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Tide of history with those who seek a united Ireland based on social justice and equality – Doherty

11 November, 2018 - by Pearse Doherty TD

Speaking at the annual Edentubber Martyrs commemoration, Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty said that “partition is a huge obstacle to building a modern, open and forward-looking society with a dynamic economy”.

The Donegal TD continued by saying that “the tide of history is with those who seek to build a united Ireland based on social justice and equality. That is what led the Edentubber Martyrs to lay down their lives here 61 years ago. And that is what the Sinn Féin leadership of 2018 is committed to achieving.”

The text of Teachta Doherty’s speech follows.

Check against delivery

A chairde, agus a chomráidithe

It is an honour to address you at this spot which is so important to Irish republicans.

We gather at Edentubber each year to honour five brave Irish republicans who died here in the early hours of Monday, 11th November 1957.

Those who died were Michael Waters, Paul Smith, Oliver Craven, Patrick Parle and George Keegan.

They died in an explosion which was heard in three counties - Louth, Armagh and Down.

Each of those counties lost one of their own in the explosion and distant County Wexford lost two.

That solidarity between North and South was a constant theme as people reflected on the deaths all those years ago. 

The house in which the explosion occurred belonged to Michael Watters, a republican who made his home available to the Irish Republican Army.

The four Volunteers were in the house, preparing to carry out an operation against a nearby British customs post.

Exactly what went wrong will never be known but a large amount of explosives detonated and the blast demolished the house, killing all five men.

Those who died here were part of 'Operation Harvest' — popularly known as the ‘Border Campaign’ waged by the IRA between 1956 and 1962.

At the gravesides of those killed at Edentubber, Sinn Féin’s John Joe McGirl said: “The tragedy which brought to a sudden end the lives of five great Irishmen is a tragedy of the Irish nation, the tragedy of an Ireland that is unfree and divided. These men came from the North and the South to join together to end the tragedy of our nation and our people”.

We have come a long way since that awful night in 1957, but those currently in power in Britain are preparing to revisit tragedy on Ireland and on the Irish people.

Tory Brexiteers, supported by the DUP are willing to re-impose a hard border, inflict untold damage to the economic and social life of this region and undermine the peace process.

They are prepared to see the re-erection of border controls and border posts, such as the one which the Edentubber Martyrs set out to destroy.

But we are here today not just to honour those who died in 1957 but to state loudly and clearly that Irish republicans in 2018 are as committed to the removal of the British border - hard or soft - from Ireland as they were.

And believe me, the people of this area, on either side of the border, will not tolerate or acquiesce in any construction of new border installations, posts or on any restriction of movement in their own country!

That is why it is so worrying to see the current dithering by Leo Varadkar in relation to the Brexit ‘backstop’ agreed last December. This was meant to guarantee no hard border in Ireland. 

Varadkar told us at the time that this agreement was 'cast iron', and 'politically bulletproof'. Sinn Féin, urged caution and urged the Taoiseach not to oversell it.

Shortly after the December announcement, the British government rowed back and it has been rowing back on its commitments ever since. 

But, incredibly, this week, when the negotiations are at a very sensitive stage, the Taoiseach said he is willing to consider proposals for a review clause for the backstop. 

This is a huge and dangerous mistake. He must immediately reject any review clause to what is meant to be Ireland’s insurance policy in the face of Brexit.

Brexit and the denial of rights in the North, is again exposing the fact that a divided Ireland does not serve the needs of our people.

Partition is a huge obstacle to building a modern, open and forward-looking society with a dynamic economy.

Irish unity is back at the centre of political discussion. A referendum on a United Ireland is a provision of the Good Friday Agreement.

We are entering a defining period in Irish political history and the Irish Government in particular has a responsibility to lead an informed, and respectful public dialogue on a United Ireland.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement. While the Orange state is gone, the unionist political leadership remains in denial.

An Irish Language Act, marriage equality, women’s reproductive health, and legacy rights, are the 2018 version of ‘one person, one vote’.

But the current political crisis in the North is merely the culmination of 20 years of DUP efforts to undermine the Good Friday Agreement.

And, while republicans want the institutions restored, we will not do so if discrimination, disrespect, intimidation, bigotry, and corruption are the price. The nationalist community have had enough of that.

And we have all had enough of British Government bad faith. This week’s arrest of John Downey is another example of that.

The British Government has publicly stated that John Downey is not wanted in connection with any offence. This was asserted in the courts.

To pursue his arrest and extradition now breaks British commitments and is a vindictive effort to overturn the court’s findings.

It gives the lie to claims by Theresa May that the legacy process is skewed against former state forces. 

This lie is all about securing immunity and impunity for British state forces guilty of crimes in Ireland.

Of course all these issues are linked directly to the fact that the British Government is currently in hoc to the DUP. But that arrangement will only last for as long as it serves British purposes, and a Westminster election in the near future cannot be ruled out.

The Irish Government must take a lead. Again this week, Leo Varadkar received a letter signed by 1,000 prominent individuals in the North asking him to stand up for their rights. It’s time for Dublin to stand up and be counted, not just in Brussels, but here in Ireland also.

Partition was a tragedy not just for the people of the North, but for the South also.

Between them, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, regularly supported by the Labour Party, built a conservative, narrow-minded state in the South with an economy designed to serve the interests of a wealthy, privileged minority.

But in recent years Sinn Féin has grown in strength and in representation and that is set to continue. 

The stronger Sinn Féin gets, and the more that people respond to our message, the sooner the power and privilege of the elites will be ended.

This party represents the greatest challenge yet to those who have dominated politics here since the foundation of the state. Our political opponents know this and they fear it.

They know and we know that Sinn Féin is going to transform Irish politics, smashing the Golden circles and putting ordinary citizens in charge of this country for the first time.

But the journey will not be easy. Our opponents are powerful and experienced. There will be setbacks and frustrations on the way. It is how we deal with those challenges which will determine our success. 

I want to pay tribute to Sinn Féin’s Candidate in the recent Presidential election Liadh Ní Riada, and to all who worked on the election. Liadh conducted herself with great dignity and brought the issue of Irish unity into the wider political debate. Liadh did Sinn Féin proud.

The election result itself was naturally a disappointment to republicans and Sinn Féin will closely review, analyse, learn lessons from it and move forward together.

This year also marks the centenary of the 1918 General Election in which a majority of Irish citizens turned their backs on Westminster and voted overwhelmingly for an Independent, United Ireland.

This was a changing Ireland led by a revolutionary generation. Today, Ireland is again undergoing great change as seen in the results of recent referenda.

We have progressed in equality for women and gay citizens. But much more needs to be done. 

Sinn Féin stands for a broader and deeper equality. For economic equality where the economy serves the needs of people, not the other way around.

We stand for the creation of a real republic where housing, healthcare and education are rights, free and accessible to all.

We know that to achieve those aims, we must be in government. And Sinn Féin want to be in government North and South but not at any price.

We don't want to be part of the system. We want to change the system.

We don't want to be, nor will we be some bit player in another conservative Irish government.

Our ambition is to be the biggest party in this state and that is where we need to set our sights.

That will require hard work and dedication by all of you. But it can and it will be done.

A chairde, the tide of history is with those who seek to build a united Ireland based on social justice and equality.

That is what led the Edentubber Martyrs to lay down their lives here 61 years ago.

And that is what the Sinn Féin leadership of 2018 is committed to achieving.

Go raibh maith agaibh go léir.

Ar aghaidh linn le chéile.

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