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Ó Caoláin commends "courageous and unprecedented step" by IRA - Call for speaking rights in Dáil for Six-County MPs

28 September, 2005

Speaking during statements on the Peace Process in the Dáil this evening the Sinn Féin leader in the House, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD, paid tribute to IRA Volunteers for their "courageous and unprecedented step" in formally ending their armed campaign and putting their arms beyond use. Deputy Ó Caoláin described the move as a "massive development" which he said, "provided a golden opportunity to advance the peace process significantly and to open up a new era in Irish politics."

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, „Since the Dáil adjourned at the start of July momentous events in Irish politics and in the life of this country have taken place. The announcement by the Irish Republican Army on 28 July that it was formally ending its armed campaign was a massive development. The IRA made a commitment on that date to put its arms beyond use and on Monday last, 26 September, it fulfilled that commitment.

"This must be acknowledged as a most courageous and unprecedented step on the part of the IRA. I pay tribute to the Volunteers of the IRA for undertaking this leap of faith and for hazarding this mighty risk in order to advance the cause of peace with justice in Ireland. This step has caused real difficulties for many, many republicans. It came after a summer when nationalist communities in North Antrim, in Belfast and in other centres in the Six Counties came under sustained attack from unionist paramilitaries and from sectarian gangs. Many here who are very vocal about the alleged misdeeds of republicans were silent about these attacks. Only luck prevented widespread loss of life in nationalist communities, while the ongoing loyalist feud claimed several lives in that community and is apparently not yet ended.

"Despite the profound difficulties of all this for republicans, the IRA has now provided a golden opportunity to advance the peace process significantly and to open up a new era in Irish politics. I urge all parties and both Governments to seize this opportunity and to work together to fully implement the Good Friday Agreement.

"For many members and supporters of Sinn Féin it appears that republicans yet again have had to leap first. But we in the leadership of Sinn Féin have said clearly that this development must be seen for what it is - an act of faith in the ability of Irish republicans to move forward together to our goal of Irish unity and independence by peaceful means.

"The reaction of the Reverend Ian Paisley was predictable. Some space should be given to the DUP and to the wider unionist community to absorb the enormity of what has taken place. Now is the time for the DUP to give real leadership to the people they represent. That can only be done by engaging directly with the representatives of Sinn Féin. Such engagement is inevitable and it should happen sooner rather than later.

"I hope that many more people in this Oireachtas and outside now appreciate the reality that what the intransigent wing of unionism was objecting to all along was not the continued existence of silent IRA weapons but the prospect of having to share power with republicans and nationalists. But share power they must. That is the only basis for moving forward.

"We do not seek to dominate or to inflict upon unionists what was inflicted on nationalists for decades in the Northern state. We seek equality ˆ not equality for nationalists or equality for unionists but equality for all, regardless of political or religious belief.

"There is a special responsibility on the Irish Government which should now vigorously pursue the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement with a clear focus on the need for the Unionist leadership to share power and to work with the All-Ireland structures. The British government must fulfil all of its responsibilities, including the complete demilitarisation of the Six Counties. While the guns of the IRA are now gone, British spy-posts and barracks and troops are still in our country. And, let it not be forgotten, the unionist paramilitaries which were armed by British intelligence are still armed.

"The Irish Government should advance the All-Ireland agenda on all fronts by acting now to develop co-ordination and integration of infrastructure and public services on an island basis, encouraging a similar process in the private sector and the voluntary and community sector.

"The Taoiseach should fulfil his commitment made in 1998 to advance the issue of Northern representation in the Oireachtas. Speaking rights in the Dáil for all Six-County MPs should be provided for.

"The Government should publish a Green Paper on Irish Unity - setting out a strategy for Irish reunification.

"We need progress on other long overdue matters, such as the repeal of the Offences Against the State Acts.

"We have heard much in recent days about the mood of republicans and the reaction of republicans. We have had acres of analysis. But the best indication of where republicans are was given last weekend when tens of thousands of people from all over Ireland gathered here in our capital city to celebrate the centenary of Sinn Féin and to support Irish unity.

"An teachtaireacht a tháinig ón lá sin ná „ar aghaidh linn le chéile i dtreo na siochána buan agus i dtreo Éire Aontaithe". "Ni hé turas aon-pháirti atá i gceist ansin ach cuireadh do ghach páirti, agus don bpobal i gcoitinne, chun teacht le chéile agis oibriú ar son todhchai nios fearr ar an oileán seo."

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