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Edentubber Martyrs speech in full

9 November, 2014 - by Mickey Brady

A chairde agus a chomrádaithe,

It is a great privilege for me to address you here today as we honour the memory of the five republicans who died at this place in a premature explosion in the early hours of Monday 11th November 1957.

These tragic deaths occurred during the course of 'Operation Harvest' — in what became known as the ‘Border Campaign’ waged by the IRA between 1956 and 1962.

These men, who have since become popularly known as the Edentubber Martyrs, included the owner of the cottage, 54-year-old Michael Waters, Paul Smith, 19-years-old, from Bessbrook; Oliver Craven, from Newry; Patrick Parle, of Wexford and George Keegan also from Wexford.

As republicans have done every year since 1957, we gather here to honour their memory and to state clearly that we are as determined and committed to the achievement of an independent, united Ireland built on equality and social justice and respect for all traditions.

We are Republicans in the tradition of Tone, national, democratic, pluralist, secular, demanding equality for all citizens regardless of gender, religious belief, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. And we welcome and embrace the cultural diversity, which that entails. That means challenging and tackling the narrow-minded and insulting view of culture epitomised this week by Gregory Campbell.

Different times and circumstances require different strategies but our goal and commitment remains the same. But the journey will not be easy. It will require increased effort to mobilise people at home and abroad in support of republican objectives.

The Good Friday Agreement is now 16 years-old, and the North has been transformed in that period. It is no longer an Orange state.

Politics across this island is in flux and Sinn Féin continues to go from strength to strength. The work of republicans in this phase of struggle has laid the foundations that will ensure the final stages of our journey to national reunification and reconciliation are concluded through peaceful and democratic means. No man or woman young or old need ever again risk imprisonment, injury or death in pursuit of these goals.

Sinn Fein seeks to build a New Republic — a united Ireland with fairness at its core and we invite other like-minded progressive forces to join us in that endeavour.

North and South Sinn Féin is focused on demonstrating that there is a clear, workable alternative to the failed policies of both Dublin and London. 

Sinn Féin is opposed to Toryism and austerity - whether from a British government in London or an Irish government in Dublin.

In the 26 Counties we presented our alternative budget last month to demonstrate how to achieve recovery on a fair and equitable basis, which puts the needs of the vulnerable and low and middle-income earners first. We are committed to opposing the water tax and are committed to reverse it in government.

The current leaderships of those parties who have run the Southern state since Partition have been badly exposed in recent times. They destroyed the economy, brought this state to its knees and gave away whatever sovereignty existed. And now they are making the most vulnerable and needy pay for their mistakes and the greed of the bankers and speculators.

Sinn Féin was right during the era of the Celtic Tiger when we said that the wealth should be used to build public services, infrastructure and sustainable jobs.  We are also right now when we say the economy needs growth and jobs – not cuts.

In recent weeks the establishment parties north and south have been engaged in a full frontal assault on the integrity and the legitimacy of our struggle through compliant and partisan sections of the media who share their partitionist ideology and support for the status quo.

They have used the serious and sensitive issues of abuse and politicised them in the Dáil and Assembly chambers in the most cynical, calculated and opportunistic way.

The Taoiseach and the Fianna Fáil leader have shown a callous disregard for facts and have set aside judicial process and the rights of citizens before the law.

Republicans are reflective of wider Irish society. Abusers can be found in all walks of life. Any abuser within republicanism, has done grievous wrongs to their victims and sullied our cause.

 But they are not in any way representative of the thousands, or tens of thousands of republican activists who served the republican cause in the ranks of the IRA, and Sinn Féin.

Or the tens of thousands of republican prisoners who served long and hard prison time for the republican cause.

Or the hundreds of blanket men who naked, isolated and starved stood against the savagery of Margaret Thatcher.

Or of the hunger strikers and our other Patriot dead.

The politicisation of this issue by An Taoiseach, the Fiánna Fail Leader, the SDLP and the unionists parties comes at a time when Sinn Féin presents a real alternative to the conservative parties who have failed citizens since Partition.  

In the North we remain totally opposed to the Tory welfare cuts agenda. We have protected the most vulnerable, the low paid workers, people with disabilities and those on benefits, from the impact of the savage welfare cuts in Britain, which have created a society where hundreds of thousands are now dependent on food banks.

Sinn Féin has also successfully defended core frontline public services such as health and education in the face of Tory attempts to destroy the welfare state.

We will continue to seek agreement with all the other parties in the Assembly in creating a united approach in opposing the financial hardship being imposed on us through year-on-year Tory cuts to the block grant.

We will also maintain our demands for transfer of fiscal powers to the Assembly so that we can design our own economy focussed on the needs of the people who live on this island.

But we are faced with a negative anti-Agreement unionist axis. They are seeking to undermine the Good Friday Agreement and turn the clock back to unionist one-party rule. And they are being encouraged in their intransigence by the partisan pro-unionist approach of the Cameron government, which has had no positive hand, act or part in the development of the peace and political processes. 

It has refused to back the compromise Haass/O’Sullivan proposals on the issues of flags, parading and the legacy of the past. It has frustrated investigations into state killings and the state’s collusion with loyalist death squads.

It has broken commitments it made in the Good Friday and other agreements on Acht na Gaeilge, a Bill of Rights and an independent inquiry into the murder of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane.

It’s time therefore for the British government to become part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Sinn Féin remains fully committed to the political process and the political institutions. Those institutions can work but political will and a commitment to genuine power sharing and partnership government is required. 

The peace and the political processes are inextricably linked. There is an onus on the two governments and all the political parties to show that politics works.

We entered the current preliminary talks on a positive and constructive basis seeking progress on the outstanding issues of the Good Friday and other agreements. 

Sinn Féin is committed to overcoming the current impasse and repeatedly called for these talks. Sinn Féin wants to see real political progress in these talks.

Confidence must be engendered in the process that any agreements reached will in fact be implemented. That requires an implementation timetable for all the outstanding commitments made by the British government in the Good Friday and other agreements.

Despite the DUP asking for talks, they have been very slow in coming to the table and have sought instead to demand the precondition of an Orange parade through a nationalist community in North Belfast.

If the DUP is serious about making progress it needs to engage meaningfully in the process.

It remains our view that all the problems and outstanding issues can be overcome if there is the political will to do so and meaningful engagement from the two governments with the support of the US administration.

Sinn Féin has a vision and regardless of the ups and downs of opinion polls, and even elections, we will continue to work to deliver a better Ireland – a New Republic.

Preparation for next year’s Westminster elections are well advanced and this is another opportunity to demonstrate the continuing development of Sinn Féin as a major political force on this island.

We have a New Republic to build - an Ireland beyond partition where the people will be sovereign.

We invite others to join with us in building that Republic to ensure that we unite our people and our country as the Edentubber Martyrs and all our patriot dead sought to do.

We have the opportunity to achieve it without further loss of life or threat to the liberty of anyone. Let’s leave this place today determined not to waste that opportunity. 

 Beirigí Bua

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