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Irish Unity on the agenda as change is coming north and south – Doherty

16 April, 2017 - by Pearse Doherty TD


Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty said today that change was coming north and south and that Irish Unity is very much on the political agenda.

Speaking at the 2017 Easter Commemoration held in Belfast today Pearse Doherty said:

“Both north and south the message is the same: change is coming.

“The challenge now for republicans is to manage this change, and to build support for Irish unity. 

“If Brexit has achieved anything, it’s that is has only further highlighted the undemocratic and counter-productive nature of partition. It is wrong; it is unjust; its time is coming to an end. 

“Irish Unity is now very much on the agenda. But if we are to build support for unity, then we must build a place for all citizens.

“Unification cannot be about simply joining two parts of Ireland together. It must be more than repainting the post boxes. It must be an opportunity to build anew. 

“Our vision for Ireland is not that of Fine Gael’s or Fianna Fáil’s: a Free-State of golden circles, conservative elites and cronyism. 

“Nor is it a place for the sectarianism and disrespect of some elements of unionism.

“Ours is the vision of Tone and Emmett ; Connolly and Pearse; of Bobby Sands, Mairéad Farrell and Martin McGuinness. 

“We want a prosperous, united, and inclusive Ireland.  We can secure and win a unity referendum.

“To win a Unity Referendum, we must demonstrate that a united Ireland will deliver economically for everyone. That citizens are better of in a state without barriers to trade, without a border, inside Europe and safe in the knowledge that all our people have a prosperous future.

“To win a Unity Referendum, we must demonstrate that equality will be at the core of how we govern ourselves. 

“There can be no place for poverty and inequality in a Republic.  There can be no place for the crises of homelessness and health.

“To win a Unity Referendum, we must demonstrate that all citizens have rights, and that all people are to be respected. We want a progressive Ireland, whose citizens are not only imaginative but generous in spirit.

“That means that the British identity, which is held by a sizeable swathe of our people, too must be protected and respected in a unified Ireland.”

Full text of Pearse Doherty TD’s speech at the 2017 Easter Commemoration at Milltown Cemetery, Belfast, 16th April.  

A chairde,

Ar dtús, ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh achan duine atá inár gcuideachta inniú ar an talamh bheannaithe seo, chun comóradh a dhéanamh ar na hÓglaigh misniúla uilig a thug dá saol agus dá saoirse ar son na hÉireann. 

Cuirim fáilte faoi leith roimh teaghlaigh na n-Óglaigh ná maireann atá linn inniu. Tá fáilte mhór roimh.

Comrades, I want to welcome you all here as we gather today to remember our patriot dead, the generations of brave Irish men and women who sacrificed life and liberty in the name of Ireland. 

Belfast is a city with a proud Republican legacy. Its history is one of rebellion; of struggle; and of unyielding sacrifice.

 It’s a city that has long played host to resistance, from United Irishmen Henry Joy McCracken and Wolfe Tone at Cavehill; to the movements of Connolly, Markievicz, and the founding of Na Fianna.

It’s a city that the likes of Mairéad Farrell, Bobby Sands and Kieran Doherty to name but a few, have been proud to call home.

It’s city that has never been afraid to take on the weight of an Empire; and it’s a city to whose countless brave sons and daughters we owe much.

For many of them, this is their final resting place and today, Easter Sunday, in the company of their families and friends, we honour them.

Easter is a special time in the Republican calendar it is a time when we remember, when we commemorate and we  celebrate the lives of those brave volunteers who died in the cause of Irish freedom. 

I salute the memory the men and women of Oglaigh na hÉireann who gave their lives to the cause of Irish freedom, to the cause of equality, and of Irish unity. 

This year - like all years – we have lost comrades along the way. We grieve for them; we remember them; and we pay homage to their legacy.

Among them, our friend and comrade, Martin McGuinness. 

On 21st March this year, Bernie and the McGuinness family lost a husband, a father, and grandfather. Derry lost a son. Ireland lost a patriot.

Needless to say, Martin was a Republican to his core: an inspirational leader whose achievements have not just been recognised here at home, but right across the globe as well.

While his passing is an unspeakable loss to Republicanism, his legacy shall forever remain with us. 

We are stronger because of Martin McGuinness. Our country is a better place because of the time he spent with us. 

And today we are closer to an Irish Republic because of his actions, his courage and his leadership.   

No one can, nor indeed ever will come close to replacing Martin McGuinness however, it is now up to us to complete his work. 

So while we mourn his passing and rightly celebrate his life, it is now the job of each of us as Republicans to organise, mobilise and to follow his example. This is the only fitting tribute  to Martin McGuinness.

Only last year we celebrated the 100th anniversary of that most momentous event - the 1916 Easter Rising.  

For reasons that are obvious to all of us gathered here this afternoon, it was an anniversary that official Ireland wanted to ignore. 

In spite of those efforts, the people, the ordinary men, women and children of Ireland, did not forget. 

It was a year where we came together. Where citizens from across our island came out to honour our patriots: those whose selflessness, courage and unyielding dedication to the Republican cause would go on to change the course of Irish history forever.

Actions which – as we know today – would go on to empower a people, inspire a nation and bring a once all conquering, all powerful Empire to its knees.

Today, as we rekindle the promise of the Proclamation and remember our dead, we rededicate ourselves to their cause. 

2016 was a year of huge significance for Republicans everywhere, and events arising from it continue to permeate these changing times in which we find ourselves.

Since then, here in the north we have fought and witnessed two elections and a referendum both come and go.

In the referendum on EU membership, the majority of people in the north of Ireland voted to remain within the European Union.

The British Tory party, setting aside that democratic vote, has choose to ignore the wishes of the people.

In doing so, they are seeking to abandon the principle of consent; to set aside the Good Friday Agreement, and impose an EU frontier across our island.

Meanwhile, the Irish government is doing what Irish governments do best, they are standing idly by and watching from the sidelines, clinging to the pretence that it has a special relationship with their British counterparts.  

We know however that the Westminster establishment will always put their interests, and that of the Tory right wing, first.

To them, Ireland is simply nothing more than collateral damage.

They wish to raise the drawbridge, shut the door, and embrace a world of isolationism, animosity and trademark Tory arrogance.

We cannot and will not allow that to happen. Far from cutting ourselves off from the rest of the world, we seek to be at the heart of it. 

The Government down south too needs to stand with the people of Ireland and ensure that the North is designated special status within the European Union.

They need to recognise that the people of the north are part of the Irish nation. Let us therefore send out a similar message to the Tories and the Taoiseach that, there can be no deepening of partition on this island. 

Let me also commend all who were involved in the campaign for presidential rights for Irish citizens here in the North and in particular the work that was done by Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donghaile since his election to the Seanad last year, who has ensured that this issue was at the centre of political debate over the last period. 

The decision to extend voting rights in Presidential elections to the people of the North and the diaspora has shown that where the right political will exists then real and meaningful change can happen.

We need not but only look to the Assembly elections just gone to witness hues of that very message.

In what was a truly historic election for Sinn Féin, the people of the north stood up against those same sinister forces which, like Brexit, conspire to go against the will of the people.

For the DUP’s part, they sought to rubbish the principles of equality, respect and parity of esteem. Red Sky, NAMA and the RHI scandal eroded public confidence in the institutions.

Unrepentant, they choose to insult Republicans, belittle Irish language speakers, discriminate against ethnic minorities, and marginalise our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

But none of it was acceptable to Sinn Féin. It would not be tolerated, and so Martin McGuinness acted. 

Making it clear that there could be no return to the status quo, we fought a second election and significantly increased our mandate. 

Here in Belfast alone, Sinn Féin did what was considered all but impossible in the West of the city by winning four out of the five seats, while also topping the polls in north and south Belfast.

In a city once considered to be the capital of a unionist state created for a unionist people, there are now more MLAs from a nationalist background elected than unionist.

And it’s on our strengthened mandate that we have entered talks to establish the Executive, while keeping to the fore the principles of equality, respect, and integrity.

We want the institutions back up and running. Six weeks on however, the DUP and British Government continue to refuse to listen to the people. They have failed to change their approach and to honour the agreements of the past, and so the talks have not progressed.

And while discussions remain ongoing, Sinn Féin will not abdicate from our responsibilities. 

We believe that the political institutions must deliver for all in society however, we need what has been agreed in the past to be implemented.

The Irish Government therefore needs to stand over its role as co-equal guarantors, instead of sitting back as the British Government refuses to honour its commitments.

Our position remains unchanged. Sinn Féin will continue to defend the rights of citizens; to advance peace on our island, and to pursue institutions which enjoy the full and unwavering confidence of the people.

Likewise, the journey towards a society of equal rights and fairness is a destination which has still to be arrived at in the south.

The present cosy partnership between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil is one which continues to turn a blind eye to the scandals in An Garda Síochána and NAMA to name but a few.

Together, both parties have zero accountability, credibility or integrity. They stand with the elites, while ignoring the masses.

And while the crises in housing and health rumble on, the only thing they’ve succeeded in doing to date is to avoid an early election. 

Well, to Enda Kenny and Mícheál Martin I say, the people see through you. Your time is almost up. It’s time to let the people have their say. 

If the last election here in the north has taught us anything, it’s that Sinn Féin has no fear of an election.

Because comrades, both north and south the message is the same: change is coming.

The challenge now for republicans is to manage this change, and to build support for Irish unity. 

If Brexit has achieved anything, it’s that is has only further highlighted the undemocratic and counter-productive nature of partition. It is wrong; it is unjust; its time is coming to an end. 

Irish Unity is now very much on the agenda. But if we are to build support for unity, then we must build a place for all citizens.

Unification cannot be about simply joining two parts of Ireland together. It must be more than repainting the post boxes. It must be an opportunity to build anew. 

Our vision for Ireland is not that of Fine Gael’s or Fianna Fáil’s: a Free-State of golden circles, conservative elites and cronyism. 

Nor is it a place for the sectarianism and disrespect of some elements of unionism.

Ours is the vision of Tone and Emmett ; Connolly and Pearse; of Bobby Sands, Mairéad Farrell and Martin McGuinness. 

We want a prosperous, united, and inclusive Ireland.  We can secure and win a unity referendum

To win a Unity Referendum, we must demonstrate that a united Ireland will deliver economically for everyone. That citizens are better of in a state without barriers to trade, without a border, inside Europe and safe in the knowledge that all our people have a prosperous future.

To win a Unity Referendum, we must demonstrate that equality will be at the core of how we govern ourselves. 

There can be no place for poverty and inequality in a Republic.  There can be no place for the crises of homelessness and health.

To win a Unity Referendum, we must demonstrate that all citizens have rights, and that all people are to be respected. We want a progressive Ireland, whose citizens are not only imaginative but generous in spirit.

That means that the British identity, which is held by a sizeable swathe of our people, too must be protected and respected in a unified Ireland. 

Ultimately a chairde,if we are to win the argument on Irish unity, then we cannot do it through acting alone. 

As a party we have to grow. We must recruit new members, train new activists, and build new progressive alliances. There can be no short cuts. 

That is the nature of struggle. While we are now bigger than at any time in our recent past, there is still much more to do.

Real change is however within our grasp. The old certainties are gone. The grip of the old parties is loosening. The conservative pillars have been exposed for the corruption they espouse. The perpetual unionist majority has ended, while the world is in a state of flux. 

Now is the time to build a new Ireland; a country that will honour its patriot dead, a nation for all, equal and sovereign. 

Until that ideal is achieved comrades our struggle continues. It continues until we have created an Ireland in which justice and equality reign true.

It continues until we have an Ireland in which the principles and core teachings of the Proclamation are not just simply revered but are a reality. 

And it continues until we have an Ireland in which all our citizens, as children of the nation, are cherished equally.

Ultimately, our struggle and the struggle of Martin McGuinness’, continues until the Ireland which our patriot dead envisaged is made real – One Ireland united, indivisible, destined to be free…

Go Raibh Míle Maith Agaibh…

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