Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Sinn Féin West Belfast MP Gerry Adams remarks at Vigil for Harry Holland

13 September, 2007

Sinn Féin West Belfast MP Gerry Adams speaking at the Vigil for Harry Holland said:

"Let me begin by extending my, and this community's, deepest and heartfelt condolences and sympathies to Harry's wife Pauline; to their four daughters Meabh, Grainne, Sarah and Gail; to his mother Violet and his brothers and sisters; and to his mother-in-law Grace and the Devlin family.

The loss of any family member is always a difficult time for a family.

But in these terrible circumstances it is even more so.

I have known the Holland family for a very long time.

I want to begin by expressing my own personal sense of shock, deep sadness and anger.

I also know that if I feel like this, and I know my feelings are shared by this community, then Harry's clann feel a million times worse.

Harry was widely respected as a valued member of this community.

He supported a range of local causes, and for example he took a strong interest in what was happening to this site - the old Andersonstown RUC Barracks.

He was an Irish language enthusiast, a radical and internationalist.

He loved books. As his sister Geraldine put it, 'Our Harry had a good mind.'

Call into his shop and you were likely to be drawn into a conversation about the latest events here or anywhere in the world.

He loved music particularly jazz. He was also a Bob Dylan fan. And a good singer.

He was immensely proud of his daughters. Pauline said to me in the hospital the other night. 'He was a great father. Much loved by the girls and he knew it, which is brilliant'

Those who killed him have no concept of any of this.

Harry was very progressive in his ideas of how our community should deal with anti-social behaviour.

That includes the need for parents to face up to their responsibilities.

He would generally be prepared to give people, particularly young people every support. That is my position also.

But let me make it absolutely clear that what happened to Harry Holland is totally and absolutely unacceptable.

The perpetrators have to be held to account.

Those who murdered Harry Holland are not representative of the people of this area.

They are a very tiny minority out off step with the rest of us and with their own peer group, who are generally good young citizens.

Most of these thugs are known to the community, to the PSNI and to the various other criminal justice agencies.

They are repeat offenders.

The PSNI and criminal justice agencies have not taken the firm action that is required to effectively deal with these known criminals and thugs.

There is a popular view that these criminals can get away with anything.

This is not only a West Belfast or a republican view.

The delivery of good policing is a concern to people everywhere and the sense of scepticism is widespread.

We all have a responsibility to change that.

But the PSNI and the criminal justice agencies in particular must deliver.

Citizens have rights and entitlements. These include the right to protection from criminals.

Harry Holland and his family did not receive that protection.

Inevitably, there are those who use incidents like this to paint the people of west Belfast as 'lawless' or out of control.

West Belfast is not out of control. It is not a lawless community.

It is a good place to live.

The people of this area are decent, hardworking, law abiding respectable citizens.

It is also true that as a result of events like these there is a heightened fear among some sections of our people, particularly the elderly and the vulnerable.

Now is the time for us to reassure our neighbours, to strengthen community solidarity and to draw on our strengths.

This community was not cowed by decades of military occupation and repression.

We will not be put down or dictated to by the thugs who murdered Harry Holland.

We are ready and willing to stand against them.

For now, this evening, we stand with the Holland/Devlin family.

We stand with them at this time of great personal tragedy.

We cannot bring Harry back.

But we can stand up for him as he stood up for us.

Our message is straight forward. We want the criminals and the thugs off our streets." ENDS

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