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Ó Caoláin - let the coming decade be the Decade of Unity

16 April, 2006


Sinn Féin Dáil Group leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD speaking at the Easter Commemoration in Donegal this afternoon said ‘let the coming decade - up to the centenary of the Easter Rising in 2016 - be the Decade of Unity.’

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“The Irish Government has a special obligation to act as a truly national government and to advance the cause of Irish reunification. It is not good enough for the members of that Government to stand on the reviewing platform at the GPO today and to continue in the same old way tomorrow. The Government should work together with all who share the goal of Irish unity – work today, tomorrow, next month, next year and every year until we have attained that worthy and achievable objective. The Irish people cannot attain our full potential socially, economically and culturally until we achieve unity and reconciliation. So let the coming decade - up to the centenary of the Easter Rising in 2016 - be the Decade of Unity.” 

He continued

“The Easter Rising is the defining event and the Proclamation of the Republic is the defining document in the history of Irish Republicanism. Our task is to apply its principles to the Irelandof 2006 and to achieve the united Republican Ireland of Equals promised in the Proclamation.

 

So long as British jurisdiction remains in the North-East of our country the Irish people are denied that fundamental right which is asserted in the Proclamation:

 

“The right of the people of Irelandto the ownership of Ireland.”

 

The ending of British jurisdiction, Irish unity and sovereignty, national reconciliation among all the people who share this island – these remain the core objective of Sinn Féin.

 

In every phase of the struggle for Irish freedom Republicans have adapted their strategies and tactics to the needs and demands of the time. They have shaped history. Today we are shaping history again. The historic decisions of the IRA last year confirmed the correctness and the effectiveness of the Republican peace strategy. I salute the discipline and the commitment of the Volunteers of Óglaigh na hÉireann and I welcome the IRA’s Easter statement which expresses its belief that it is possible to achieve the Republican goal of a United Ireland through the alternative route of purely peaceful and democratic means.

 

I also welcome the IRA’s repudiation of that tiny number of former Republicans who have engaged in criminal activity for personal gain. I echo the repudiation of those whose selfish actions in no way represent Irish Republicanism but only serve as grist to the mill of anti-Republican elements in the media and in political life.

 

The Proclamation asserts our right to “the unfettered control of Irish destinies”. That means control by the Irish people. It does NOT mean control of our health services by private profiteers. It does NOT mean the sell-out of our national airline, Aer Lingus. It does NOT mean violating neutrality and allowing our airports to be used as a staging post for the Iraq war. It does NOT mean the give-away of our natural resources of gas and oil to multi-nationals. And in that regard we salute the men and women of the West, including the Rossport Five, who have stood against Shell and this Government and who have won the admiration of the Irish people.

 

We take the Proclamation seriously and we campaign for the type of Irelandenvisaged in that document – an Irelandwhere all the children of the nation are cherished equally. For that reason we are campaigning for a new health service for Ireland, for an end to the two-tier system and its replacement with access for all to the best care based on need and need alone. Health, education, housing, transport, rural regeneration – on all these issues Republicans are active and are working side by side with communities.”ENDS

 

Full Text

A chairde agus a chomrádaithe,

I thank the Republicans of County Donegal for the opportunity to address you on this the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising of 1916. It is a privilege to join with you as we recall the Proclamation of the Irish Republic and pay tribute to all those who have given their lives in the cause of Irish freedom. We remember them all equally with pride whether they died in the execution yard of Kilmainham Jail, in Drumboe Castle, in English prisons or in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh. We make no distinction between the men and women of 1916 and the men and women of 1981. We honour equally the Republicans who fell in the years of struggle 1916 to 1923 and those who gave their lives in our own era since 1969.

 

To the families, friends and comrades of all those who died we extend our continuing sympathy and solidarity.

 

We are gathered at a poignant and historic place, the scene of a tragedy of the Irish Civil War. Charlie Daly, Seán Larkin, Daniel Enright and Tim O’Sullivan were put to death on this spot by Free State forces. They stood against the disastrous Partition of our country. They were opposed by fellow Irishmen who had allowed themselves to become the servants of British imperial policy in Ireland.

 

James Connolly predicted that the Partition of Ireland would lead to a carnival of reaction. The four martyrs of Drumboe were among the victims of that carnival of reaction which saw thousands imprisoned and interned on both sides of the border, scores of prison executions and roadside killings of Republican prisoners and pogroms against the nationalist population in the Six Counties.

 

For decades afterwards every effort was made to drive Republican Ireland underground but in 1969 the spirit of 1916 arose from the ashes Phoenix-like and a new phase of struggle for Irish freedom began. It was a struggle born out of repression and resistance. But it was also a tragic conflict that claimed many lives. The ultimate responsibility rests where it has always rested and that is with the British government – the government that executed the 1916 leaders, the government that partitioned Irelandand provoked Civil War, the government that propped up the sectarian Orange state for decades.

 

The four martyrs of Drumboe were executed because they remained firm in their allegiance to the All-Ireland Republic proclaimed in 1916. The Easter Rising is the defining event and the Proclamation of the Republic is the defining document in the history of Irish Republicanism. You have heard the Proclamation read here today. Our task is to apply its principles to the Irelandof 2006 and to achieve the united Republican Ireland of Equals promised in the Proclamation.

 

So long as British jurisdiction remains in the North-East of our country the Irish people are denied that fundamental right which is asserted in the Proclamation:

 

“The right of the people of Irelandto the ownership of Ireland.”

 

The ending of British jurisdiction, Irish unity and sovereignty, national reconciliation among all the people who share this island – these remain the core objective of Sinn Féin.

 

In every phase of the struggle for Irish freedom Republicans have adapted their strategies and tactics to the needs and demands of the time. They have shaped history. Today we are shaping history again. The historic decisions of the IRA last year confirmed the correctness and the effectiveness of the Republican peace strategy. I salute the discipline and the commitment of the Volunteers of Óglaigh na hÉireann and I welcome the IRA’s Easter statement which expresses its belief that it is possible to achieve the Republican goal of a United Ireland through the alternative route of purely peaceful and democratic means.

 

I also welcome the IRA’s repudiation of that tiny number of former Republicans who have engaged in criminal activity for personal gain. I echo the repudiation of those whose selfish actions in no way represent Irish Republicanism but only serve as grist to the mill of anti-Republican elements in the media and in political life.

 

The Proclamation asserts our right to “the unfettered control of Irish destinies”. That means control by the Irish people. It does NOT mean control of our health services by private profiteers. It does NOT mean the sell-out of our national airline, Aer Lingus. It does NOT mean violating neutrality and allowing our airports to be used as a staging post for the Iraq war. It does NOT mean the give-away of our natural resources of gas and oil to multi-nationals. And in that regard we salute the men and women of the West, including the Rossport Five, who have stood against Shell and this Government and who have won the admiration of the Irish people.

 

We take the Proclamation seriously and we campaign for the type of Irelandenvisaged in that document – an Irelandwhere all the children of the nation are cherished equally. For that reason we are campaigning for a new health service for Ireland, for an end to the two-tier system and its replacement with access for all to the best care based on need and need alone. Health, education, housing, transport, rural regeneration – on all these issues Republicans are active and are working side by side with communities.

 

Here in County Donegal you continue to suffer the effects of Partition and economic marginalisation. The Fianna Fáil/PD government has allowed development and economic progress to be concentrated in the east and south; spending under the so-called National Development Plan remains below target in the Border, Midlands and Western regions. While other parts of the country experience the economic boom, here in County Donegal, Government policies have failed to address the decline of industries that has led to a succession of mass redundancies.

 

I want to salute the work of Sinn Féin in this county in campaigning for the social and economic rights of the people of Donegal. In particular I commend the work of your elected representatives. The forthcoming General Election will be a momentous one for Sinn Féin. It will also be a very positive milestone for the people of Donegal. I have every confidence that they will place their trust in Sinn Féin and that among the first of the new TDs to be elected to the next Dáil will be Pearse Doherty and Pádraig MacLochlainn.

 

This year marks another significant anniversary - the 25th anniversary of the H-Block Hunger Strike and the death of ten young Republicans in the tragic year of ’81.

 

We remember the H-Block Hunger Strikes with pride and we pledge to continue our work towards the goal for which they gave their lives. They transformed our struggle and opened up new avenues to reach our objectives. This year we have formulated five demands, echoing the five demands of the H-Block prisoners. These five all-Ireland demands are:

 

  • The Irish Government should produce a Green Paper on Irish Unity.
  • The work of the All Ireland Ministerial Council should be expanded and additional All Ireland Implementation Bodies created.
  • Westminster MP's elected in the Six Counties should be accorded speaking rights in the Dáil.
  • Voting rights for Presidential elections should be extended to citizens in the Six Counties.
  • The Irish Government should actively engage with the British Government and Unionism to promote and seek support for re-unification.

 

The Irish Government has a special obligation to act as a truly national government and to advance the cause of Irish reunification. It is not good enough for the members of that Government to stand on the reviewing platform at the GPO today and to continue in the same old way tomorrow. The Government should work together with all who share the goal of Irish unity – work today, tomorrow, next month, next year and every year until we have attained that worthy and achievable objective. The Irish people cannot attain our full potential socially, economically and culturally until we achieve unity and reconciliation. So let the coming decade - up to the centenary of the Easter Rising in 2016 - be the Decade of Unity.

 

I have earlier referred to the momentous IRA decisions of last year. Despite the profound difficulties of all this for many republicans, the IRA has provided a golden opportunity to advance the peace process significantly and to open up a new era in Irish politics. It is vital that this opportunity is availed of and the peace process advanced.  This must include the release of all Republican prisoners and an end to the ongoing discrimination against Republican ex-prisoners.

 

Many people are understandably and justifiably frustrated at the slow pace of progress. In the coming weeks there will be a renewed effort to advance the peace process.

 

On May 15th the Assembly will be reconvened and the leadership of our party, the Ard Chomhairle, last week decided that our Assembly members will attend. The sole purpose of that Assembly is to elect a First Minister, a Deputy First Minister and an Executive. They must then fully operate the All-Ireland aspects of the Good Friday Agreement. We want no part in talking shops or shadow assemblies.

 

The DUP will have to decide if they are prepared to join a power sharing government and all-Ireland institutions. If they refuse to do so the two governments must deliver on their commitment to jointly implement all other elements of the Good Friday Agreement.

 

We in Sinn Féin genuinely wish to achieve national reconciliation, which means a new relationship of trust with that section of the people of Irelandwhich today gives its allegiance to unionism. All Republicans have an obligation to participate in this task. This means, first of all, firmly rejecting sectarianism and bigotry in all its forms – no matter what its source and no matter what its target. Secondly it means engaging in active dialogue with unionists and to show them that equality means equality for all – not just for nationalists and republicans but for all those who share this island.

 

This year we mark two very significant anniversaries - 1916 and 1981 -  years of tragedy but also years of continuing inspiration to us. The link between 1916 and 1981 was made by Bobby Sands in his Hunger Strike Diary when he wrote:

 

“I may die but the Republic of 1916 will never die. Onward to that Republic and the liberation of our people.”

 

Today we echo Bobby’s words. We are nearer now than ever to the Republic for which so many have sacrificed so much. Let us spare no effort in this final stage of our journey.

 

Onward to freedom.

 

 

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