Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness keynote address to the party's Ard Fheis 2006

17 February, 2006

Friends and comrades, we are gathered here this weekend on the eve of the 90th anniversary of Easter Rising and on the eve of the 25 anniversary of the 1981 hunger strikes. These two events have in their own time been defining periods in the history of this island, in the development of the struggle for Irish freedom and in the politics of Irish republicanism.

On both occasions the heroism and self-sacrifice of a small number of Irish republicans, pitting their own lives against the might of the British war machine transformed the politics of the nation. The men and women of 1916 inspired and energised the modern struggle for Irish freedom which has continued through to this day. In 1981, the men and women prisoners in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh and Armagh Gaol, through their endurance and perseverance broke Thatcher's attempts to crush this struggle for full freedom and independence.

The British government and their apologists in Ireland, and there are many of them, failed to defeat our struggle. Today we are stronger than ever before. There are more Irish republicans on the island of Ireland and beyond than at any time since partition. Irish unity is on the political agenda as a real issue despite the efforts of the revisionists and the partitionists north and south. The failure, politically and economically, of the 6 county state is widely accepted, its abnormality is recognised in the unique provisions of the Good Friday Agreement and its existence is increasingly regarded as an anomaly that will be resolved through Irish unity in the near future. Much of this progress is the result of the Sinn Fein peace strategy which we developed in the late 1980s. Through our central role in the peace process Irish republicans have opened up many new arenas of struggle.

The peace process is the way forward.

Republicans have delivered big time. The IRA have ended their armed campaign. And its time for people to deal with this fact and get real.

The time has come for the British government to commit themselves to purely peaceful and democratic methods.

This means:

Ending their spy rings

Ending direct rule

Taking British troops out of Ireland

Republicans have been the driving force behind the peace process and this strategy is delivering for all the people of Ireland. The peace process has transformed this country. It's a better place to live for the majority of people.

There are those who would do anything to stop our agenda. In fact they would reverse it if they could. But that shouldn't surprise us. These are the people who profited from inequality, injustice and partition.

Theirs is the politics of the past. Ours is the politics of the future.

I want to send out a clear message from this Ard Fheis that Sinn Féin mean business. We are up for the challenges ahead. Dublin and London need to show that they can meet those same challenges.

We are serious about engaging with unionism. But the DUP have to come to terms with the new realities. They have a huge decision to make. I hope that they make the right decision.

If he makes the wrong decision there is a huge responsibility on Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair to make it clear that the DUP are not going to be allowed to prevent progress.

If that means stopping the Assembly salaries so be it. If that means abolishing the Assembly so be it.

We want to see is Ian Paisley sharing power. We want t o see Ian Paisley on the North South Ministerial Council. We are for Plan A If that doesn't work then the two governments need to come in and make it clear that joint decision making is the only way forward.

But whatever approach they take, whether or not the Assembly and the Executive are restored, and that remains our objective, We in Sinn Féin will continue with the essential work of building towards the Irish republic until we have the freedom to which the men and women of 1916 committed their lives. We will succeed. This peace process despite all the difficulties is working. The political landscape of the north is transformed. The political landscape in the south is changing as we speak. We are going to bring about the change.. We are going to bring about the re-unification of out country. ENDS

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