Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Kelly - Next six weeks crucial for Sinn Féin and the peace process

29 March, 2005


Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly speaking at the Annual Easter Tuesday Commemoration in Ardoyne by local Assembly member Gerry Kelly said

"There are few things inevitable in life or in our long struggle but one I think, is that at some time after the next election we will be back at negotiations. Negotiations herald change. Change brings turmoil and soul searching. It also means breaking moulds. If we accept that the political changes over the last decade have caused massive upheaval for the Unionist and British system which has misruled the North for so many years let us also accept that Republicans have faced sacred cows as well. Nobody said it would be easy.

"Here is the challenge facing us. As political activists we must rethink strategically, debate strategically and decide what is best for our party, for the cause we represent, and most importantly for the people we represent."

Full text

A Chairde agus a chomradaithe,

Is onóir mór domhsa bheith anseo, ag labhairt libh inniu ar an lá stairiúl seo.Agus is fior lá stairiúl é de thairbhe go bhfuil muid cruinnithe anseo ag cuimhniú ar na fir agus na mná a chuaigh amach ar Domhnach na Cásca i mBaile Atha Cliath agus lás said tine ar fud an domhain naoi mbliana is ochtó ó shin.

Easter week 1916 was one of the greatest historical events of the last century. It started the bush fire of decolonisation, which was to engulf what was then the British Empire. It inspired generations of Irish Republicans, and indeed other peoples throughout the world who rose up against the tyranny of colonial rule, imperialism and oppression. It is a fire still burning in the heart of every republican.

So let me be clear, our comrades who gave their lives and those of us who survived to take up their mantle were and are about bringing about British withdrawal and achieving a free independent and united Ireland. An Ireland of equals.

In commemorating and celebrating the bravery of our fallen comrades in 1916 and since, I want to pay tribute to the volunteers and leadership of the IRA of today because they have shown outstanding valour and vision on and off the battlefield. They have played a central role in this phase of the struggle and I commend their initiatives, patience, discipline and tenacity.

In commemorating and celebrating the bravery of our fallen comrades in 1916 and since, I want to pay tribute to the volunteers and leadership of the IRA of today because they have shown outstanding valour and vision on and off the battlefield. They have played a central role in this phase of the struggle and I commend their initiatives, patience, discipline and tenacity.

15 years ago the gauge of how well republicans were doing or of how close we were getting to a united Ireland would have been in the war of attrition between the IRA and the British army. The IRA volunteers were at the coalface of this struggle - in many ways they were the only dynamic. If courage were the yardstick of success then the British would be long gone.

Indeed individual and collective courage have been the mainstay of this long struggle. It was the courage shown by the leadership of the IRA in calling a cessation of military operations in 1994 which was the catalyst for not only the overall peace process but for the ongoing development of the republican strategy which has brought us so far. The IRA leadership has taken many hard decisions and initiatives since, which have moved the process and our struggle forward.

Sinn Féin too has gone from strength to strength. In November 2003 this party became the largest pro-agreement party in the North and we were already the largest nationalist party in the North.

Just last June, Mary Lou McDonald and BairbreDe Brún became the first Sinn Féin members elected to the European parliament and greater numbers of councillors were returned across the Southern state.

Sinn Féin is the 3rd largest party on the island and is now politically stronger than at anytime since the 1920's. We have used and will continue to use that strength and trust placed in us by a growing electorate for the benefit of all the people of Ireland.

"In early December of last year we were close to a comprehensive agreement which many thought impossible. At the last minute the DUP refused to close the deal on a power sharing government and instead chose the exit strategy of impossible demands on Republicans for humiliation and the biblical demand for repentance and wearing sack cloth and ashes!

Instead of the British and Irish governments standing firm on the Good Friday Agreement they supported Ian Paisley and plunged the process into yet another crisis. That crisis was deepened considerably by allegations surrounding the Northern Bank raid and later in January with the murder of Robert McCartney.

Republicans expect the highest standard of conduct from all in our ranks and we reject anyone who would bring the republican cause into disrepute. Those responsible for taking this young man's life should own up to their actions. The McCartney family have the right to truth, justice and closure.

I also know that many republicans and nationalists are deeply angered by the way our political opponents and large sections of the media are cynically using this murder in an attempt to undermine and criminalise the republican cause as a whole. Let our opponents be aware that attempts to criminalise the republican struggle are doomed to failure. It has been tried many times in our history. Notably in 1916 and 1976 and particularly during the 1981 Hunger Strike when 10 of our comrades died, standing up for our political rights and integrity.

Whether it is Thatcher, or McDowell or Paisley or either Ahern, let them hear this loud and clear, we are proud and honoured to be of the generation and ilk of volunteer Paddy Mc Adorey cut down by British paratroopers on internment morning. We are the community of volunteer Larry Marley, (known for his many talents; not least of which was his central role in the mass breakout of POW's from the H-Blocks in 1983.) We are the friends and comrades and families of Jim Mulvenna, Dinny Brown and Jackie Mailey cut down while unarmed at Ballysillan by a British death squad. This is the calibre of people this area produces.

This small area has taken far more than its fair share of the suffering of this generation in conflict. Long after the cessations of the 1990's this area has remained under attack. During the blockade of the Holy Cross Girls School in particular, the integrity and resolve, the dignity and commitment of this community was tested to the utmost limit. This area has come through many many terrible things but that period to me epitomises the spirit and soul of the people of this area. Let no-one, be they high or low in social or political standing, lecture the people of this area about political rights or criminality or rights as citizens.

Anyone who has taken the time to read or even scan the book "Ardoyne - The untold truth" knows what this community has gone through but has never bowed down. How it gathers around those within it who need help. How working class people who have nothing always find something to give. I for one am extremely proud to be associated with it, and to represent it - with others - wherever I go.

Much of the public attacks on Republicans is being driven by an Irish government fearful of the growth of Sinn Féin.

Since December the British and Irish governments have sought to reduce all of the issues to one - that is the issue of the IRA. What about proper policing? Demilitarisation? Human rights and Equality? The political institutions? What about continuing collusion?

This shallow and short sighted approach, especially by the Irish government, as well as its vitriolic attacks on Irish republicans, has further bolstered

unionist stubbornness and eroded confidence in the process, especially among nationalists and republicans.

There are few things inevitable in life or in our long struggle but one I think, is that at some time after the next election we will be back at

negotiations. Negotiations herald change. Change brings turmoil and soul searching. It also means breaking moulds. If we accept that the political

changes over the last decade have caused massive upheaval for the Unionist and British system which has misruled the North for so many years let us

also accept that Republicans have faced sacred cows as well.

Nobody said it would be easy.

Here is the challenge facing us. As political activists we must rethink strategically, debate strategically and decide what is best for our party,

for the cause we represent, and most importantly for the people we represent.

Talk to friends and comrades. Give serious thought to where Irish republicanism is today, how we got here and where we now need to go. Do what we do best - strategise, plan and be prepared to act.

Sinn Féin is a republican party. We are the only All-Ireland party. Our goal is to see a United Ireland, which delivers real social and economic

change. We are the only party with a strategy and policies for achieving Irish unity and independence.

In recent times other political parties have begun to accept the logic of the republican position. We welcome this and we wish to see them go

further. We want them to join with us along with campaign groups, Trade Unions and other interested sections of our society in creating what might

be called an 'Alliance for Irish Unity'. They may be latecomers to our strategy for Irish unity. But all are welcome.

There is much work to do. But we believe that we are in the countdown to a united Ireland. We believe that together we can make further progress and truly transform society on this island forever.

Members of Sinn Féin here today are part of the fastest growing party in Ireland. Whether it is here in Belfast or Monaghan, or Kerry or Wexford, or

Dublin, or South Armagh, it is clear that Sinn Féin is winning more and more hearts and minds right across the island.

Everyday there are more and more republicans in Ireland. We are building our political strength. I want to call on people to join Sinn Féin. I am

confident that we will build on our hard work and substantially increase our political strength. We must continue to build on that strength. The

stronger we are the closer our goal of a free independent, and united Ireland will come.

Our political opponents fear our growing electoral strength.

Our developing political strength frightens the political establishments and threatens the status quo.

The six weeks ahead are crucial for this party and for the future of the peace process.

In that time Sinn Féin faces local government and the Westminster general election in the North.

In these contests Sinn Féin will be standing on our record in the peace process, our campaign for Irish unity, our work in local communities and our

radical agenda for social and economic change.

I believe that the story of these elections will be the growth of the Sinn Féin vote and the increased number of seats that we will win. Our task in

the weeks ahead is to reap what we have sown - to ensure that the support won by the hard work of the last number of years is mobilised on polling

day. It is our task to ensure that we continue to work to bring about the goals of Irish unity and independence.

If you want a strong voice in the negotiations?; if you want equality and justice and a real future and peaceful future?; if you want a united

Ireland?; if you want to make the 1916 Proclamation a reality? Then join Sinn Féin and let's get the work done.

Our collective efforts has to be to get the largest SinnFéin vote. Our enemies want us to fail.

Here in North Belfast, we are running 7 local government candidates, 4 in Oldpark, 2 in Castle and 1 in Macedon. Of those, 4 are women. I am as you

knowrunning for Westminster. What our opponents need, is to face the reality of a growing republican representation. They need to know we are not going away. Whether they like it or not republicans are a substantial part of the future. It is better that they accept that reality now. Every election

someone like me stands in front of you and says this is the most important election so far. Our opponents and the media have made these the most

important elections so far, let us give the answer on the 5th May, on Bobby Sands anniversary.

Let me come to a conclusion by going back to the start in a way. It is Easter, we are here to remember and celebrate our fallen comrades.

Liberation struggles always produce the best of people but also can lose the best, who lead from the front and pay with their lives. I have never tried

to speak for any of our dead comrades even those I knew well. I don't know what they would have thought of our present leadership and strategy or

tactics. What I do know is that they all fought for British withdrawal and the establishment of a United and Independent Ireland. That is the legacy

left to us. Their goal is our goal. We will carry that struggle forward. Leadership must lead as best they can.

To the families of dead volunteers we send our support and thoughts at this time. To all the victims of conflict, no matter where they come from, we

pledge ourselves to be fully committed to the search for a just and lasting settlement.

Today is also a day for rededication. Let us rededicate ourselves to the goals of fallen comrades.

This generation, our generation will achieve that goal. We will achieve a united and independent Ireland.

A Chairde bigí cinnte go dtiocfaidh ar lá.

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