Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Martin McGuinness proposing the Ard Chomhairle motion at the Extraordinary Ard Fheis

28 January, 2007

This is an historic day in the annals of Irish history in my view. We have put a motion to our delegates, to this body which we absolutely believe will move this process forward in a very dynamic way. It is a very carefully crafted motion and the Ard Chomhairle has deliberated on the motion and they have come from every part of Ireland. There are a number of amendments, some are acceptable, some are not. And some are not because they will distort everything we are trying to do.

Mary Lou McDonald who is seconding this motion will outline those we can accept and those we can't and give explanations.

Many of you know that in Good Friday Agreement negotiations we in Sinn Féin made policing a major issue. At that time senior members of the SDLP told some of our negotiators that there was no point in trying to get rid of the RUC and I remember Seamus Mallon telling me directly. in the company of British and Irish officials at Weston Park 'Martin demilitarization is your issue, it is not an issue for the SDLP' He was the MP for Newry and Armagh and representative for the hill top forts in South Armagh. The establishment of the Patten commission was one of the key negotiations breakthroughs in the Good Friday Agreement negotiations. It was a result of our pressure. Mandelson one of the worst Secretary of States every sent to the north and he gutted out the Patten recommendations in the legislation which was sent before the house of commons and we spent years getting the damage done by him reversed.

And now that we are satisfied that enough progress has been made we must accept that when you get what you are seeking in negotiations you have a decision to make. And it is a big decision.

Today is D day. Today is decision day as Sinn Féin moves decisively forward to deliver for Ireland, for Ireland's future, free and at peace. We do so against the backdrop of unprecedented confidence within nationalist and republican people in the north and throughout the island. I believe that the future is bright. The increasing political strength for Sinn Féin has seen nationalist and republican confidence at an all time high.

We have used and we will continue to use our considerable political strength to fundamentally change the old order north and south. We are the second largest part in the north, just a few % points behind the DUP and there is every possibility that Sinn Féin will be the largest political party in the north in the next five to ten years. To do that we must overtake the DUP. And what of the DUP. Well we have seen how the DUP negotiate over the course of the recent while. We have seen how they have failed to come up to the mark how they have failed to keep the promises that they made. Now we need to see action. We need to see action from the British Government and we need to see an Irish government energized on this issue.

Peter Hain talks about deadlines. Sometime I think they are just hain lines. He talks about twin pillars - power sharing and policing. That he will have to make a big decision about whether there will be an election in the north if Sinn Féin deal with the issue of policing and the DUP deal with the issue of power sharing. Well today I hope we will deal decisively with the issue of policing and I cope that Tony Blair and Peter Hain make it clear to Dr. Ian Paisley that yes the 28th of Jan 2007 is a big day for Sinn Féin but Monday 29th Jan is an even bigger day for Ian Paisley.

What of collusion. What we got this week was a collusion lesson for the slow learners of the SDLP. Nuala O'Loan's report confirms what we in Sinn Féin believed for over 30 years, that there was systematic British state repression and murder used against citizens in the north. And they all weren't catholics, nationalists and republicans. The lesson for Eddie McGrady, MP for South Down, to reflect on is his congratulations of the RUC on the day that Colin Marks, an unarmed IRA Volunteer was murdered in South Down.

And there have been many, many more. Also raises another important point -- the DUP rejection of the Nuala O'Loan report raises even more serious quesions about the DUP commitment to the rule of law and their refusal to accept that when law makers are law breakers there is no law.

One of the most interesting experiences in the course of my political life was when Gerry Adams appointed me Minister of Education in the north. I remember the journey to Rat house and the advise I was given on the road to Bangor -- with Ulster flags, Scottish flags, Israeli flags, British flags -- they are big on flags in many part of Bangor.

There is an important lesson for all of us, particularly in relation to how we deal with issue of policing. When I walked into ministerial office and the world press was there -- and I sat at my desk and I said to myself the most important thing I have to do now. The advice I had been given was that this was the most unionist department, the most unequal department in the north. And I decided from the word go, in a cordial way, in a nice way I had to show these people that I am the boss. And I said the priorities here in my time will be the abolition of the 11+, equal rights for parents who wish their children to be taught through medium of Irish. And parental choice for others who wish to have education through the catholic sector, the state controlled sector and the integrated sector and to do more for children with learning disabilities.

And that is what we have to do on policing. We have to boss policing. We are the bosses. We are the people with the political authority. We are the people with the electoral mandate. The PSNI are going to have to earn our trust. They aren't going to get it in the morning or straight after this vote. They are going to have to earn our trust. And they will know that they are the servants of the people not the other way around. Gerry Kelly talked about MI5. I'll tell you what I want the PSNI to do. I want the police to watch MI5, to spy on MI5 and to arrest MI5 when they break the law.

I'm also conscious when I hear that there are other groups who criticize us for the road we are taking. And I came through the door this morning and there were people who shouted unjust things, unpleasant things. I can take that. Because we come from a tradition, the IRA tradition, that fought the British Army and the RUC to a standstill. Yes the IRA fought the British and the RUC to a standstill and we are being criticized by groups who have yet to fight them to a start.

I make a clear distinction between the difficulties these people have with the approach we are adopting and I defend their right to be critical. I defend their right to have their say. There are others within the process who are hurting and they come from within our tradition. There are families of IRA volunteers out there and others who are hurting as a result to of this debate.

We gathered together representatives of about 40 families of IRA volunteers who died in Derry City last Monday evening. And there was huge turnout -- hundreds came and I spent several hours with them. At the beginning of the meeting the representative of one family stood up and read out a protest and a small number of people from that family left the room. Everybody else stayed. But they left. As they went out the door my heart went out the door with them but my head remained in the room. That is what leadership is about. So today the eyes of the world are on us and most people are willing us on. The key priority for us when we leave today is to touch base with all those families who are hurting, to continue to work with them and I believe ultimately people will see the value and the sense of the direction that we are now taking. That is a job of work for everybody in this room.

And the eyes of the world are on us and people are willing us on. So too are the eyes of British securocrats and NIO in Belfast and the eyes of the human rights abusers and DUP rejectionists are on this hall today.

They are watching this Ard Fheis with great fear and trepidation. What result do you think they want from here today. They want us to use their favourite word. They want a resounding no. So let us use this Ard Fheis give them what they fear most a resounding Irish republican yes.

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