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Sinn Féin is up for the Challenge – Adams

16 April, 2017 - by Gerry Adams TD


Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD speaking in Carrickmore, County Tyrone today at the annual Easter Commemoration said that the Assembly election has brought about seismic political change including an end to the unionist majority in the Assembly. 

The Sinn Féin leader said that if the current DUP approach continues “that will only guarantee that there will be no DUP First Minister and no return to the status quo at Stormont”.

Commenting on the challenges for Unionism Gerry Adams said:

“The future well-being of our unionist neighbours is a matter of deep concern for us. Sinn Féin wants the unity of Orange and Green based on equality. That is the challenge facing the new leader of the UUP, and of the DUP leadership. 

Arlene Foster needs to reflect over this Easter time on whether she wants to reinforce unionist separation, segregation, from the rest of us or whether she seizes the opportunity to bring unionism in a new direction to respect diversity and end division. The alternative will not work.

The old do-as-little as possible tactics of them and us deepens sectarianism and discord. This obliges unionism to continuously depend on English governments to reward its failure to agree joint actions to build a rights-based future for everyone based on equality. That position has passed its sell-by-date.

So, the DUP leader can cast about for some ‘counter balance’ – some quid pro quo – to legitimate progressive measures which benefit everyone. She will achieve absolutely nothing but continued division if she thinks she can build a strategy on such a flawed approach…

A new generous unionist approach will be embraced and met with flaithiúlacht (generosity) from Sinn Féin and other progressives. However if what we have seen from the DUP in recent times continues that will only guarantee that there will be no DUP First Minister and no return to the status quo at Stormont.

So DUP and UUP it’s over to you. Sinn Fein is up for the challenge. We extend the hand of friendship as we commit ourselves again to complete the work of previous generations, the work of those we remember, the work of our leader Martin McGuinness.”

Gerry Adams also called for an election in the event of no progress in the talks. He said:

“The current talks process has paused. But let me be very clear it is the British government’s intransigence on legacy issues, and the DUP’s rejection of the principles of equality, parity of esteem and of rights, that have made it more difficult to reach a deal. Sinn Féin wants a deal. But if there is no deal then there has to be an election.

The role and responsibility of the Irish government must be to assert that an election is the only legal course open to the British government, if the current talks fail to elect an Executive.

In this context the progressive parties in the Assembly should not fear an election. It will be an opportunity to strengthen those parties that are for a Bill of Rights; who want a Civic Forum – who believe in marriage equality – and who support an Irish Language Act… the rights of victims of the conflict. They cannot be left out or left behind. None of these rights threaten anyone. Except for the bigots and naysayers and begrudgers.”

Commenting on the situation in the South the Sinn Féin leader said:

“Republicans need to understand that Sinn Féin cannot contest a general election to our full potential in the South unless we are very clear that we want to be in government.

That means a step change in our thinking. It means creating an active culture that moves Sinn Féin into and prepares us for being in government on republican terms. So, building a mass political movement for positive change across this island remains an urgent task for all our activists.”

Gerry Adams also spoke on the issue of Brexit:

“Brexit presents the greatest threat to the people of this island at this time. Without doubt Brexit on English terms will see the imposition of a hard economic border on the island of Ireland.

Brexit also threatens to rip the Good Friday Agreement asunder. This places a huge onus on the Irish government to uphold the democratic vote in the North to remain. It also requires the Taoiseach to actively campaign for the North to have a special designated status within the EU. This is the only way to protect Irish interests within the EU. So far the Taoiseach has failed to do this.”

On the issue of Irish Unity Gerry Adams said:

“Alongside our campaigning and outreach activity we are currently exploring the possibility of establishing a Dáil Committee on Irish Unity. This could bring forward proposals for what a United Ireland might look like, and how the Irish state needs to plan for reunification across all areas of the economy and society.

There is also a need to discuss a referendum on Irish unity as set out in the Good Friday Agreement – a need to agree on how this can be held and how it will be won. Of course that will require the support of other parties and independents in Leinster House and Sinn Féin looks forward to discussing this with everyone there. We will also continue our endeavours to persuade unionism of the merits of an agreed Ireland.”

Full text of Gerry Adams’ speech:

A chairde agus a chomrádaithe,
Ar dtús baire, ba mhaith liom fáilte mór a chur roimh gach aon duine anseo.

Nineteen years ago today, just two days after the end of our discussions on the Good Friday Agreement, I was here in Carrickmore for the Easter Commemoration.

Like today Tyrone republicans were present to honour the patriot dead from this historic county.

We were also paying our respects to all of those down through the centuries who have given their lives in pursuit of Irish freedom and independence.

Cuimhnímid orthu uilig an bhliain seo.

Your neighbours, your family members, friends and comrades, brave men and women who stood strong for the future and against injustice and oppression.

I want to welcome all of you here today to this holy place on this historic date.

I especially want to welcome the families and friends of our patriot dead.

Tá muid fíor bhuíoch daoibhse go léir.

I also want to remember those comrades who died in the last 12 months due to age and ill health.

I can’t mention everyone but I’m sure you will forgive me if I mention my friend and comrade Stan Corrigan who laid the wreath here last year.

Inniu cuirimid ár gcomhbhrón chucu uilig agus chuig a gclanna.

Like those in Dublin in Easter 1916 who rose against the British Empire, and proclaimed the Irish Republic, the men and women of Tyrone, and other parts of the North of our generation, took on the formidable military might of the British state after the pogroms of 1969.

With courage and determination, our family members, our friends, neighbours and comrades challenged one of the best-equipped armies in the world.

Over almost three decades they fought it to a standstill.

Martin McGuinness

Among that number was Martin McGuinness.

Like those we honour today Martin was a freedom fighter, a political activist, a peace maker, an Irish republican who believed that the course we have charted will achieve Irish reunification.

Nineteen years ago when I last stood at this commemoration Sinn Féin held just two Westminster seats. 

One in west Belfast - the other in Mid Ulster.

We had one Dáil seat.

Today we have 23 TDs, seven Seanadóirí, four MPs, four MEPs, 27 MLAs, and 250 Councillors. 

We now receive more votes than any other party on this island.

Sin mar a d'fhás Sinn Féin ar fud an oileáin.

It is by growing this political strength that we will be able to exercise greater influence, and shape the political agenda in both states on this island.

By using this political strength intelligently and strategically we can advance our republican objectives.

This is our strategy for change.

Martin McGuinness understood this and worked hard to achieve it.

Sinn Féin and Irish republicanism is stronger today because of him. 

But if Martin were here he would be the first to tell us we cannot sit on our hands.

Ni féidir linne bheith rómhuiníneach.

We have to get bigger, stronger, better organised.

We have a lot of work still to do.

So, as I said at Martin’s graveside, don’t mourn him, celebrate his life. 

So too with our patriot dead, celebrate their lives. But most important of all organise and mobilise.

That is the only fitting legacy for Martin and for all of those whose lives we honour today.

Tyrone

Through all of the years of war and politics and building the peace the republican base in Tyrone and across this island has never let us down.

The people never let us down.

They didn’t let us down in 1998 or in 2017.

Like another Carrickmore republican, Joe McGarrity 100 years earlier, Tyrone republicans have confidence in our struggle.

It is no accident that our new leader in the North, Michelle O’Neill is a Tyrone woman.

The Orange State is gone

Of course, none of us are naive.

We know today that there are those in the British system, and within the leaderships of Unionism, who resent the significant progress that has been made.

That has been the pattern of the political process for the last 20 years.

It is the pattern of the current negotiations.

But this year the context is dramatically different.

The RHI scandal, and the allegations from within the DUP of corruption and fraud, and the arrogant refusal of that party to honour previous commitments, led Martin to resign as Deputy First Minister.

In doing so he sacked Arlene Foster.

The Assembly election that followed has brought about seismic political change.

The Unionist electoral majority is gone.

The Unionist majority in the Assembly is gone.

The Orange state is gone also.

Who got rid of it?

You, and tens of thousands more like you.

But Sinn Féin has not come this far just to come this far.

Rights threaten no one

We now have the potential to build progressive political alliances with other parties to tackle the inequalities in our society.

Of course, unionism can regroup, on a negative axis.

Unionists are still the majority in the North.

Their leaders could reverse their recent electoral setbacks.

 Already there is talk of another unionist electoral pact.

Unionism could also embrace a more inclusive way forward.

The current talks process has paused.

But let me be very clear it is the British government’s intransigence on legacy issues, and the DUP’s rejection of the principles of equality, parity of esteem and of rights, that have made it more difficult to reach a deal.

Sinn Féin wants a deal.

But if there is no deal then there has to be an election.

The role and responsibility of the Irish government must be to assert that an election is the only legal course open to the British government, if the current talks fail to elect an Executive.

In this context the progressive parties in the Assembly should not fear an election.

It will be an opportunity to strengthen those parties that are for a Bill of Rights; who want a Civic Forum – who believe in marriage equality – and who support an Irish Language Act.

And that’s what this is all about, rights for everyone, based on equality.

Women’s rights; religious rights; the right to be free from sectarianism and poverty, the rights of victims of the conflict.

They cannot be left out or left behind.

None of these rights threaten anyone.

Except for the bigots and naysayers and begrudgers.

Making politics in the South

Meantime Enda Kenny is hanging on as the Taoiseach of a minority government simply because Fianna Fáil is not yet ready for a general election.

But as we have seen in recent days with the controversy around water charges and the crisis in policing and justice, an election could happen at any time.

Is é Sinn Féin an fíor fhreasúra sa Dáil.

Sinn Féin is challenging the government over the crises in Health and Housing, the sell-off of NAMA’s northern loan book, and on the Garda scandals and water charges.

The partnership government of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil is about protecting the status quo.

They take the side of the landlords against tenants, the bosses against the strikers – the elites against the citizens.

This has to change.

But Republicans need to understand that Sinn Féin cannot contest a general election in the South unless we are very clear that we want to be in government.

That means a step change in our thinking.

It means creating an active culture that moves Sinn Féin into and prepares us for being in government on republican terms.

So, building a mass political movement for positive change across this island remains an urgent task for all our activists.

Brexit

Brexit presents the greatest threat to the people of this island at this time.

Without doubt Brexit on English terms will see the imposition of a hard economic border on the island of Ireland.

While Sinn Féin has many concerns about the EU and its lack of equality and accountability, we are against Brexit for the North.

Cosnóidh sé jabanna.

It will impact badly on agriculture and the agri-food industry.

Brexit also threatens to rip the Good Friday Agreement asunder. 

This places a huge onus on the Irish government to uphold the democratic vote in the North to remain. 

It also requires the Taoiseach to actively campaign for the North to have a special designated status within the EU.

This is the only way to protect Irish interests within the EU.

So far the Taoiseach has failed to do this.

Irish Unity makes sense

The cause of uniting Ireland is not the property of any one grouping or party.

Sin seasamh leanúnach Shinn Féin go dtí an lá atá inniu ann.

Alongside our campaigning and outreach activity we are currently exploring the possibility of establishing a Dáil Committee on Irish Unity.

This could bring forward proposals for what a United Ireland might look like, and how the Irish state needs to plan for reunification across all areas of the economy and society.

There is also a need to discuss a referendum on Irish unity as set out in the Good Friday Agreement – a need to agree on how this can be held and how it will be won.

Of course that will require the support of other parties and independents in Leinster House and Sinn Féin looks forward to discussing this with everyone there.

We will also endeavour to persuade unionism of the merits of an agreed Ireland.

To inform that discussion Sinn Fein is also working on a follow-up paper to our recently published 'Towards a United Ireland' document that we launched last November.

It will lay out the benefits of Irish Unity across a range of areas, including enterprise, health, education, agriculture, energy, infrastructure and taxation on a short/medium and long-term basis.

The financial cost of a United Ireland

In 2015 economist Michael Burke produced a paper: The Economic Case for Irish Unity. 

His conclusion was, and I quote, that: “Quite simply put, the whole population of Ireland would benefit economically from reunification.” 

More recently Professor Kurt Huebner of Vancouver University produced his paper: Modeling Irish Unification.

It estimated a potential 35.6 billion euro boost in the first eight years of unification.

Reimagine Ireland

So, as Irish republicans we need to re-imagine Ireland.

We must ensure that it is more than just the two states coming together.

We don’t want a 32 county version of the Northern or Southern states.

Is gá Éire nua bheith againne!

A new dispensation that reflects our genius and diversity, our dignity and our strengths as an island people. 

A new Ireland that embraces and reflects the traditions of our unionist neighbours.

A new Ireland based on their aspirations and beliefs and identity, alongside all other aspirations and beliefs and identities.

It is a new Ireland that each of us has to advocate for.

Every single one of us at this commemoration must become a persuader for unity.

That especially means talking to those of your neighbours, your friends, your families, to persuade them of the merits of unity.

And if we want to succeed we cannot do it alone.

That is why Sinn Féin is developing an ambitious ten-year plan to grow the party.

To build new progressive alliances.

Níl aon aicearra ann do seo.

The opportunities for real change are within our grasp.

The old certainties are gone. 

The grip of the old parties is loosening. North and South.

The Challenge for Unionism

The future well-being of our unionist neighbours is a matter of deep concern for us.

Sinn Féin wants the unity of Orange and Green based on equality.

That is the challenge facing the new leader of the UUP, and of the DUP leadership.

Arlene Foster needs to reflect over this Easter time on whether she wants to reinforce unionist separation, segregation, from the rest of us or whether she seizes the opportunity to bring unionism in a new direction to respect diversity and end division.

The alternative will not work.

The old do-as-little as possible tactics of them and us deepen sectarianism and discord.

This obliges unionism to continuously depend on English governments to reward its failure to agree joint actions to build a rights-based future for everyone based on equality.

That position has passed its sell-by-date.

So, the DUP leader can cast about for some ‘counter balance’ – some quid pro quo - to legitimate progressive measures which benefit everyone.

She will achieve absolutely nothing but continued division if she thinks she can build a strategy on such a flawed approach.

Easter is a time for renewal. For redemption. For rebirth.

A new generous unionist approach will be embraced and met with flaithiúlacht from Sinn Féin and other progressives.

However if what we have seen from the DUP in recent times continues that will only guarantee that there will be no DUP First Minister and no return to the status quo at Stormont.

So DUP and UUP it’s over to you.

Sinn Féin is up for the challenge.

We extend the hand of friendship as we commit ourselves again to complete the work of previous generations, the work of those we remember, the work of our leader Martin McGuinness. 

Bígí linn.

Ar aghaidh linn le chéile.
Join the Rising.

Up the Republic - An Phoblacht abú.

Connect with Sinn Féin