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Adams - Unionism will not stop process of change

2 October, 2006

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP today addressed a rally in Letterkenny to mark the end of the 1981 hunger strike. Mr Adams spoke of the 10 hunger strikers but also of the current political crisis in the process and the approach of the DUP.

The hunger strike ended on October 3rd 25 years ago after 217 days. By that point 10 men had died inside the prison and almost 50 more people had been killed on the streets. This year Irish republicans have been commemorating the events of that year but in particular the heroism and generosity of the ten hunger strikers.

Mr Adams said:

"The huge generosity of spirit, self-sacrifice and unselfishness has made Bobby Sands and his 9 comrades role models for Irish republicans everywhere. Their titanic battle against great odds and over five difficult, harrowing years, caught the imagination and touched the hearts of millions.

"The determination of the men in the H Blocks and the women prisoners in Armagh ultimately defeated the British government's criminalisation strategy. The enduring legacy of the hunger strikers is to be found all around us. Like the Easter Rising 65 years earlier it is a watershed in modern Irish history. The political growth of Sinn Féin and of Irish republicanism is in no small measure a result of their courage.

"But more importantly, their legacy is to be found in the peace process and the positive transformation it has wrought in Irish society in recent years. That process of change continues. It is taking place every single day. For many the twenty fifth anniversary of the deaths of the H Block hunger strikers has been a personal as well as a political time of remembrance. But for everyone interested in freedom and justice and peace in Ireland it has been a time to reflect on the lessons of the past and to commit to continuing the struggle to achieve a free, democratic and united Ireland."

Speaking on the current situation Mr. Adams said:

"Republican remains firmly focused on building a nationwide movement for change not only to end partition but for social justice and equality across the island of Ireland. The big challenge in the short term is to get the political institutions of the Good Friday Agreement back in place. Obviously this cannot be down without Ian Paisley's DUP agreeing to share power with the rest of us.

"While most people are justifiably sceptical about the DUP's intentions no one should be in any doubt about the limits to the DUP's options in the time ahead.

"Of course, Ian Paisley may decide not to participate in the power sharing government but what does that achieve in the longer term for his party or their constituents?

"It condemns them to living in a second-class society with second-class public services undermined by punitive fiscal policies administered by unaccountable British Ministers.

"Not only is that counterproductive but it will have no long term effect on Sinn Féin's efforts to develop our vision for the future. So the DUP's approach is limited to delaying tactics that may give the fundamentalists some respite in the short term but it will not stop the process of change.

"That process will continue including on an all-Ireland basis and across a myriad of cross-border measures and agreed partnership arrangements. If and when unionism decides to come back to the negotiating table in the future the progress that will have been made in those areas cannot and will not be undone or wished away.

"Irish republicans will be generous and magnanimous in our outreach to unionism because that has to be the mark of our vision which includes a view that orange and green can be united on the basis of equality. The demands of this time need more than King Canute like tactics. Unionism also needs to be generous and magnanimous." ENDS

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