Padraig MacLochlainn - 20th anniversary of Section 31
In recent weeks, we marked the 20th anniversary of the ending of the notorious Section 31 broadcasting laws.
For almost twenty years before January 1994, the conservative forces of this state sought to silence the voice of our party. No matter what the subject matter, the voice of a Sinn Féin spokesperson could not be heard on radio or television.
Not even Margaret Thatcher’s Tory Government went that far.
Young Irish men and women who found themselves engaged in armed struggle for their right to freedom and dignity, like so many other generations before them, were to be criminalised and demonised by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael led governments.
It was not enough to abandon the nationalist people of the Six Counties, when they rose up of their knees, they were to be shunned.
All the while, they would rewrite history and tell us that when Pádraig Pearse stood outside the GPO and proclaimed the Republic in Easter 1916, he actually meant the 26 Counties.
And that no terrible or regrettable acts took place in the War of Independence or the Civil War that followed.
Here’s the facts.
As you walk into Leinster House today, you see to your right a statue of Constance Markievicz in military uniform. In the main hall, there is a portrait of Michael Collins in military uniform. As you walk through the building, there is a Cathal Brugha portrait, you guessed it….. in military uniform.
Then we have the Dáil chamber itself, surrounded by statues or busts of the leaders of the 1916 violent uprising.
Leinster House is a shrine to violent conflict yet those who ruled from there, demanded that the nationalist people of the Six Counties, living in an Apartheid state, should take it lying down.
Let us be clear.
Irish Republicans gathered here from every corner of this Island regard Constance Markievicz and Mairead Farrell exactly the same and we regard Terence MacSwiney and Bobby Sands exactly the same.
All of the conflicts of the twentieth century on this island were tragic and regrettable. We are not triumphalist and we empathise with the families of all of those who lost their lives.
But we didn’t let Margaret Thatcher criminalise Bobby Sands and the 1981 Hungerstrikers and you can be damn sure that we will not let Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or anyone else criminalise them today.