British government needs to state publicly how it intends to bring an end to its policy of collusion
Speaking today at the annual Hunger Strike commemoration march and rally, Sinn Féin MLA Bairbre de Brún called on the British government to: '...learn the lessons of the past, end his policy of criminalisationand live up to his commitments under the Good Friday Agreement.' The rally took place at 3pm at Belfast City Hall and saw marches from the north, south/east and west of the city.
She said that '...the British government attempt to criminalise Sinn Féin and our electorate through the so-called Independent Monitoring Commission is a clear breach of the Agreement that threatens to further damage the credibility of the entire process.
Ms de Brún emphasised that Sinn Féin's, '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 obligations as co-guarantors of the Agreement to stand up for the rights of Irish citizens living in the north. Tony Blair must learn the lessons of the past, end his policy of criminalisation and live up to his commitments under the Good Friday Agreement.'.
Full Text of Speech
'This year marks the 23rd anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strikes.Twenty three years since Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Raymond McCreesh, Patsy O'Hara, Joe Mc Donnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Thomas McIlwee, and Mickey Devine gave their lives in the struggle against Margaret Thatcher's policy of criminalising republican political prisoners, and through them, Irish republicanism in all its forms.
Your presence here today is a fitting tribute to those ten brave men, and their families, who fought with great resilience and determination against the criminalisation policy of the British Government.
'This policy led not only to the brutalising of those held in the jails but in wholesale attacks on those leading peaceful protests in support of the prisoners‚ demands, with devastating effects on a host of other families whose loved ones were killed or seriously injured during this period.
'Then, like now, the objective of the British government was to prevent change. Now, like then, republican objectives are to bring change about.
'Like the hunger strikers of 1981 and the many thousands of campaigners in the Relatives for Action Committees and the Anti H Block/Armagh campaign, we are still fighting for political rights, to uphold the dignity and humanity of our communities and for the right to actively and effectively pursue our goals of self determination and national independence.
'In 1981 the British Government attempted to criminalise the republican struggle for Irish unity and independence. In 2004 they are once again attempting to criminalise republicans in order to halt our political advance and the advance of our agenda for change.
'Like the prisoners in 1981, Sinn Fein will refuse to bow to this policy of criminalisation and disenfranchisement and the March and Rally today not only remembers the great sacrifice of the hunger strikers, but also sends out a clear message to the British Government that we will not be criminalised and we will not be marginalised.
'The criminalisation policy that sparked the Hunger Strikes was not conceived in isolation. It was part of a broader strategy of repression, counter-insurgency and state sponsored collusion, the aim of which was to defeat republicans.
'The British government has consistently tried to conceal the involvement of its agents and agencies in the killing of citizens through collusion with unionist death squads.
'No member of the Special Branch or British Intelligence has been indicted for these crimes. No political leaders have been held accountable for this policy. Indeed, the policy of collusion has never been reversed. It remains intact.
'The British agencies, which carried out this policy, remain in place today. This is an unresolved issue and in the interests of justice and reconciliation it must be addressed.
'Over the years, and more intensively in the past 12 months, the families of those murdered by the British state have challenged the British government on a number of fronts. I would like to commend all those involved in the campaign and particularly the families. They deserve our support in the time ahead.
'The families are entitled to the truth. They are demanding answers. They are demanding full disclosure of Britain‚s role in directing unionist paramilitaries and the dismantling of the apparatus of collusion.
'Collusion - the control, resourcing and direction of unionist death squads byBritish state agencies - was sanctioned at the highest level of the British government. It resulted in the deaths of hundreds of republicans and nationalists. It has been and remains British state policy in Ireland.
'This is a human rights scandal, which anywhere else would have brought down governments but the British politicians who sanctioned the policy of collusion have never been held accountable.
'The British government needs to tell us now how it intends to bring about an end to the policy of collusion.
'Another echo from the hunger strike period is the apparent inability of the British government to stand over agreements it has reached with republicans.
'The 1981 hunger strike would not have begun if the British government had kept to the agreement reached with republican prisoners after the hunger strike of 1980 in Long Kesh and Armagh. Clearly the British government have not learned the lesson from that time and are intent on repeating the failures of the past.
'The last five years have seen Tony Blair's government renege on key elements of the Good Friday Agreement and on subsequent agreements emerging from negotiations.
'The issues of policing, equality, human rights, demilitarisation, and the stability of the institutions have not been advanced as far as they should due to the British government‚s failure to honour its part of the Good Friday Agreement.
'The refusal to act on the recommendations of the Cory report is just one case in point. There can be no more hiding. We need to get to the truth. Likewise the blatant attempt by the British government to criminalise Sinn Féin and our electorate through the so-called Independent Monitoring Commission is a clear breach of the Agreement that threatens to further damage the credibility of the entire process.
'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.
'Tony Blair must learn the lessons of the past, end his policy of criminalisation and live up to his commitments under the Good Friday Agreement.
'Today's Hunger Strike commemoration and the many other commemorative events, which will take place in the coming weeks, are an important time of reflection for Irish republicans.
'We reflect on the great bravery and sacrifice of the hunger strikers and their commitment to the republican objectives. We reflect also on the mass movement that was built in support of the hunger strikers and on the importance of making room for everyone to play their part.
'Today, republicans are growing in strength and are moving closer to our objectives of a 32 country democratic socialist republic. This is the same objective, which motivated the hunger strikers, and the generations of republican men and women before them. What better tribute to the memory of the hunger strikers could we give than the attainment of our national independence and the creation of an Ireland of equals?' ENDS