but for the courageous decisions, and imaginative initiatives taken by the IRA.

I want to mention at this point an event taking place this summer, which I would like republicans to support. The Le Chéile Annual National Testimonial Dinner will pay tribute to 5 individuals for their lifelong contribution to the republican struggle. This important event will take place in Dublin this June.

I am particularly proud to be speaking in Belfast today, a city that has seen not only valiant resistance to injustice and oppression but real leadership which has made this city over the years a hotbed of politics to match and surpass the Ireland of 1916, and an example to people across the island and internationally.

The resilient and imaginative people of this city not only survived through long and hard years of conflict, occupation and discrimination, but went on to found its own taxi service, to grow the vibrant Irish medium sector of education, to campaign successfully for the transformation of appalling housing conditions, and to provide some of the leading figures in the political, education, culture and business sectors to name but a few.

So I pay tribute here today to this my adopted city.

On the political front, despite the constructive efforts of republicans the last year has been a difficult one for the peace process. Opportunities for progress were squandered by the two governments, and particularly by the British government.

Ag an am seo anuraidh bhí poblachtánaithe páirteach in iarracht deireadh a chur leis an éigeandáil sa phróiséas. Níor éirigh leis an iarracht sin de thairbhe nach raibh David Trimble ar lorg réiteach. Thacaigh Rialtas Shasana le seasamh s‚aige chomh maith.

Last Easter republicans were involved in a serious effort to end the crisis. It came to nought because David Trimble didn't want an agreement, and because the British government backed his stance.

In the intervening year, most importantly in October, republicans again made a serious effort to reach agreement with the governments and the unionists. And once again David Trimble walked away from an agreement.

Republicans understand only too well the challenges which arise from the peace process and from the agenda for change contained in the Good Friday Agreement. This process presents great challenges for all but also great opportunities.

That is why republicans continue to negotiate with the two governments. That is why republicans have on occasions taken initiatives to save this process and advance our agenda of change. Republicans have again and again faced up to the challenge of peace building and national reconciliation. Others must do the same.

I want to take this opportunity to commend Belfast republicans whose diligence ensured that last summer was the quietest ever. People far beyond our communities recognise the effort involved and salute you for it.

In the long term a process cannot be sustained on the goodwill and actions of one party. For a process to flourish it requires all of the parties including the two governments to honour obligations made and fulfil bargains entered into.

Last October, David Trimble and his party reneged at the last minute.

The Irish and British governments entered into commitments, covering a wide range of issues from prisoners, through policing, demilitarisation, northern representation in southern institutions, equality, human rights matters and more.

We were to see immediate and substantial progress on all of these. We saw none.

The governments have not moved an inch since October, other than to try and blame republicans again for the crisis. This is not acceptable

The current position of the DUP is also unacceptable. They are in effect playing catch up with the rest of us. But we are not prepared simply to sit and wait for them to make up lost ground. The process has to move forward. It cannot stand still waiting for negative unionism to grasp reality.

Our commitment to this process cannot be questioned. It comes from our desire to see conflict ended and a new future built for everyone on this island. But we cannot do this alone. The British government must fulfil its commitments and the Irish government has a duty and an obligation as co-guarantors of the Agreement to stand up for the rights of Irish citizens living in the north.

In particular, the Irish government must ensure that all political prisoners are released and this includes those still held in Castlerea.

The last twelve months has also seen an intensification of campaigning on the issue of collusion. Families of those killed by the state or with the state‚s knowledge. Acquiescence or aid have taken the campaign across Ireland and to London and America demanding truth and justice. Collusion was planned, organised and politically cleared at the highest levels within the British system.

I would like to pay tribute to the families of those murdered through the collusion policy. They refused to accept the lies and the cover-up and have campaigned, some for up to 20 years and more, for the truth. They deserve our praise and our support in the time ahead.

The Finucane family have called for the campaign for a full international judicial inquiry to continue and we support them in that demand. What hope can there be for truth when the state responsible for the policy of collusion is also responsible for setting the terms of reference, structure and membership of any inquiry?

Sinn Féin will also closely scrutinise those inquiries that are established.

The refusal of the Chief Constable Hugh Orde to provide essential information to inquests in Tyrone, the refusal of the British government to co-operate with the Barron report into the Dublin-Monaghan bombs, the Bloody Sunday example of a British system subverting an enquiry, and the long fingering of the Finucane case, are all indicative of the effort being made by those within the British state who are determined to prevent the facts from emerging.

Nor should we forget that the apparatus of collusion still exists and that collusion remains part of British state policy in Ireland. If the British government cannot accept that collusion has happened and does happen, how can we be confident that it will end?

In spite of the difficulties facing us, we continue to grow and to progress. Sinn Féin is the fastest growing party in Ireland. As we organise in an ever increasing number of areas throughout the island, more and more people are hearing an exciting political message, of social justice at home and abroad, of equality and human rights, of pride in our heritage and openness to the value and contribution of other cultures, and of the promise of fundamental change in our society. They hear a message that says Irish independence can happen and will happen, and they want to be part of bringing that about.

I ask those of you who hear that message today to work with us, and those already part of this great project to make room for those coming new to it, because the task is enormous and we need all the help we can get.

Sinn Féin faces major challenges in the days and weeks ahead. Our negotiators are still fully engaged in talks with the two governments and the other parties as we work to get the peace process back on track. We are also presenting a real alternative in politics north and south. We are committed to social and economic freedom for the people of Ireland. We are just as determined to achieve an Ireland where poverty and inequality are eliminated as we are to achieve an end to partition.

None of this can be achieved without greater political strength for Sinn Féin. In the local government and EU elections in June Sinn Féin will be presenting its largest ever number of candidates. We are the only party standing in all five EU constituencies on the island and we will be standing more than 200 candidates in the Local Government elections in the South. We are determined that these elections will build on the tremendous success of last November's Assembly elections when we confirmed our position as the largest nationalist party.

Tá sé de rún daingean againn foireann uile-Éireannach de feisirí na hEorpa a thoghadh i mí Meitheamh. Daonlathas, neodracht agus comhionnanas a bheidh mar bhunchloch obair feisirí s‚againn.

We are determined that we will return an all Ireland team of Sinn Féin members of the European Parliament, where democracy, neutrality and equality will be central to our agenda.

Political and electoral strength are not an end in themselves. The amount of change that can be achieved in any period of history depends on the strength of those seeking maximum change. Sinn Féin is the only party with a strategy and policies for achieving Irish unity and independence. We are the only party that people can vote for, whether they live in Derry, Kerry, Wexford or Antrim. We are the only party bringing a distinctly republican and socialist analysis into the heart of Irish politics. This puts a huge responsibility on republicans to set out our plans, our proposals for building Irish unity and the type of Ireland that we want to create.

I also want to commend to you the Rights for All Charter, which sets out fundamental political, democratic and human rights, which Sinn Féin believes should form the basis of our society. Our priority is to create an inclusive society where the rights of all are protected. This document is designed to stimulate debate on what sort of society people want for Ireland. It is vital that people use the document and take the debate into the wider community.

Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of Sinn Féin and the following year is the 25th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strikes. We are in the midst of an era that, that like 1916 and 1981, can see an equally profound and unparalleled level of change. However this can only be achieved if more people become active in the republican struggle. In the words of Bobby Sands everyone has a part to play and I urge those here who are not yet actively involved to join Sinn Fein and to play your part and help us achieve the dream which motivated the women and men of 1916, that of an independent, democratic socialist, Irish republic, free from sod to sky and cherishing all the children of the nation equally.

ENDS

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