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1916 goals as relevant today as they were in Easter week 1916

2 November, 2005


Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said, “Sinn Fein’s vision for the future united Ireland has its foundations in the 1916 Proclamation and the 1919 Democratic Programme which enshrine our core values.” Speaking on the Sinn Féin Private Members Motion on Irish reunification in the Dáil this evening he said, “these goals are as significant today as they were on Easter week 1916.”

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, “Sinn Fein’s vision for the future united Ireland has its foundations in the 1916 Proclamation and the 1919 Democratic Programme which enshrine our core values.  The Proclamation asserts, “The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens … cherishing all the children of the nation equally”.  The Democratic Programme 1919 reaffirms “that all right to private property must be subordinated to the public right and welfare … It shall be the first duty of the Government of the Republic to make provision for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the children”.  And these goals are as significant today as they were on Easter week 1916 because they have yet to be realised.  I welcome the Taoiseach’s announcement that state commemorations of the Rising are to be resumed, and I urge him to use the occasion to reflect seriously on the values and goals of the signatories and on how these contrast so sharply with the record of successive governments, including his own.

“Sinn Féin’s vision of a United Ireland is one of a Republic based on the recognition that peace, security and the democratic life of the nation are dependent on human rights – civil, political, economic and social rights.  For Sinn Fein ‘freedom’ is nothing if it does not embrace these rights.  Parity of esteem, equality of treatment and full human rights must be guaranteed for all.  Ireland has the wealth and resources to create a rights-based society, all that is needed is the collective political will to achieve it.  And I am confident that more and more individuals, political parties and civil society groups will join with Sinn Fein to collectively pursue this agenda as the benefits to be accrued by all on this island are demonstrated.” ENDS  

Full speech follows:

In light of the historic act on the 26th September when the Irish Republican Army put their last remaining arms beyond use, demonstrating their commitment to the peaceful reunification of Ireland, it is high time for this government to follow suit and deliver its own brave acts of completion.  I will now set a few goal-posts for the government and the opposition parties in order to monitor and measure the activities and commitment of this House to the peace process and Irish unity.  I will speak primarily about the onus on this state to implement Strand 3 of the Good Friday Agreement.  And I will outline Sinn Fein’s vision of a future rights-based and united Ireland.

Strand 3 of the Agreement makes provisions for human rights safeguards and equality measures in the 6 counties and also instructs that this government “ensure at least the equivalent level of protection” in the 26 counties.  In light of this the Government has an obligation to instruct the Minister for Justice McDowell to adopt the full Patten model for Garda reform including a Garda Ombudsman with at least equivalent powers to the PSNI Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan and a lot more besides.  The recently passed Garda reform legislation fails to comply with these obligations.

The incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights was done in this state by the weakest possible method and hence also fails the test of ‘equivalence’ under the Good Friday Agreement.  In order to meet Strand 3 obligations the fundamentally flawed European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003 must be replaced with direct incorporation legislation.

The establishment of the Irish Human Rights Commission was a welcome move, however if the terms of the Good Friday Agreement are to be met the funding constraints which currently prevent its full operation must be reversed.  Furthermore the Government also must ensure that recommendations provided by the Commission to the Minister for Justice on proposed legislation or policy are taken fully into account and acted upon, and not ignored by the Minister as has largely been the case to date.  A topical example is the Transfer of Execution of Sentences Bill 2003 debated in this House last week.  In a submission to the Minister a total of 8 specific recommendations for amendments were made to ensure that fundamental human rights are safeguarded.  Not one was introduced by the Minister.  The Human Rights Commission Act 2000 should be amended to provide for human rights-proofing of all proposed legislation by the Commission, and to oblige Ministers to take its recommendations fully into acount.

The Equality legislation and agenda that emerged in large part on foot of the Agreement has been downsized by this government via a programme of policies and reforms that: criminalise and facilitate discrimination against Travellers; involve a full offensive against refugees and immigrants; and introduced a system of two-tier citizenship.  It is also crucial to note the on-going failure of this state to match the Section 75 statutory duty on public bodies to promote equality currently applicable to the 6 counties.  The Disability Act 2005 amounts to a further missed opportunity to ensure the rights of a vulnerable group in Ireland to equality of treatment and outcome.

When people in this state cast their vote in 1998 they correctly expected that the rights protections won by republicans under the Good Friday Agreement would benefit them.  Now they are seeing these protections whittled away on a right-wing whim.

On the issue of security the Good Friday Agreement states: “the development of a peaceful environment on the basis of this agreement can and should mean a normalisation of security arrangements and practices”.  It provides for the dispensing of the Offences Against the State Acts 1939-85 as circumstances permit.  In light of this provision, the Morris Tribunal Reports, the Hederman recommendations, and in particular the concluding observations of the United Nations Human Rights Committee which stated in no uncertain terms that “It does not consider that the continued existence of [the Special Criminal Court] is justified in the present circumstances” and that “steps should be taken to end the jurisdiction of the Special Criminal Court”, it is unacceptable that the government persist with this emergency legislation.   Emergency legislation like the Offences Against the State Acts have a corrosive effect on human rights, civil liberties and democratic life in the state.  These measures must not be allowed to become part of the ordinary law of the state.  They have no place in the Ireland of the future or that of today.

Sinn Fein’s vision for the future united Ireland has its foundations in the 1916 Proclamation and the 1919 Democratic Programme which enshrine our core values.  The Proclamation asserts, “The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens … cherishing all the children of the nation equally”.  The Democratic Programme 1919 reaffirms “that all right to private property must be subordinated to the public right and welfare … It shall be the first duty of the Government of the Republic to make provision for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the children”.  And these goals are as significant today as they were on Easter week 1916 because they have yet to be realised.  I welcome the Taoiseach’s announcement that state commemorations of the Rising are to be resumed, and I urge him to use the occasion to reflect seriously on the values and goals of the signatories and on how these contrast so sharply with the record of successive governments, including his own.

Sinn Fein’s vision of a United Ireland is one of a Republic based on the recognition that peace, security and the democratic life of the nation are dependent on human rights – civil, political, economic and social rights.  For Sinn Fein ‘freedom’ is nothing if it does not embrace these rights.  Parity of esteem, equality of treatment and full human rights must be guaranteed for all.  Ireland has the wealth and resources to create a rights-based society, all that is needed is the collective political will to achieve it.  And I am confident that more and more individuals, political parties and civil society groups will join with Sinn Fein to collectively pursue this agenda as the benefits to be accrued by all on this island are demonstrated.  

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