Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Now is time to heal the wounds of the past and build a new society based on mutual respect -O'Neill

1 April, 2018 - by Michelle O'Neill


Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill has said now is the time to heal the wounds of the past and to build a new society together where we respect each other.

Speaking at the Easter Commemoration in Milltown Cemetery, Michelle O’Neill said:

"Republicans and Unionists have conflicting narratives, conflicting histories and conflicting allegiances.

"That’s the reality. Part of the journey to reconciliation is about recognising that to be the case.

"Much hurt has been caused and real pain inflicted on all sides of the community.

"It takes time to heal those wounds and to build a new society together where we respect each other.

"The whole point in having joint heads of government in the Executive is because there is a responsibility on the two main political leaders to bridge the divide between us and those we represent.

"That is what I am up for. That is where I am focused.

"But I need a unionist leader who is up for that also, so that together we can serve the entire community fairly.

"I will not lead an unjust Government which denies citizens their rights – so we need to remove those obstacles to fix that." 

Full Copy of Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill's Easter Address 

EASTER ADDRESS – MICHELLE O’NEILL, SINN FÉIN DEPUTY LEADER BELFAST NATIONAL GRAVES ASSOCIATION, MILLTOWN CEMETERY 2018

INTRODUCTION

A chairde agus a chomrádaithe, is mór an onóir dom labhairt anseo in just.

I want to thank the National Graves Association for the invitation to be with you today.

As we gather to proudly remember all of our Irish Patriots.  

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

Can I extend my solidarity to you all at this time.

I’m very conscious of your loss.  

I’m very conscious of your hurt and of your pain.   

Easter is our chance to say we are with you, we stand in support of you and will always uphold, commemorate and celebrate the memory and sacrifice of your loved ones.

Fáilte mhór romhaibh uilig.

Despite what others would say it is right to remember our dead.

This year as we mark the anniversary of the Easter Rising we also mark a number of very significant anniversaries.

The centenary of some women achieving the vote and the suffragette movement,

100 years since the landslide election of 1918 when Sinn Féin fought the last truly national election turning its back on Westminster and forming the 1st Dáil,

A year that marks 50 years on since the Civil Rights Campaign,

And a year that marks 20 years since the GFA was signed.

When we reflect on all these milestones of our republican history, we recall their relevance today where much has changed, but much more is still to be done. 

SIGNIFICANCE OF 1916

Over 100 years ago Irish women and men – nationalists, republicans, socialists, trade unionists, gaelgeoirí, feminists – were gathering in rooms here in Belfast, in Tyrone, across Ireland and beyond, in Britain and the USA, in a plan to overthrow of the British empire in Ireland.

They envisaged a new Republic, 

where the people would be sovereign as citizens, not as subjects; 

where people have fundamental political, cultural, social and economic rights, not arbitrary privileges; 

where there is equality, not elitism; 

where there is peace and unity.

On Easter Monday 1916 Pádraig Pearse marched with a small number of comrades to the General Post Office and read aloud the Proclamation of a new Republic.

The days that followed including the execution of the 1916 leaders was to trigger a century of struggle which has shaped Irish politics from then until now.

The 1916 Easter Rising was a declaration of freedom heard all around the world.

The patriots of 1916 believed a better Ireland is possible.

And so do we today.

To achieve it – to win their freedom – to win our freedom - they and generations of republicans since put everything on the line - including their own lives.

Sadly the Ireland of today is not the true republic that was proclaimed in 1916.

Our country remains partitioned with two states failing our people.

A century on Irish republicans continue to strive towards the New Republic as imagined by the Leaders of 1916, by the First Dáil in the Democratic Programme of 1919 and by the republican icons of 1981.

Belfast has a long and proud tradition of republicanism from the United Irishmen and women and every phase of our long struggle since.

Throughout the 30 years of recent conflict many brave republicans died for our freedom.

These were difficult times to be a republican!

Different times and circumstances require different political strategies but our primary goal and commitment to Irish freedom remains steadfast. 

But the journey is never easy!

It requires increased effort to mobilise people in support of republican objectives towards a united Ireland.

It is our job to change the political and constitutional conditions and transform and unite this island and its people.

PALESTINE

In recent days we have seen again the horror of Israeli state violence against the people of Palestine. 

The military might of the Israeli state unleashed on the people of Gaza.

This is a depressingly familiar vista.

The international community looks on as the rule of law is openly flouted.

The European Union looks on.

THE Irish government looks on. 

This is not good enough. We need action.

Leo Varadkar and his government must now show leadership and decisiveness.

Israel must be challenged.

Their Ambassador must be informed that Ireland deplores their aggression; that Ireland stands for peace in Palestine and for a Palestinian state. 

So the Taoiseach should send the Israeli Ambassador home and move immediately to recognise the state of Palestine.

ENDING PARTITION THROUGH THE GFA

The ending of partition, and shaping a new and agreed Ireland between Orange and Green, remains the only political solution for everyone on this island concerned with its future.

Over the past two decades Ireland has been transformed as a result of the peace process. And the Good Friday Agreement has been its cornerstone.

It provides for a peaceful and democratic way  to end partition and unite the country.

When it was signed 20 years ago it offered hope of a new future.

It recognised that the constitutional and political conditions of the North had to fundamentally change. 

No longer could the British/unionist state deny nationalists equality of opportunity, parity of esteem, recognition of our Irish national identity or political power.

The Good Friday Agreement is now under attack by some within the DUP and the British Tory party, because they did not sign up to it, don’t believe in what it represents, parity of esteem; equality and mutual respect for all in this society.

The Assembly election last March was brought to a head by the lack of respect and arrogance of the DUP towards those we represent – you, your families, and the wider Irish nationalist/republican people.

The DUP sought to set aside the principles of equality and respect.

They were involved in financial scandals which undermined public confidence in the institutions. They insulted broad nationalism, Irish language speakers, ethnic minorities and our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

And the British government repeatedly refused to honour agreements and continued the cover-up of their dirty war in Ireland.

It was not acceptable to Sinn Féin and our dear friend and leader, the late Martin McGuinness acted.

Martin made it clear there could be no return to the status quo and zero tolerance of incompetence, arrogance and inequality.

We fought a second election in May and significantly increased our mandate once more.

We entered political talks to re-establish the Executive on the principles of equality, respect and integrity and to have the agreements fully implemented.

For over a year Sinn Féin were engaged in political talks with the DUP and the two governments.

The leadership of both parties reached a fair and balanced accommodation – a draft agreement - which we felt could address our concerns, and provide a basis to restore the Executive without further delay.

However, Arlene Foster and the DUP leadership failed to deliver on this and chose to withdraw from the talks and collapse the process.

For now, they are under no pressure from the British Government to move, because Theresa May is in hock to the DUP.

It’s no surprise the British Government has put its self-interest before ours.

But let's be very clear here today the rights issues are not going away.

We are not going away.

There is no excuse for denying civil, social and cultural rights.

We need to secure the rights of Irish Speakers, the right to marriage equality and the right of families to an nquest - rights enjoyed by citizens everywhere else on these islands.

Standing still is not an option.

The onus is now on the two governments, - to act.

They must reaffirm their support for the full implementation of agreements and in the absence of an Executive establish the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.

NATIONAL RECONCILIATION

Republicans and Unionists have conflicting narratives, conflicting histories and conflicting allegiances.

That’s the reality.  Part of the journey to reconciliation is about recognising that to be the case

Much hurt has been caused and real pain inflicted on all sides of the community.

It takes time to heal those wounds and to build a new society together where we respect each other.

The whole point in having joint heads of government in the Executive is because there is a responsibility on the two main political leaders to bridge the divide between us and those we represent.

That is what I am up for. 

That is where I am focused.

But I need a unionist leader who is up for that also, so that together we can serve the entire community fairly.

I will not lead an unjust Government which denies citizens their rights – so we need to remove those obstacles to fix that.

BREXIT

Ending partition has now taken on a new dynamic because of Brexit.

The Good Friday Agreement’s political institutions, human rights guarantees, all-Ireland bodies, the constitutional and legal right of the people to exercise their right to self-determination and a united Ireland through consent, must all be protected.

I am confident as the consequences of Brexit become clearer and as we get closer to the withdrawal stage that more people from a unionist background – will be open to the idea of exploring new relationships on our island, and between Ireland and Britain.

Because Brexit exposes the undemocratic nature of partition.

Sinn Féin believes there should be a referendum vote on Irish unity within the next five years.

I believe now is the time to plan a new, agreed and united Ireland, in which all identities and traditions have a place and the opportunity to contribute to our shared nation.

Sinn Féin is about transforming Ireland and uniting our country for everyone.

We want to build, shape and be part of leading a New Ireland.

We don’t want to face inwards and talk about a united Ireland.

We want to face outwards and listen to those who don’t want it.

It is our task to persuade those people, why it’s in their best economic and political interests to share power not only at Stormont – but on an All-Ireland basis.

We believe Irish unity, on the basis of equality, offers the best future for all the people of our island.

Therefore, we need to listen and understand unionists’ fears and reassure the unionist people of their place in an agreed Ireland.

They too must belong.

Not as a minority. 

But as equals.

Those of us who are united Irelanders must sell our vision.

We are confident about the economic, social and political benefits a new Ireland will bring.

Irish unity is now firmly on the agenda.

CONCLUSION

Comrades be in no doubt - We are entering a defining period in Irish political history.

The opportunities for real change are within our grasp.

The old certainties are gone.

The grip of the old parties is loosening.

The perpetual unionist majority has ended.

Europe is in a state of flux.

This is a time for big ideas. 

Now is the time to build a New Ireland.

Now is the time to deliver a real Republic.

With others Sinn Féin wants a society based on equality, fairness and prosperity.

We want to be in government in both parts of Ireland to serve the Irish people and to deliver that real Republic.

To deliver the ideals of the 1916 Proclamation and to unite all the people of this island, in equality and mutual respect together.

I will finish with this.

Take nothing for granted, it is only through activism that we will bring about a new Ireland.  Let’s never look back with regret.  Let’s never wonder could we have done more.  Lets’ keep moving forward. Let’s be the generation that delivers a new republic.  

I look forward to the Easter when we stand by the graveside of our patriot dead and say we achieved that new Ireland.  

That is the only proper tribute to all of our Irish Patriots.       

Go raibh maith agaibh go léir.

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