Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Adams - Bringing rejectionist unionism into the peace process would be an enormous achievement

15 October, 2006


Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking at a commemoration in Belfast to
mark the 30th Anniversary for IRA Volunteers Joey Surgeoner, Paul Marlowe
and Francie Fitzsimmons who were killed in an explosion in the gasworks in
October 1976.  Mr. Adams said OBringing rejectionist unionism into the peace
process would be an enormous achievement. Our endeavour is to make peace
with Ian Paisley and those he represents because we are avowedly
anti-sectarian. We are prepared to make peace.  Our watchword is equality.
Equality includes those citizens represented by the DUP.
 

'...I want to ask everyone here today, and republicans the length and
breadth of the country to be part of our efforts to plot a way forward. That
does not mean that we cannot disagree with each other. Of course we can and
we should when appropriate and be secure in our right to dissent.
 

We are a democratic community of activists and all of us must take ownership
of this process.

So far no one has agreed to these proposals except the British Prime
Minister and the Taoiseach. Issues of this importance, with such major
implications, require careful study. They need comradely debate and thorough
discussion. 

Our leadership will consult with our party membership and the wider
republican community to see if these proposals contain the potential to
resolve outstanding issues and deliver the full implementation of the Good
Friday Agreement. 

We need to do this calmly and with political maturity but critically, if
Sinn Fein is to respond positively to these proposals they must have the
potential to deliver equality, accountable civic policing, human rights and
the full restoration of the institutions.

The party leadership will meet in the coming days to start this process when
I will brief the Ard Chomhairle.

And Sinn Féin will also continue to discuss these and other related matters
with the two governments. There is still much work to be done.'

Full text

 

Let me begin by commending all of those involved in organising today¹s
event.  I also want to thank all of you who came here today.  We are very
proud of our patriot dead and commemorations like this allow us to honour
their memory, reflect on their lives and courage in struggle, reminisce
about our friends, and remember that each was a son and a brother, a
husband.

 

And so it is with IRA Volunteers Joey Surgenor, Francie Fitzsimons and Paul
Marlow.

 

I want to especially thank their families. Joey was a single man. Francie
was married with two children and Paul was married with 3 children.

 

We owe you the families a huge debt of gratitude. We are proud of you, as we
are proud of your loved ones.

 

They were brave IRA Volunteers who like thousands of other men and women
took up arms to defend their families and community, and to resist British
oppression and injustice.

 

Their aim, like Tone and Emmet, Pearse and Connolly, was to establish a new
Ireland, a free Ireland, a United Ireland in which orange and green can live
together in peace and harmony.

 

Joey, Francie and Paul were deeply committed to this struggle. All three had
been in prison and had returned to the struggle on their release. Paul and I
spent some time in Cage 6 in Long Kesh. He was in the bed next to me until
he got out. He was one of the good guys. So were his two comrades. They were
well known in their districts as decent, honest young men.

 

They had no illusions about the strength of the enemy or its determination
to smash republicanism. All were seasoned Volunteers who had been in the
front line of battle.

 

7 months before their deaths the British government had removed political
status. The H Blocks were open for business.

 

The British policy of criminalisation was in full swing as the Labour
government of that time tried to convince the people of the Short Strand,
the Markets and the Lower Ormeau that Joey, Francie and Paul and their
comrades were criminals. It was a propaganda battle the British could never
win.

 

The people of the Short Strand, the Markets and the Lower Ormeau have
endured much hardship at the hands of the Unionist regime and the British
military machine.

 

Sectarian attacks by loyalist death squads have taken its toll. All
Catholics were legitimate targets and up until recently these neighbourhoods
were burying loved ones killed by sectarian death squads.

 

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the killing of Sheena Campbell. She was a
young mother and a Sinn Féin activist.  I mention Sheena because tomorrow is
her anniversary but I am mindful of all those who have been killed.

 

The IRA in this part of our city also lost other volunteers but despite this
it remained strong and resolute. But the IRA could not have existed without
popular support.

 

That support saw ordinary families run enormous risks to feed and clothe and
shelter and protect IRA Volunteers. Without doubt the republican people of
these neighbourhoods are unbowed and unbroken. But the IRA is not merely an
army of soldiers; it is an army of political activists.

 

In every successful liberation struggle there is a phase of reconstruction,
of securing peace with justice, of national reconciliation, of nation
building. This requires negotiation and outreach. It demands patience and
generosity. To move from one phase of struggle is not only a matter of
political judgement and strategic or tactical planning. It requires
political courage.

 

The IRA cessation in 1994 demonstrated that courage. Army men and women took
decisions which provided a space in which a peace process could be
developed. Again and again and again republicans have demonstrated
commitment to that peace process.

 

The decisions last year by the IRA to end its armed campaign and to deal
with the issue of weapons were truly historic and represented a brave and
confident initiative. It was a momentous and defining point in the search
for a lasting peace with justice.

And it opened up the possibility of making significant progress. It also
presented a significant challenge to the British and Irish governments and
to the Unionists, as well as to republicans.

 

And Sinn Féin has worked hard to seize the opportunities created by the IRA.
Today Irish republicanism is stronger and there are more Irish republicans
on this island than at any time since partition.  We have to continue to
build political strength as we advance our republican goals of independence
and freedom.  But with political strength comes a responsibility to deliver
for the people we represent. Our responsibility is also to see beyond our
own support base. And we take these responsibilities very seriously.

 

I know that many of you have been watching the events of this week closely.
I know that many of you are concerned by developments. Concerned about the
role of the governments.

 

Concerned about the issue of policing and concerned about the commitment of
the DUP to properly participate in a power sharing government with Sinn
Féin. I share these concerns. Sinn Féin shares these concerns but we have a
responsibility to build on the opportunities created by the republican
strategies of the last three decades.

 

Our objectives in this round of negotiations were to protect the advances
made our struggle and to secure the restoration of the power-sharing and
all-Ireland political institutions set out in the Good Friday Agreement.
What does that mean?

 

It means moving the anti-Agreement DUP to a position where they are
prepared, for the first time ever, to accept power-sharing with Irish
republicans and to participate in all-Ireland political arrangements.

 

That's a big challenge for them and for us. Bringing rejectionist unionism
into the peace process would be an enormous achievement.

 

It's not that long ago that unionism treated nationalists as second class
citizens.

 

People of my age and older will remember the 6th of June 1966 when Ian
Paisley led a parade through this district. Local residents were beaten out
of Cromac Square by the RUC. The target on that day for Ian Paisley was the
Presbyterian General Assembly. The Governor of ONorthern Ireland¹ was
attacked by these loyalists.

 

Ian Paisley was subsequently imprisoned. There was serious rioting and
attacks on catholic owned property throughout unionist parts of the city. A
number of Catholic people were also killed in that month.  And all of this
was before what is called OThe Troubles¹.

 

So it is a big concession by republicans to share power with the DUP.

 

Remember it¹s not so long ago that Ian Paisley was vowing to smash Sinn
Féin.  He failed miserably in that enterprise.

 

Our endeavour is to make peace with him and those he represents because we
are avowedly anti-sectarian. We are prepared to make peace.  Our watchword
is equality. Equality includes those citizens represented by the DUP.

 

We are Irish republicans. We are first class citizens. Those we represent
are first class citizens and we will have our rights and entitlements.

 

Last Friday the two governments set out their proposals.

 

I want to ask everyone here today, and republicans the length and breadth of
the country to be part of our efforts to plot a way forward.

 

Let me remind everyone here that negotiations have been an integral part of
our struggle, of your struggle for some time. What we achieve we achieve
together as we move forward in a united and cohesive way.


That does not mean that we cannot disagree with each other. Of course we can
and we should when appropriate and be secure in our right to dissent.

 

We are a democratic community of activists and all of us must take ownership
of this process.

 

So far no one has agreed to these proposals except the British Prime
Minister and the Taoiseach.

 

Issues of this importance, with such major implications, require careful
study. They need comradely debate and thorough discussion.

 

Our leadership will consult with our party membership and the wider
republican community to see if these proposals contain the potential to
resolve outstanding issues and deliver the full implementation of the Good
Friday Agreement.

 

We need to do this calmly and with political maturity but critically, if
Sinn Fein is to respond positively to these proposals they must have the
potential to deliver equality, accountable civic policing, human rights and
the full restoration of the institutions.

 

The party leadership will meet in the coming days to start this process when
I will brief the Ard Chomhairle.

 

And Sinn Féin will also continue to discuss these and other related matters
with the two governments.

 

There is still much work to be done.

 

Of course, the DUP will try to portray any movement by them as a series of
unionist victories. That is only to be expected. If there is to be agreement
by the DUP to the governments proposals they will be sold by them in these
terms. And probably in language that many people will find objectionable.

 

But we have to be more mature than that.

 

As Bobby Sands, said,² Our victory will be the liberation of all².

 

If there is any potential for victory in these proposals it must be a
victory not for one party over another, not for one section of our people
over another, it must be a victory, as Bobby said for all.

 

So Irish republicans will, and must, judge these proposals on whether they
can move us nearer to the Ireland that we have struggled so long to achieve.

 

The Irish government too has a particular responsibility.

 

If the peace process is going to advance, if the promise of the Good Friday
Agreement is to be realized then the Irish government needs to look beyond
its own narrow interests.

 

It needs to think in terms of the national interest ­ that is the interests
of all the people of this island.

 

It needs to look at nationalists and unionists in the Six Counties as fellow
countrymen and women.

 

This will involve a major change in mindset by the conservative parties in
Leinster House. 

 

It means no longer taking decisions that stop at Dundalk but living up to
the often used rhetoric of Irish republicanism and talk of a United Ireland.

 

The Sinn Féin project is straightforward.

 

We are about ending domination, division, discrimination and British rule in
our country. We are about delivering a better Ireland for all of our people.

 

We are about equality, justice, freedom and peace. We are about a future for
all the Irish people, nationalist and unionist alike which puts the conflict
and injustice of the past behind us.

 

Standing here today I see many who have been involved in this struggle for
more years than we care to remember. I also see many young people.

 

In the time ahead we need you to join with us in advancing the republican
goals.

 

But today is also a day for remembering Joey, Francie and Paul, who along
with hundreds of others gave their lives that we might be free.

 

In their time the only way to demand our national rights was through armed
actions or support for armed actions. That was an option not least because
all other options were brutally closed down by the British state in Ireland,
by the Orange state in which Ian Paisley was a critical influence.

 

Joey, Francie and Paul responded to that. Now there are other options. Now
we are in a phase of transition from an unacceptable form of society towards
a national republic.

 

This will continue to challenge us. Have no doubt about that.

 

We are also mindful that we would not be where we are today if it were not
for the sacrifices of those we commemorate. Their absence reminds us of how
much we and particularly their families have lost.  Each one was a unique,
irreplaceable human being.

 

These were ordinary men and women who in extraordinary and difficult
circumstances found the inner strength, determination and courage to stand
against injustice and oppression, to demand the rights and entitlements of
the Irish people.

 

Our task - our duty - is to make their vision their dream - a reality.

 


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