Collusion was planned, organised and politically cleared at the highest levels
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP, MLA today gave the main oration at the Easter commemoration at Carrickmore, in County Tyrone. Mr. Adams last spoke at Carrickmore five years ago, a few days after the Good Friday Agreement was achieved. Below are extracts of his speech.
Mr. Adams said:
Ireland's struggle for freedom has produced many heroes. Men and women of enormous courage and self-sacrifice who were and are prepared to give everything in the cause of Irish freedom. As we honour the men and women of 1916, let us also remember all of those republicans who in this and previous generations gave their lives for Irish freedom. We remember in particular republican patriots from County Tyrone and pay tribute to them. They were ordinary men and women who in extraordinary and difficult circumstances found the inner strength, determination and courage to stand against injustice and oppression, and to demand the rights and entitlements of the Irish people. They had the vision to see beyond the conflict, beyond the centuries of occupation, and to embrace the republican spirit of Tone, of Pearse and Connolly, and to stand up for truth and justice, for liberty and equality. I also want to salute their families and to particularly welcome those who are with us here today. Céad míle failte romhaibh.
Sinn Féin is an Irish republican party. Our strategy to achieve a united, independent Ireland marks us out from other Irish political parties. Republicanism is about the people. It's about self-determination and democracy. Two concepts denied to the Irish people for many centuries by Britain's involvement in our affairs. Irish republicanism has a vision of a new society that is democratic. That is economic as well as political. A society which is inclusive of all citizens. A society in which there is a redistribution of wealth for the well being of the aged, for the advancement of youth, for the liberation of women and the protection of our children. It foresees a new relationship between these islands resting upon our mutual independence and mutual respect. Our republicanism is about change - fundamental, deep-rooted change. It's about empowering people to make that change.
That means we have to be agents of change. This is an enormous responsibility and challenge but it is a challenge that I believe this generation of Irish republicans will achieve. The people of this island have the right to be free. To live free from discrimination and inequality, without violence and conflict. Free to shape our own destiny - our own sovereignty. We have the right to be free from division, foreign occupation, and injustice.
Building a New Republic
That means building a republic worthy of the suffering and sacrifice of all of those who have gone before us. But no party can bring about change on its own. We can mobilise, organise and represent - and Sinn Féin is doing all of those things. But it is the people who must bring about change. Sinn Féin has grown through hard work, determination and strategic planning. We are closer now than ever to delivering our goals because we have increased our political strength election after election. The introduction of the new registration system is designed to stem the growth of our political strength and our capacity to deliver a united Ireland - Don't let them away with this in May. With this in mind make every vote count
We go into the election with a unique message - a unique vision. Sinn Féin is the only all-Ireland party and we are the only party with the strategy and policies to achieve Irish Unity and Independence. And here in West Tyrone you set an example for the rest of us the last Westminster election. While sections of the media, political pundits and all our political opponents promoted and predicted that the SDLP would win this seat, republican west Tyrone had a different story to tell.
As everyone knows Sinn Féin and the two governments have been involved in intensive discussions in an effort to find a resolution to the current impasse. Sinn Féin has stated our opposition to sanctions which are outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. And while we have criticised the Irish government on this issue, I have to acknowledge that the Irish government, the Taoiseach and some of the senior officials, have played a particularly active role over the recent period. They have persisted when others were less resilient.
But one of the principal difficulties is the way that Unionists have left the main negotiations to the British. This brings a fault line into the process. Unionists need to stand on their own feet. We want to do a deal with them. The big question is do they want to do a deal with us at this time? Unionists say they want clarity and certainty from republicans. Let me tell you that what the IRA is saying to them is very clear indeed. It is unprecedented, to the point that perhaps some of you may think the Army has gone too far. What unionists actually want is a surrender. What we want is for everyone to keep to their commitments and for a negotiated process of conflict resolution to be brought to completion. And that includes certainty and clarity about future UUP intentions.
The SDLP have also been absent from the negotiation. Instead, for short-term party political advantage, they have engaged in attacks on Sinn Féin, replicating the UUP demands while making no similar call for the UUP to make its position clear. Some of the comments of senior SDLP spokespersons would make Jeffrey Donaldson look like a moderate.
The publication of the Stevens Report brought a media focus again to the issue of collusion. Watching it being reported it was as if the media and other political representatives were hearing about this for the first time. Their words of shock and horror that the state was involved in killing citizens, through the use of agents within unionist death squads, will have offended many nationalists and republicans. Across this island there are countless families who have suffered at first hand from the activities of these agents, and the agencies who were responsible for their actions. Many will also have been offended by the presentation of collusion as a phenomena that only existed in the late 1980s and which was the responsibility of rogue elements or a few bad apples. On the contrary this was a matter of policy and administrative practice for the British war machine. Let's be clear. The British Army Land Operations manual defined counter-insurgency strategy as, 'Liaison with, and organisation, training and control of, friendly guerrilla forces operating against the common enemy.'
Collusion was planned, organised and politically cleared at the highest levels. It was widespread in the 1970s with a variety of British agencies including the Military Reaction Force - the MRF - the 39th Brigade Intelligence, as well as the Special Branch, all engaged in providing information, training and weapons to kill citizens. Those who carried out the Dublin Monaghan bomb attacks, or who killed Sinn Féin Councillor Eddie Fullerton in Donegal were part of this web of collusion that British agencies began constructing in the north from 1970. And here in County Tyrone we saw some of the most brutal and brazen examples of collusion. Pensioner Roseanne Mallon, Patrick Shanaghan, Kathleen O Hagan, Dermott Hackett and the four men from Cappagh, John Quinn, Dwayne O Donnell, Malcolm Nugent, whose names are on the Tyrone Roll of Honour, and Thomas Armstrong. These and many others were victims of collusion. This list goes on and on and on. Hundreds died.
And this brings us back to negotiations. The logic of Sinn Féin's negotiating strategy has been validated by the Stevens report. It has provided us with a glimpse into the role of the Special Branch in killing citizens. And Stevens is only the tip of the iceberg. So, we want to know, and the families of the victims have a right to know;
- Who authorised this policy of assassination?
- How many died as a result of it?
- Where are those who authorised this now?
- Will they be held accountable?
- And what steps are being taken to stop it?
Because the reality is that collusion is still going on.
Reaching out to Unionism
There will be a united Ireland. And our task, and that of all sensible Irish political leaders, should be to prepare for reunification. I am not saying this to frighten or de-stabilise unionism but because I believe that many unionists also recognise the change that is taking place. Consequently, their fears and worries of the future must be addressed in a comprehensive manner. We have to be prepared to give assurances and guarantees and to commit to protecting the rights of every citizen, without exception. Winning unionists over to republicanism will not be easy, but it is not impossible. Many unionists are already very conscious of the way in which successive British governments and unionist leaderships used and abused and exploited them. Many look around at their unionist working class areas, which face enormous social and economic problems. Families, the elderly and the young, are weighed down with poverty, deprivation and a sense of despair.We have to reach out to them. We have to show them by our words and our actions, or our non actions, that Sinn Féin - that Irish republicanism, always a generous philosophy - is their future. That together we can build a future of equals on this island that empowers, and enriches and cherishes all the children of the nation equally.