Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Sinn Féin National Chairperson calls of British government to reengage with Peace Process

16 February, 2014


Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney marking the 25th anniversary of the murder of Sinn Féin Councillor John Davey, has called on the British government to endorse the Haass proposals and to reengage with the Peace Process.

Speaking today Declan Kearney said: "Sinn Féin endorsed the Haass compromises, because they were in the wider interests of our society.

"The Irish government has agreed they represent the best way forward; and the US administration also shares that view."The British government now needs to say the same; the British government needs to get on to the same page as the rest of us.

"Comments and interventions by British politicians and officials which fail to concentrate minds on the need to embrace the Haass compromises are entirely counterproductive.

"That approach will deepen current difficulties, and reinforce unionist intransigence."The British government has to reengage with the Peace Process.  It should immediately and unambiguously support the Haass compromises, and call for their implementation.

Below is the full speech by Declan Kearney.

Sinn Féin National Chairperson, Declan Kearney, addresses John Davey Commemoration

Diograiseoir na Poblachta den t-sean deanamh ab ea John Davey.  Briseadh croi na Gluaiseachta aitiula nuair a maraiodh e. Chailleamar laoch den chead scoith. Agus, guimis go leir comhbhron le clann Davey inniu; le Mary, Pauline, Maria‘s Eugene.I first met John in 1980.  He was a big man in so many ways, known in our, other homes, as Big John. He commanded huge respect. There was a real affection and esteem for him across Derry and Antrim.

He was of course, like others among us, another Antrim man, on loan to Derry!

John Davey was to these counties, what Gerry Adams or Martin Mc Guinness were to Belfast or Derry City. John was a child of the orange state. He grew up under the shadow of the unionist one party state, the B-men, and 2nd class citizenship. But he became a father figure to the many who became involved in the resurgent struggle for national democracy and independence, from 1969 onwards.

John created the foot print for the political and electoral strength Sinn Féin enjoys locally today. He was an incredibly important leader particularly in relation to the electoral strategy; entering local councils; and, the abstentionist debate in 1986.

He was a pioneer of modern republican strategy in this area. Experience is an important teacher. As a veteran of the Border Campaign, John had political experience in spades, and a sharp, practical instinct.During the late 1980’s the British launched an intensified counter insurgency offensive against republicanism. John Davey quickly realised what was happening.

I recall a conversation with him in the summer of 1987, when he forecast that things would be become very dangerous for us all. He was right. A new period of increased repression and targeted executions was beginning. In that coming period many Sinn Féin members, and dozens of ordinary Catholics were targeted. 

Local comrades such as Gerard Casey, Tommy Donaghy, Bernard O Hagan, Danny Cassidy, Malachy Carey, Peter Gallagher, and too many others were assassinated. Two days before John was killed, Pat Finucane was executed.The assassination campaign of that period wasn’t random. It was aimed at removing leadership figures and designed to deter those of us opposed to injustice, repression and inequality. It failed.

Sinn Fein in these counties and across the north got bigger. Eight years later Martin McGuinness was elected MP in Mid Ulster.

Ghandi once said, “First they ignore you; then they laugh at you; then they fight you, and then you win”. There’s something to that statement, because, in the face of the adversity from British forces and their surrogates, the struggle for progressive change became unstoppable.

W B Yeats famously wrote,“Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart”. John’s family, and so many others carry burdens of unimaginable pain, and we, his friends and comrades suffer his loss.The war brought great pain to all sides.

But despite all the suffering republicans have never lost our humanity.We want a better future for our children and ourselves based upon equality, respect and democracy. 

We want that for everyone.We all lived through a terrible past, and that must not be allowed to define our future.

So, Sinn Fein endorsed the Haass compromises, because they were in the wider interests of our society.

The Irish government has agreed they represent the best way forward; and the US administration also shares that view. The British government now needs to say the same; the British government needs to get on to the same page as the rest of us.Comments and interventions by British politicians and officials which fail to concentrate minds on the need to embrace the Haass compromises are entirely counterproductive.

That approach will deepen current difficulties, and reinforce unionist intransigence. The British government has to reengage with the Peace Process.  It should immediately and unambiguously support the Haass compromises, and call for their implementation. However, the prevarication and intransigence of political unionism is also no longer sustainable.  That too must end.

There is no alternative to the implementation of the Haass compromises or the exercise of real power sharing.  It is not acceptable for unionist and orange extremists to continue exerting a veto over political progress, power sharing, and the viability of the political institutions. Six weeks after the Haass negotiation has concluded; it is now time for political unionism to state without further delay, whether it will step away from the extremists and wreckers; stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of us; and, agree to implement the Haass package.

Holding progress and the interests of wider society hostage to selfish electoral interests will create a political vacuum.  The British and Irish governments share a responsibility to stop that happening.

There is no future for any of us in the politics of the blame game.All pain is the same.  War is war.  It cannot be romanticised.  Killing occurred on all sides. Those unionists who try to say otherwise should remember that both British and unionist politicians contributed to the political context which led to the execution of John, Pat Finucane, and many others.

There can be no hierarchy of victims or humanity.The grief of John Davey’s family today deserves the equality and respect, which the northern state denied to John in life.

But we can agree a future.  And we must all be courageous as republicans and unionists in bringing that about. Big John will never be forgotten.

There are monuments to his memory all around us - Gulladuff Hall: Lavey Club, of which he was an honorary President: and, the symbolism of hundreds of young people from this area expressing their Irish identity with confidence through our games, language, music and dance. I think John would have been really proud of all that, and what we have achieved as a Party. But John Davey continues to live in the hearts of all us who knew him.

The greatest tribute we can make to him, and his family, Mary, Pauline, Maria and Eugene, is to realise the future of the agreed, united Ireland, at peace with itself, which he aspired to achieve.

Change Cannot Be Stopped

The story of change is only beginning.

Sinn Féin will not allow Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to waste the potential, the possibilities and the aspirations of our people.

A government led by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil together does not represent the change that people voted for in February. In fact, it is an attempt to deny change, to protect the status quo and to continue with the same broken politics that has so badly failed workers and families

Sinn Féin will defend the change that the people voted for. We will continue to stand up for workers and families.

North and south, Sinn Féin is that change for a fairer, stronger and united Ireland.

Fully Supporting our Health Service and Frontline Workers

We need to ensure that we have all available capacity within our health systems, that we have sufficient ventilators and respiratory equipment, sufficient beds including ICU beds, and that our frontline workers are protected.  We need more testing and tracing and we need to ensure that we have all available capacity within our health systems, that we have sufficient ventilators and respiratory equipment, sufficient beds including ICU beds. 

The lack of protective equipment (PPE) for health workers, carers and others is causing a lot of concern – with frontline workers taking to the internet looking for resources and the government have stated that homehelp workers don’t need PPE. 

We need to see delivery of more testing across the island to tackle COVID-19 in line with the advice of WHO and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Income Support - Protecting Workers & Families

Sinn Féin’s proposals in the south would have guaranteed 100% of income up to €525 a week for workers and the self-employed who are laid off due to this crisis.  The Irish government’s proposal comes nowhere close to that and does not go far enough. €350 is not enough for people who have lost their jobs. 

While we are supportive of the wage subsidy scheme we believe that it must be targeted and not open to abuse - employers should have to make up the rest of the 30% of the salary – under the Irish government proposal employers could put in just one cent towards their employees pay.

There are also outstanding issues including: will workers have to pay tax on this income, now or at the end of the tax year; can workers who reside in the north but pay tax in the south be able to access the PUP payment?

Protecting Workers, Families and Businesses in the North

Finance Minister Conor Murphy has introduced protections for workers, small businesses and is lobbying the British Treasury to support the self-employed. He has brought in rate relief, including a three month rate holiday for all businesses and grants to support SMEs.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has streamlined the benefit system to make it easy for those affected by COVID-19 to access benefits, including sick pay for workers.  She has also introduced support measures for the community and voluntary sector.

Affordable Housing

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael cannot be trusted to deliver on housing. Their records speak for themselves.

Sinn Féin is committed to delivering the largest housing build in the history of the State.

Sinn Féin's "Fair Rent and Protection of Renters Bill" would prohibit rent increases on existing and new tenancies for three years and end the practice of tenants being evicted from buy-to-let properties on the grounds that a property is to be sold. These are vital protections that people need now more than ever.

In the north, Sinn Féin Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has introduced measures to support those in the public housing sector and we have called for mortgage relief for homeowners and businesses.

Banks and the Insurance industry

It is outrageous that many people with a €200,000 mortgage will pay close to €2,000 more over the lifetime of their mortgage because the banks are not only charging interest but interest on the interest.  This is how the banks are intending to profit out of this crisis and it is outrageous. We want the Central Bank and the banks called in by the government and this to be stopped. We have been in touch with the Minister, the Central Bank and the banks on this. The fact is that they already charge twice the average EU interest rates for mortgage  - they need to waive all interest during the period of the emergency and not profit on it.

The behaviour of the insurance industry also needs to be tackled – they are failing to respond properly to this crisis.

The insurance industry is trying to find ways of avoiding providing coverage to businesses who pay very high insurance premiums and have been forced to close as a result of the crisis.  They need to be reined in by the Central Bank and taken to task over this behaviour. Nothing less than this is approach is required.