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Martin McGuinness’s address to Sinn Féin AGM

25 March, 2013

Speaking to republicans from throughout the North at the Party AGM in Derry Martin McGuinness MLA told Party activists that:

"If we are to become persuaders for a new Ireland … a land of equals… and if we are to respond appropriately to the fears and uncertainties of those who see us through different eyes than we see ourselves.

“We want and need unionists to understand what we are about and what our politics is about and what it really means for them.

“The transformation of society must include addressing their needs.”

Full script of Martin McGuinness’s speech

A chairde -  Céad Míle Fáilte romhaibh  go léir go Doire

It’s good to see you all here in County Derry, in the city of Derry.

I know many of you have travelled here today from some distance and, given the weather conditions, no doubt you will all want to be away on your journey home as quickly as possible.

So, I don’t intend to keep you too long.

This is a busy time of year for the party. AGMs, the Ard Fheis and Easter Commemorations on top of all the other stuff we are all involved in.  And that means we are all very busy.

And that is where I want to begin, to say a word of appreciation to all of you here,  and also all of those not here, who are driving our project forward  -  who are at the wheel of change across this island, who have withstood and overcome every obstacle placed in our way,  in decade after decade,  in year after year ,  day after day… and who bring a commitment that  represents the surest guarantee  that we will .. some day in the not too distant future… secure our objective… of reunifying our country and establishing a new republic.

Struggle, by its very nature, brings many highs and many lows.   I don’t have to tell you all of that.   All of you will have firsthand experience of what that means over many long years of struggle.  

And while I’m confident – as I am sure you all are – that some day we will have an Ireland to be proud of ,,,,, we don’t have to wait until then to be proud of our achievements.  And nor should we.

We have a huge job of work ahead,  we all know that,   but we should remind ourselves now and again of just how much we have done  and  the progress we have made.

This country – this entire island - north and south is undergoing a process of change, huge change, in every sphere of life   -  and not least on the political front.

In recent years we have experienced and are continuing to experience significant political change.  And Sinn Fein has been at the heart of much of that.

The political transformation in the earlier part of the peace process was up in lights…it was with the eyes of the world upon us and it was in the full glare of the media.     

The manifestations of the process of change were enormous and unquestionable.   

The peace process  - with Sinn Fein as a  central player -  brought us ceasefires,  negotiations,  political agreements,  new political institutions,  power sharing government and an all-Ireland architecture,  demilitarisation,  release of prisoners,  new policing and justice arrangements.

And it opened new doors, marked out new paths upon which further progress can and must be made. 

None of this has come easy.  Change doesn’t happen of its own accord.   But nor does It all happen in a planned-out or mapped-out-beforehand sort of way.

Change brings hope and confidence and surety to some, but    anxiety, fear and uncertainty to others,

And one of most crucial lessons from the peace process is that change, once begun, has a dynamic that can build a momentum for further change.

When change begins, and we have the confidence to embrace it as an opportunity and a friend, and show honest and positive leadership, then so much is possible.

And I would ask you all to think about that .. not here now.. but when you get a chance to reflect. 

Think of what that means for you and for what you do.   That’s the single most important thing that I can ask of you today.

We need to understand the process of change… if we are to build our organisation, if we are to get better at what we do,   if we are to build support for our political project, if we are to become persuaders for a new Ireland … a land of equals… and if we are to respond appropriately to the fears and uncertainties of those who see us through different eyes than we see ourselves.

We want and need unionists to understand what we are about and what our politics is about and what it really means for them.

The transformation of society must include addressing their needs.

Equality, mutual respect, parity of esteem must apply to everyone.  

Our peace strategy has worked and continues to work.

We are making progress politically across every county in Ireland.

As we continue to build we are entering another phase of the process of change.  This phase doesn’t carry with it the same attraction for international or media focus.

It is not up in lights like it was before.     

Economic difficulties across the world, manifestations of the anxieties of political opponents here in Ireland, the slower pace of change all combine to feed the agenda of our opponents.. to fuel the fires of detractors.

We must not allow ourselves to be derailed by any of this.   

We have to continue to build,  to deliver,  to pursue a genuine  reconciliation across our society, to tackle inequality wherever it arises and to eliminate sectarianism and Racism  and to build  an Ireland that truly mirrors the promise of the Proclamation.

The progress we have made has involved and been built upon huge sacrifices, difficult and sad times, hard work, long hours,  selfless commitment, vision, foresight, confidence in ourselves,  and optimism. And that is the platform from which we move forward to the next period.

The challenges are many… we can be sure of that.

Difficulties lie ahead… we can be sure of that… . 

But whatever we face we will face it well.. we can and must be absolutely sure of that.

So,   let us ensure that we keep focused on what has to be done and how best to do it.  We must be realistic, but we must also be optimistic. And we cannot be anything other than confident. And so we should be. Our record tells us that we are entitled to be.

Let us ensure that we stay confident and let us ensure that we mark this next year as another year of change, of progress and of advance.

It is crucial that we keep that momentum in the process and that we are continually questioning ourselves and how our work is impacting on the bigger picture.

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