Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Kelly - those who endorsed current policing have made a monumental error

11 April, 2004


Sinn Féin MLA for North Belfast Gerry Kelly speaking at the Easter Commemoration this afternoon said: "London and Dublin must inject momentum into the process. This requires actions, not words. The two governments now need to convince Republicans and Nationalists that they are serious about the peace process and political process. They can do this by honouring their respective commitments under the Good Friday Agreement, the joint declaration and in the discussions with us last October.

But I can tell you that blaming Republicans won't move us forward and neither will trying to criminalise us. Next year is the 25th Anniversary of the Hunger Strike which marks the high cost of following a futile policy of criminalisation. It also shows how much Republicans are prepared to endure and how far they will go to protect the integrity of our struggle."

Mr Kelly commenting on the Cory report and the implications for policing said:

"In the context of Cory and the structure and practice of collusion continuing those who have taken the decision to endorse and support the current policing arrangements in the Six Counties have made a monumental error and they need to explain it to everyone else. They have inherited the Special Branch and their agents en bloc from the RUC to the P.S.N.I. They have inherited the plastic bullets. They have inherited the repressive legislation. They have inherited the Human Rights Abusers. They have inherited the military fortresses. They are powerless and perhaps reluctant to do anything about it. Sinn Féin will accept nothing short of the new beginning promised in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. We will not accept second-class policing."

Full text of speech

A Chairde agus a chomradaithe,

Is onóir mór domhsa bheith anseo i nDoire, ag labhairt libh ar an lá stairiúl seo.

Agus is fior lá stairiúl é de thairbhe go bhfuil muid cruinnithe anseo ag cuimhniú ar na fir agus na mná a chuaigh amach ar Domhnach na Cásca i mBaile Atha Cliath agus lás said tine ar fud an domhain Ocht bliana is ochtó ó shin.

Tá muid ag cuimhniú fosta ar fir agus mná óga ár linne atá ina luí thart orainn anseo, sa reilg uaigneach seo.

I am very honoured to be speaking here today of those who died for Irish freedom in 1916 and in every generation since.

Easter week 1916 was one of the greatest historical events of the last century. It started the bush fire of decolonisation, which was to engulf what was then the British Empire. It inspired generations of Irish Republicans and peoples throughout the world who rose up against the tyranny of colonial rule, imperialism and oppression. It is a fire still burning in the heart of every republican.

So let me be clear, our comrades who gave their lives and those of us who survived to take up their mantle were and are about bringing about British withdrawal and achieving a free independent and united Ireland.

While remembering fallen comrades lets also remember POW‚s still incarcerated. There are still political prisoners in jail who should have been released. We should hear less excuses and see more action they should be released immediately. There are people on the run who would have been released had they been in jail we should hear less excuses and see more action.

I want to pay tribute to the volunteers and leadership of the IRA of today because they have shown outstanding valour and vision on and off the battlefield. They have played a central role in this phase of the struggle and I commend their initiatives, patience, discipline and tenacity.

Indeed individual and collective courage have been the mainstay of this long struggle. It was the courage shown by the leadership of the IRA in calling a cessation of military operations in 1994 which was the catalyst for not only the overall peace process but for the ongoing development of the republican strategy which has brought us so far.

Sinn Féin has been working tirelessly to make the peace process work, only to be hampered at almost every turn by rejectionist unionists and the British government. Last year, after an intensive round of negotiations, Republicans agreed a deal with the Unionists and the two governments in October. As always Republicans upheld their part of the bargain but the unionists reneged, followed by the British and Irish governments.

Both 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. There was to be immediate and substantial movement.

The governments have not moved an inch since October.

London and Dublin must inject momentum into the process. This requires actions, not words. The two governments now need to convince Republicans and Nationalists that they are serious about the peace process and political process. They can do this by honouring their respective commitments under the Good Friday Agreement, the joint declaration and in the discussions with us last October.

But I can tell you that blaming Republicans won‚t move us forward and neither will trying to criminalise us. Next year is the 25th Anniversary of the Hunger Strike which marks the high cost of following a futile policy of criminalisation. It also shows how much Republicans are prepared to endure and how far they will go to protect the integrity of our struggle.

As you are all aware the last four months have seen a renewed attack on our party and on republicanism itself. We have listened to government politicians line up to attack Sinn Féin. We have listened to allegation after allegation, selective briefings to the media and the worst type of nod and wink politics. When asked to back up their claims and produce evidence, we have got no answers.

We are Irish republicans. We are proud to be Irish Republicans. We won't be criminalized by the Irish Government, and Michael McDowell or anyone else.

It is lost on nobody that these attacks have increased in volume and ferocity as we get closer to the Local Government and EU elections. It is lost on nobody that it is happening at a time when the peace process is in difficulty.

For decades republicans have been highlighting the issue of collusion. Collusion was dismissed by our opponents, as simply republican propaganda.

It was not. It was a British government policy of state sanctioned killing. Unionist death squads were armed, trained and directed at the wider nationalist community and at republicans in particular. The people and structures which ran this campaign from Downing Street through FRU, MI5 and the Special Branch remain in place. They must be removed. The policy must be ended.

Cory is only the tip of the iceberg. Many more dirty secrets still lie in Downing Street and in PSNI headquarters in Knock.

I also wish 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 especially in the face of further British resistance to and concealment of the truth.

In the context of Cory and the structure and practice of collusion continuing those who have taken the decision to endorse and support the current policing arrangements in the Six Counties have made a monumental error and they need to explain it to everyone else. They have inherited the Special Branch and their agents en bloc from the RUC to the P.S.N.I. They have inherited the plastic bullets. They have inherited the repressive legislation. They have inherited the Human Rights Abusers. They have inherited the military fortresses. They are powerless and perhaps reluctant to do anything about it. Sinn Féin will accept nothing short of the new beginning promised in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. We will not accept second-class policing.

The DUP support base has risen. They are the leading voice of Unionism. Like them or not we respect their mandate. But we are not naïve. The demands that the DUP are making of Sinn Féin are totally unacceptable. The demands for surrender and disbandment of the IRA will not resolve the difficulties and no one in the British

or Irish governments should pretend that it will.

The DUP and UUP need to know that although they can refuse to work the institutions they will have no veto over issues such as human rights, equality, policing, demilitarisation and rights and entitlements.

Mr Blair has set a June timeframe. Republicans will do our best to make that work, but only the actions of the governments can determine how successful we will be collectively in the weeks ahead. If the political will exists the problems can be resolved. We remain in contact with the 2 governments and the other parties, we seek a dialogue with the DUP. Republicans have the strength and commitment to resolve these issues. However, I am not sure if the governments and the Unionists have it. We have no illusions about the task facing us but we are wedded totally to building justice and equality in Ireland.

Since last Easter Sinn Féin has consolidated its position as the largest Nationalist party in the North. We are currently engaged in an intensive campaign North and South in preparation for the European and local government elections in June. We want to bring about real and lasting change. We are the only party standing in all five EU constituencies in Ireland and we will be standing more than 200 candidates in the local government elections.

We will do well ˆ the other main political parties in the South are afraid that ordinary people, fed up with the corruption, and mismanagement of government, will turn their backs on their failed politics and come to Sinn Féin.

The recent attacks on Sinn Féin are not just about the upcoming elections. They are deeper, it is the Establishment for the first time, extremely worried that Sinn Féin is moving towards government in both parts of Ireland.

Sinn Féin believes in people. Sinn Fein believes in empowering people, in working in partnership with local communities to tackle problems and map out new policies.

Transforming society on this island means bringing about real social and economic change for all in Irish society. The last ten years have been a time of unprecedented economic growth in the South. But the unprecedented growth was not used to the benefit of all. Not only did the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats coalition fail to tackle the structural inequalities, which warp our economy and damage our society, they actually worsened those inequalities and widened the gap between rich and poor. Sinn Féin wants to change all of this. Sinn Féin is building the radical alternative and pointing the way forward to an all-Ireland democracy, an Ireland of equals.

I believe that the story of this election will be the growth of the Sinn Féin vote and the increased number of seats that we will win. Our task in the weeks and months ahead is to reap the harvest we have sown ˆ to ensure that the support won by the hard work of the past five years is mobilised on polling day. It is our task to ensure that we continue to work to bring about the goals of Irish unity and independence. Our specific goal in the 6 Counties is to make history with Bairbre de Brún.

One of the most encouraging aspects of this phase of our struggle has been the numbers of young people attracted to our party. A new generation of activists are taking their place in the struggle and we must ensure that place is secured. We are the only Nationalist party, which is experiencing such growth, and it is a sign that young people see this party as a vehicle for change for a new generation. They should also be in the vanguard of that change and of our political project.

Sinn Féin is a republican party. We are the only All-Ireland party. Our goal is to see a United Ireland, which delivers real social and economic change. We are the only party with a strategy and policies for achieving Irish unity and independence.

The unrealistic demands made on Republicans is code for preserving the failed status quo. It is code for arresting dynamic, code for old style Unionist rule. We will have none of it. There will be no return to the bad old days.

Change is always difficult. When taken in the context of a conflict, change can be traumatic. And this can be made even more difficult when there are those, both within sections of unionism and with the British political and military establishment who still want to hold on to the old ways. That is where the serious threat to the peace process comes from at this time.

Our goal as Irish republicans is an Irish ud on that strength. The stronger we are the closer our goal of a free independent, and united Ireland will come. We are proud of our past, strong in our struggle today and confident in our future. Together we will achieve Irish unity and independence. We will live in the Irish Republic for which so many have sacrificed so much.

Bígí Cinnte go dtiocfaidh ar lá

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