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Martin McGuinness Addresses Kevin Lynch Commemoration

30 July, 2006

Sinn Fein MP for Mid-Ulster Martin McGuinness this afternoon addressed the annual Kevin Lynch commemoration in Dungiven. This year the commemoration was part of a weekend of events to mark the 25th Anniversary of the death on Hunger Strike of Kevin and his nine comrades.

On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week further events will be held to mark the anniversaries of Kevin Lynch and Kieran Doherty.

In the course of his address Mr McGuinness spoke of the inspiration which this generation of republicans has been given by the events of 1981 in Long Kesh and Armagh and of the obstacles which remain on our path towards Irish Unity and Independence.

Mr McGuinness aid:

"The prison struggle of the late 1970s and early 1980s were without any doubt a key moment in the Irish struggle for freedom and justice. And within that period the Hunger Strike of 1981 is of course the defining moment.

"The Hunger Strikers elevated the struggle for Irish freedom onto a level which even the British government of the time with all of its embassies and contacts across the globe could not compete with or contain. Thatcher truly believed that the republican struggle could be defeated within the H-Blocks and Armagh. But ultimately she went the way of all of her predecessors into a pretty inglorious retirement while the struggle for Irish Unity and Independence gathers pace and momentum with each day that passes.

"There are more republicans on this island today than there were in 1981. There is more support for our cause across the world now than in 1981. Both of these realities are direct results of what happened in Long Kesh between March and October of that year. Make no mistake about that.

"When the prisoners defeated Thatcher and her policies on the battleground that she chose a massive responsibility to drive forward the republican project passed to those of us on the outside. It was the men in Long Kesh and the women in Armagh who repopularised our struggle. In the midst of the anger and the sorrow of 1981 many people missed that fact. It was our task to harness that support and turn it into real political strength and leverage.

"The only monument worthy of the ten men who died and the 100s of others who endured the most savage and brutal of prison regimes in the years after March 1976 is to build the sort of free, just and independent country which will ensure that the injustices and inequalities of the past are banished into our history books forever. That is what our work is all about. The process of change as Thatcher found out to her cost in 1981 cannot be stopped by force of arms or by repressive and brutal laws. Neither can it be stopped by the opponents of change both inside and outside the system digging in now.

"Republicans know only one way and that is forward. We are not prepared to be diverted from the task at hand as we seek to advance our struggle in the face of many obstacles. But the lesson of 1981 is clear, no obstacle placed in the way of a well organised, disciplined and committed group of republicans is an obstacle that cannot be overcome.

"We in this leadership are about overcoming obstacles, overcoming obstacles on the path towards our objectives of a free, united, just and democratic country."ENDS

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