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Michelle O'Neill address to Coalisland Easter Commemoration

20 April, 2019 - by Michelle O'Neill

A chairde agus a chomrádaithe, 

It is great to see you all here today at this local commemoration where we gather to commemorate our republican patriots and our fallen dead who we honour and remember today, and over the course of this Easter weekend.

In January past, we commemorated the First Dáil and its adoption of the Democratic Programme – a seminal moment in Irish republican history.

Three years ago republicans the length and breadth of Ireland and internationally commemorated the centenary of the Easter Rising and 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

I am proud to say that here in Tyrone that history was brought to life.

We remembered then, as we do today, all those who dedicated their lives and gave themselves selflessly to the ideals of the Republic in every era over the past century of struggle – including the Irish Volunteers, Irish Citizen Army, Cumann na gCailíní, na Fianna, Cumann na mBan and Óglaigh na hÉireann.

Today we remember and we recommit to the cause of Irish freedom, the cause of equality and the cause of Irish unity. 

Ireland is again at a point of great change. 

The orange state is gone. 

The perpetual unionist majority in the north has ended. 

The forces of conservative Ireland no longer enjoy the unquestioning support of citizens. 

The old orange and green is now part of a rainbow of colours and identities. 

And a new Ireland is emerging.

We are a changing party, a growing party. 

We are a new leadership building on the legacy and work of all those who came before us.

Over the past two decades the entire island of Ireland has been transformed as a result of the Irish peace process, where we have emerged from decades of political conflict and towards a better, peaceful and democratic society.

The Good Friday Agreement provided an end to conflict and provided a peaceful, democratic alternative and a huge opportunity for us all to design a better society for ourselves and succeeding generations to live in.

It was, and remains a precious gift of peace to our young people and it is indispensable. 

At this time everyone knows that Theresa May’s Government is wholly reliant on the DUP to stay in power, and she is therefore prioritising this self-serving agenda over the peace and political processes.

All roads will lead back to the negotiating table and we stand ready to enter any Talks process that is serious and credible, which confronts the issues which need resolved in order to have proper power-sharing Government which commands public confidence.

This includes respect for our Irish national identity and citizenship, including our language, and other important matters.

This includes dealing with the past where they are attempting to protect British State forces and deny truth and justice to the many families who lost love ones at the hands of the British army and Crown forces during the conflict.

It is beyond time the British government implemented the legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House in a human rights compliant manner.

If we are serious about dealing with legacy then we must ensure that families no longer have to pursue due process in this long drawn-out manner.

It is a disgrace that families are still waiting on truth and justice.

Sinn Féin will continue to stand with all families in their pursuit of truth and justice for their loved ones.

When Martin McGuinness resigned he said that there will no going back to the status quo.

Sinn Féin is wholly determined to deliver on his word.

Despite the current political vacuum a new Assembly and new type of politics is possible.

The onus is squarely on both governments to remove the obstacles to restoring the Assembly.

There is no going back.  We must only go forward.

Let me take a moment to address what happened in Derry city in recent days with the brutal murder of a young woman and journalist, Lyra McKee.

The people who brought guns onto the street, and those who organised them do not represent any version of Irish republicanism.

They have no politics, no strategy, and no popular support amongst the vast number of ordinary people from Derry, or anywhere else in our country.

These groups should disband and end their futile acts of violence.

We extend today our sympathies and condolences to Lyra McKee’s family and partner, her friends and her colleagues.

Today I believe we are facing the greatest change in Irish politics since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, not least because of the unwanted Brexit being foisted upon us.

Brexit undermines our hard-won agreements, rights and prosperity of citizens. 

I have said that Brexit belongs to the British and if they wish to leave the EU good luck to them, but the Good Friday Agreement belongs to Ireland.

We will defend our national interests at every turn.

Sinn Féin has worked to protect the Good Friday Agreement, citizens’ right and to prevent any hardening of the border.

The Westminster parliament is complete chaos and Sinn Féin won’t send republican representatives to be part of that mess.

We are proud abstentionists.

Now is the time to look to the future and to begin to plan for a unity referendum in line with the Good Friday Agreement.

Sinn Féin has been clear that in the event of a no-deal crash-out Brexit then the two governments have the responsibility to call referenda on Irish Unity under the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement, thus providing a route back into Europe for the whole of the island.

The Local Government Elections on May 2nd come at a pivotal time in our political process.

It’s your opportunity to stand against Brexit and the DUP/Tory toxic pact which is poisoning our politics locally and continues to deny people their rights.

A strengthened Sinn Féin vote is the best way of combating this destructive agenda.

Integrity and genuine power-sharing are not negotiable. They are essential. 

Sinn Féin want a new Ireland based on equal treatment and rights for all citizens.

Sinn Féin is the only party capable of delivering this future.

We are building it every day. 

In every corner of Ireland. 

In communities, in council chambers where we deliver for all citizens and all communities.

On 2nd May the people across the North have an opportunity to come out and vote for this new Ireland.

Here in Coalisland Sinn Féin will stand 4 candidates – Niamh Doris, Joe O’Neill, Ronan McGinley and Mickey Gillespie.  

Despite all of the political challenges, this is an exciting time for republican politics.

Irish unity is now a mainstream debate.

We’ve seen in recent weeks prominent voices coming out including Jarlath Burns, Mary McAleese and others who are saying that Brexit has now opened up the debate on reunification.

The political landscape is rapidly changing North and South and it is a time to be part of this change.

We have an opportunity to end the union, to end partition and build a new and united Ireland.  

We are for a New Ireland, a fairer Ireland, and a united Ireland.

If you want unity you need a credible vehicle to get there.  

Sinn Féin is that vehicle. 

We want more people to come on board and join us and be part of this change.

A Unity Referendum is coming and we are preparing for it.

We have to build Sinn Féin into a mass movement and build alliances with other progressives in the trade union movement, civic society and other parties.

We must be a credible political party which is fit for purpose who can organise and deliver such change – and which the people of Ireland want to give their support to.

We must sell our vision.

Political organising and campaigning has been the bread and butter of Sinn Fein since its inception in 1905 and a century of struggle.

The party is standing 400 candidates in the local elections across Ireland in May.

We are a party on the move.

I not only appeal to you to help us win more support and get people voting Sinn Féin, I want to invite you to join us. Become a member of the party and give whatever you can.

Irish unity is within our grasp.

We are making history.

This is a time for confidence.

To push ourselves and challenge ourselves.

A time for us to be generous.

This is a time for Irish Unity.

And we use this Easter weekend to recommit ourselves to build a new and United Ireland which is a fitting tribute and honour to our patriot dead and those who have struggled for freedom.

Beirigí Bua.

Míle buíochas agus go raibh mile maith agaibh go leor.

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