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Speech by Gerry Adams to the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, 5 March 2005



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Text: Gerry Adams ... Page compiled: Martin Melaugh

Speech by Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin, to the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, Dublin, 5 March 2005.

 

"A chairde

Seo bliain an chomóradh Céad Bliain ar an tsaol do Sinn Féin.

Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh gach duine atá anseo inniu, na hoifigigh, an ceannaireacht, na baill uilig agus chomh maith leis sin ár gcairde ón tír seo agus thar lear.

Tá súil agam go bhfuil sibh ag baint sult as an chaint agus dióspoireacht thar an deireadh seachtaine.

I want to welcome all of you here to this very unique gathering, the Ard Fheis, in the centenary year, of the only all-Ireland political party on this island.

An Céad - Centenary Year

100 years ago Sinn Féin was founded in this city.

This year Irish republicans will celebrate that event in every part of this island and beyond and begin preparations to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strikes. It will be a year of education and debate. It will be a year in which we will further advance the work of re-popularising Irish republicanism.

When the idea of Sinn Féin was conceived Ireland was awakening from the nightmare of the 19th century. But even in the midst of these horrors some dared to dream of a different Ireland -- a free Ireland. And from the beginning Sinn Féin extended a hand of friendship to unionists, while always asserting that the end of the Union was in the interests of all the people of this island.

It was a time of renewal and rebirth. It was a great period of debate, of exchanges of ideas as leaders and thinkers and activists, dreamers all, met and influenced each other. The result was the 1916 Rising and the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, the founding document of modern Irish Republicanism and a charter of liberty with international as well as national importance.

It is our task -- our responsibility -- to see this vision realised.

I want to greet our international visitors, our delegates, members and activists and our Friends of Sinn Féin from the United States, Australia and Canada who do such a great job for us. I want to extend a particular céad míle failte to our team of MLAs, our MPs, our TDs, and especially to all the councillors elected here in the south since our last Ard Fheis.

I want to particularly commend Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, the other TDs and our entire Leinster House team for the sterling service they give to this party. I want to thank you all, particularly those who stood as candidates for our party, whether you were elected or not. Pearse Doherty represents you all. His campaign is proof of what can be done.

And I want to thank everyone who votes for us and all our members and activists for all the work you are doing. There are others I want to welcome to the Ard Fheis. Annie Cahill, here in her own right but reminding us also of our friend and leader Joe Cahill.

A special welcome also to our two newly elected MEPs.You will see that there are changes in our national officer board. I want to thank Robbie Smith for his work as Ard Runaí and welcome Mitchel McLaughlin into that position. And I want to welcome Mary Lou McDonald who will be taking on the challenge of the Cathaoirleach, or National Chair of Sinn Féin.

Comhaghairdeas mór d'achan duine a thug vóta agus cuidíu dúinn sna toghcháin le bliain anuas. Comhaghairdeas d'ár n-iarrthóirí uilig.

I want this evening to deal fairly and squarely with some issues, which are of huge importance to us.

The Murder of Robert McCartney

I want to deal first of all with the dreadful murder of Robert McCartney. His murder was dreadful, not only because of the way he died and not only because it robbed his family of a father, a partner, a brother, a son. His murder was dreadful because it is alleged some republicans were involved in it.

That makes this a huge issue for us.

As President of Sinn Féin or as an individual I could not campaign for the victims of British or unionist paramilitary thuggery, if I was not as clear and as committed to justice for the McCartney family.

I have met with the McCartney family a number of times. And I remain in contact with them. I believe their demand for justice and truth is a just demand. I have pledged them my support and the support of this party.

Those responsible for the brutal killing of Robert McCartney should admit to what they did in a court of law. That is the only decent thing for them to do. Others with any information should come forward. I am not letting this issue go until those who have sullied the republican cause are made to account for their actions.

Republicans Reject Criminality

Twenty five years ago Margaret Thatcher couldn't criminalise us. The women prisoners in Armagh and the blanketmen and the hunger strikers in Long Kesh wouldn't allow her. That was then; this is now.

Michael McDowell has stepped into Margaret Thatcher's shoes. But he will not criminalise us either, because we will not allow him. And we won't allow anyone within republican ranks to criminalise this party or this struggle. There is no place in republicanism for anyone involved in criminality.

Our detractors will say we have a particular view of what criminality is. We have not. We know what a crime is both in the moral and legal sense, and our view is the same as the majority of people. We know that breaking the law is a crime.

But we refuse to criminalise those who break the law in pursuit of legitimate political objectives. Are we saying republicans can do no wrong? Of course not. We need to be as strong minded in facing up to wrong doing by republicans, as we are in opposing wrong doing by anyone else. But we refuse to retrospectively criminalise a legitimate century long struggle for freedom.

Campaigning for Irish unity

Sinn Féin is accused of recognising the Army Council of the IRA as the legitimate government of this island. That is not the case. The supreme governing and legislative body of Sinn Féin is the Ard Fheis. This is where this party makes its big decisions. This is where we elect our leadership, agree our policies and set in place our strategies.

I do not believe that the Army Council is the government of Ireland. Such a government will only exist when all the people of this island elect it. Does Sinn Féin accept the institutions of this state as the legitimate institutions of this state? Of course we do. But we are critical of these institutions. We are entitled to be.

The freedom won by those, who gave their lives in 1916 and in other periods, has been squandered by those who attained political power on their backs.

Apart from our criticism of the institutions themselves the reality is that they are partitionist and we want to see not only better institutions but open, transparent institutions of government representative of all the people of this island - and we make no apologies for that.

Do we accept partition? No, we do not accept partition. Do we accept British rule in our country? No, we do not. Do we want a United Ireland? Yes.

Last week we launched our campaign for the Irish government to bring forward a Green Paper on Irish Unity. There is a need for Irish people to engage on the shape, form and nature that a re-united Ireland will take. We want to see a grass roots discussion on all these issues. We want the government to formalise that debate and to fulfil its constitutional obligation.

Ba mhaith linn daoine ó gach cearn den tír seo Doire go Corcaigh, Baile Atha Cliath go Gaillimh, Ciarraí go Crossmaglen labhairt faoi seo.

Our opponents claim that our party is a threat to this state. We are a threat to those who preside over growing hospital waiting lists, a two tier health service, a housing crisis, a transport crisis and much more, all within an economy which is one of the wealthiest in Europe. We are a threat to those who believe that inequality is a good thing.

Partitionism is deeply ingrained within elements of the political establishment. It could not be otherwise after over 80 years. We are a threat to those who want to see partition sustained and maintained, because it protects the status quo. We are a threat to those who oppose the peace process. We are a threat to vested interests. We make no apologies for any of this. The threat we pose is entirely democratic and peaceful.

The threat we pose is the radical, progressive, political party we are building right across the island of Ireland. The threat we pose comes from the genuine allegiance and voluntary support of increasing numbers of people who want a very different society from that envisaged by those in government or opposition in the south or from within the old power blocs in the north.

The Peace Process in Crisis

We are people in struggle. We are a party, which prides itself on our ability to face up to challenges and find solutions. We need to be forthright therefore in recognising the depth of the crisis in the peace process and the shared responsibility for this.

Almost a year ago, speaking in Ballymun I warned that the Irish government was actively considering the exclusion of Sinn Féin from the political process. I warned that it was actively considering going back to the old agenda - to the failed policies and the crude politics of negative campaigning.

I made a direct appeal to Fianna Fáil members and supporters, and to nationalists and republicans the length and breadth of this island to join with us in reasserting the primacy of the peace process.

Why did I make those remarks at that time? I did so because at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis Minister after Minister lined up to attack Sinn Féin. And it was the same at all the other party conferences.

This had been their disposition since Sinn Féin's gains in the general election of May 2002, and the establishments defeat in the Nice Treaty referendum in 2001. So, they didn't want to talk about hospital closures, the lack of affordable housing, sub-standard schools, Irish sovereignty, the crumbling peace process, or the fact that their republicanism ends at the border.

Níor mhaith leo labhairt fá na scanallacha, fá na clúdaigh donna agus na deacrachtaí dá bpáirtí féin.

They didn't want to talk about endless lists of broken promises. What they were very focused on was the upcoming local government and European Union elections. And it wasn't just Minister McDowell, though he was leading the charge.

Remember the Taoiseach's relief when Nicky Kehoe just missed a seat by only 74 votes - in the Taoiseach's own constituency. That was the election when the PDs said that Fianna Fáil was too corrupt and too dishonest to be in government, before going on to join them in government.

In November 2003 Sinn Féin moved into becoming the largest pro-Agreement party in the north. That followed a lengthy negotiation which commenced after our negotiating team had obtained a firm commitment to a date for the postponed Assembly elections from the British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The Irish government deeply resented our success in achieving that. Getting the British government to recognise that right was an achievement but it was not the aim of our negotiations. It was a necessary prerequisite for them.

The aim of the negotiations was to get the Good Friday Agreement moving forward, anchored in the political institutions, including the Assembly, and the all-Ireland political infrastructure.

Both governments doubted that David Trimble could be brought to embrace those concepts in the negotiations of that time. But in talks in Hillsborough Castle between the Sinn Féin leadership and the leadership of the UUP Mr. Trimble agreed to do just that. He agreed to play a full part in the political institutions, in the context of the IRA putting arms beyond use once again. And Tony Blair knows this. And Bertie Ahern knows this.

The IRA put arms beyond use - for a third time. And I outlined a peaceful direction for everyone to follow. But as is now infamously known Mr. Trimble walked away from that commitment following General de Chastelain's press conference. Mr. Trimble wasn't on his own. The Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister walked away as well.

The Old Consensus

Of course by now Dublin was accusing us of being in a 'power process' not a peace process. The election of Mary Lou McDonald and Bairbre de Brún and the surge of support for Sinn Féin in the local government contests across this state was the last straw for the establishment. The old consensus re-emerged.

Dhruid siad na ranganna agus thosaigh siad ag díriú isteach ar poblachtánaigh arís, ag ionsaí orthu sa phreas agus sa Dáil.

The leaderships of the Labour Party and Fine Gael have never been comfortable with the peace process. Now they colluded, once again, in a vicious anti-Sinn Féin agenda, and Fianna Fáil Ministers increasingly borrowed the invective of Michael McDowell's rhetoric. At the same time the DUP had emerged as the largest party in the north.

Working for a New Agreement

At Bodenstown last year I pointed out that the only way for Sinn Féin to meet these challenges was through putting together an inclusive agreement. I spelt out the need for republicans to take initiatives to bring about completion of the issues of policing and justice, the issues of armed groups and arms, and the issues of human rights, equality and sectarianism.

I also spelt out the need for full participation in the political institutions by the unionists. Our objective was clear. To restore the political institutions and end the crisis in the process. At that time the governments had bought into a DUP timeframe and put off negotiations until September.

It was left to republicans over the summer months, along with some brave people from unionist neighbourhoods, to keep the peace over the Orange marching season. And we accomplished this because of the courage of our representatives, including Gerry Kelly, even when the British Secretary of State Paul Murphy, the PSNI and the British parachute regiment pushed an unwelcome Orange march through Ardoyne.

I don't think a lot of republicans took me seriously when I pointed up the need for us to push for a comprehensive holistic agreement - and with good reason.

That good reason was Ian Paisley.

Republicans and everyone else, including many within the DUP, could not envisage a scenario where Ian Paisley would want to share power with the rest of us. Our objective was to create the conditions in which Ian Paisley would join with the rest of us in the new dispensation set out in the Good Friday Agreement.

It wasn't that he would want to. Of course, he doesn't want to. Our intention was to ensure that he had no option - if he wanted political power, he had to share it with us. It was also my view that unionism was using the IRA as an excuse to prevent progress in the peace process. I said that in an unrehearsed remark. And I went on to say that republicans needed to remove that excuse from them.

Difficult Negotiations

As November moved into December Ian Paisley, for the first time in his lengthy political career, was being challenged by the willingness of the Sinn Féin leadership to use our influence once again to resolve the problems which he was putting up as obstacles to progress, and as a condition for his participation in the structures of the Good Friday Agreement.

These negotiations were the most difficult that I have been involved in. Not least because of the approach of the British and Irish governments. They bought into the Paisleyite agenda at every turn.

Sinn Féin's approach was two fold. We were trying to get the DUP on board. We were also trying to ensure that any proposals from the governments, and any agreement emerging from these discussions was rooted firmly in the Good Friday Agreement.

At the beginning of these negotiations the governments agreed that if the DUP was not up for a deal then the two governments would come forward with proposals to move the process forward.

Tá muid ag fanacht leis na moltaí sin go fóill.

By this time republicans were starting to get increasingly nervous. Even the cynical and dubious were starting to contemplate the possibility that Paisley might; just might do a deal. That wasn't why they were nervous. They were nervous about the price which was being demanded. They were grappling with the issue of policing alongside other issues.

It is my view that we would have risen to these challenges in the context of an agreement even though they created profound difficulties for us. And what was the contribution from republicans?

The IRA leadership had agreed, in the context of a comprehensive agreement:

· to support a comprehensive agreement by moving into a new mode which reflects its determination to see the transition to a totally peaceful society

· to give instructions to all its volunteers not to engage in any activity which might endanger that agreement

· to conclude the process to completely and verifiably putting all their arms beyond use, speedily, and if possible, by the end of December

· to allow two clergymen to be present as observers during this process to further enhance public confidence.

Policing

I also agreed in a given context to ask the Ard Chomhairle to call a special Ard Fheis to consider our attitude to the PSNI. Policing is a key issue. In our view it can only be conducted as a public service by those who are democratically accountable. And while progress has been made over recent years the PSNI has not yet been brought to that point.

Sinn Féin is actively working to create an accountable policing service. We support a range of restorative justice and community initiatives to deal with the problems created by the absence of an acceptable policing service in the north.

Let me digress briefly to make an important point. The policing vacuum cannot be filled by physical punishments, no matter how frustrated communities may be by those who engage in anti-social behaviour. There is no place for so called punishment beatings or shootings. Our party has a lengthy opposition to these. They are counter productive. They should stop.

This party was also prepared to share power with the DUP. That remains our position. There is no reason not to. We respect their mandate. We got them to accept the Good Friday Agreement. For their part the two governments pledged to honour commitments made repeatedly by them in the past on a range of outstanding and important issues of rights, demilitarisation, equality, prisoners and so on. Then it all came unstuck.

Thit achan rud as a chéile, agus tá sé ina smidiríní go fóill.

Ian Paisley delivered his 'acts of humiliation' speech. Mr. Paisley's desire to "humiliate republicans"; to have republicans "wear sack cloth and ashes"; and the DUP's constant use of offensive language, was not and is not the language of peace making. For many across nationalist and republican Ireland this was too much. Especially when the governments supported the DUP position that the IRA be photographed putting their arms beyond use.

Ian Paisley didn't even have to negotiate for this demand. The two governments supported it from the beginning. It was a demand, not surprising, that Sinn Féin could not deliver. A partnership of equals can never be delivered or built through a process of humiliation. The governments went ahead and launched their draft outline of a comprehensive agreement, even though there was no agreement.

New negotiations

You will recall that the two governments gave a commitment at the beginning of this negotiation to find a way forward if there was a failure to get a deal. So Sinn Féin and the British government entered into new talks. The Irish government should have been there. But the Irish government refused to attend. The British government set out their views. They agreed to talk to the Irish government to try and agree a joint government paper and bring it back to us.

We gave the British government written proposals of what we thought was required, and we sent a copy to the Irish government. The British drafted a written response to this and when Mr. Blair met the Taoiseach in Brussels they discussed these matters. But at our next meeting the British told us that the Irish government would not agree a paper with them, did not want them to present any paper to us, and had reservations about this approach.

During this period I was constantly in contact with the Taoiseach's department and the government was eventually persuaded to send senior officials to a trilateral meeting. It was a good meeting even though the officials were only there as observers.

The Northern Bank Robbery

After that meeting we broke for Christmas. Then came news of the Northern Bank robbery. The IRA is accused of that robbery. And of other incidents. It denies this. I accept those denials. Others don't. The truth is that no one knows at this time who did the robbery, except the people involved.

Martin McGuinness and I were accused by the Taoiseach of having prior knowledge. That is untrue. But one thing is for certain activities like this have no place in the peace process. The rest is history or what passes for history in these McCarthyite times.

Sending a Clear Message

Just two months ago the process was close to a deal which many thought was not possible. Now the momentum is going the other way. As a first step in trying to move the process out of this crisis I want to send a very, very clear message to everyone. That message is that the peace process is the only way forward.

I do not underestimate the depth of the crisis or the difficulties. But I am absolutely certain that there is a way beyond this crisis.

Níl aon bhealach eile, is cuma cé chomh deacair is atá sé, caithfidh muid an phróiseas a chur le chéile aris.

The peace process is our struggle

Republicans must make sure that we recognise failures in the process quickly; that we assess them; that we criticise ourselves were necessary; that we learn what has to be learned and emerge stronger and more able to fulfil our historic mission. It is by learning from failures that we will find the way forward. We will learn to improve and strenthen our struggle. And let me make it clear the peace process is our struggle.

It is as a result of our tenacity that the balance of forces has changed on this island to the extent that the conservative parties are now seeking to stunt and to stop the growth of the main vehicle of republican struggle - that is Sinn Féin.

I am also very conscious that a lot of the effort to damage Sinn Féin is through targeting me and others in our national leadership. Our opponents are trying to damage my credibility on the premise that your credibility and our ability to pursue our objectives, will be damaged also.

In the normal cut and thrust of party politics let me tell you that I would not put up with these highly personalised attacks. I would not put up with the campaign of vilification by those who are interested only in petty or narrow-minded party political concerns. It isn't worth it. But this isn't about me, it is about the peace process. I have no personal political ambitions. That is not a criticism of those who do

But the peace process is bigger than party politics. So is the right of the people of this island to live together in freedom and in peace and with justice. That is why I am an Irish republican. I believe the people of this island - orange and green united - can order our own affairs better than any British government. That is our right. That is our entitlement. That is why I have given my life to this struggle. That is why I take my responsibilities so seriously.

The national responsibility of the Irish government

There is a heavy responsibility on the Irish government. It needs to demonstrate that it is as committed to change as its rhetoric implies. The Taoiseach needs to consider whether the invective of his own Ministers and some of his own remarks are creating the atmosphere necessary for constructive engagement. He needs to consider whether his government's current strategy is the right way to go forward. Such approaches were tried in the past - they failed.

We have always worked in good faith with the Taoiseach - for over a decade now. I have acknowledged his contribution and I do so again. The peace process was never above politics but it should always be above party politics. Every party has their own view of how things could go forward - inside and outside the negotiations. That's fair enough.

Of course there are disagreements. But there was a sense of nationalists working together. That while we may disagree on tactics we were going in the same direction. All that has changed. Because in the script written by the Irish and British establishments Sinn Féin was never meant to be anything more than a bit player.

The fact that we are now the largest pro-Agreement party in the north and the third largest party on the island has changed the dynamic of politics here. Of course the government wants the process to succeed, but now its trying to do this solely on its terms.

The IRA

The British and Irish governments are seeking to reduce all of the issues to one - that is the issue of the IRA - even though it knows that the IRA is not the only issue. Historically and in essence the Irish Republican Army is a response to British rule in Ireland. It is a response to deep injustice.

In contemporary terms it is evidence of the failure of politics in the north and a consequence of the abandonment by successive Irish governments of nationalists in that part of our country. And let me be clear about this.

Our leadership is working to create the conditions where the IRA ceases to exist. Do I believe this can be achieved? Yes I do. But I do not believe that the IRA can be wished away, or ridiculed or embarrassed or demonised or repressed out of existence.

Hundreds of IRA Volunteers have fallen in the struggle. There is justifiable pride among republican families about the role of their loved ones. When people decided to take up arms it was because they believed there was no alternative. But there is an alternative. That is a positive. It is in tatters at this time. But it can be rebuilt. That is another positive. The IRA cessation continues. That also is a positive. The IRA has demonstrated time and again its willingness to support genuine efforts to secure Irish freedom by peaceful means. Another positive. I do not underestimate the difficulties.

I take nothing for granted. But let no-one ignore, diminish or belittle the progress that has been made.

Republicans are up for the Challenge

Thug sé dóchas agus ardú meanma do glún iomlán de muintir na h'Éireann -- thuaidh agus theas.

The peace process has been one of the greatest achievements of this generation. And I'm not just talking about the republican contribution - though that should not be undervalued or dismissed. As Irish republicans we believe in independence and self-determination for the people of this island. So we see beyond the process to that achievable goal.

But we take pride also in our achievements thus far. And we are determined to play a positive role both in the process and in the political life of this nation. Sinn Féin wants to tackle the problems now. It has never been in our interest to prolong the peace process. It does not serve those we represent or the country as a whole.

A process as protracted as this one runs the risk of being undermined by those who are against change. Elements of the British system, elements of unionism and unionist paramilitaries, elements on the fringes of republicanism, do not want this process to succeed.

Sinn Féin is battling against all these - day in and day out in parts of the north. And we're not about to give up. We know that as long as we make progress toward the achievement of our goals those who fundamentally disagree with those goals will resort to foul means or fair to deny us the possibility of moving forward.

So this is not a time for republicans to be inward looking. It is a time for forward thinking. Our opponents now have a project. Despite their protestations it is not about tackling criminality. It is about eroding our integrity and credibility among those people who are thinking of joining this party or voting for us. It's as cynical as that.

Sinn Féin has used our influence with the IRA in a positive way. I believe there is merit in us continuing to do this. But we cannot make peace on our own.

We cannot implement the Good Friday Agreement on our own. We cannot establish a working viable power sharing government on our own. We cannot resolve the outstanding issues of policing, and demilitarisation, and equality and human rights on our own. The British and Irish governments and the unionists have their parts to play. Whatever else happens the peace process is our priority.

Inevitably that will mean more hard choices, more hard decisions for Irish republicans as we push ahead with our political project and as we seek to achieve a United Ireland.

Those who want fundamental change have to stretch the furthest and take the greatest risks. Let us continue, despite the difficulties -- to reach out to unionism to build a just and lasting peace on our island.

Ian Paisley says he is willing to share power with us. Let us test him. Again. We know it will be a battle a day. We know as the leading nationalist party in the north and the largest pro-Agreement party, that there are huge responsibilities on us. We are up to that task.

Building an Ireland of equals

Fundamental to Sinn Féin since its foundation has been the belief that the Irish people have the capacity to shape our own society, to build our own economy and to govern our own country to suit our needs and our character as a nation.

The past decade has seen an unprecedented growth in the Irish economy. But the management of that economy by the Government in this State has not challenged the deep-seated inequality in Irish society. This inequality exists at many levels.

For example, people with disabilities have no legislative rights, and the Celtic Tiger stops at the border. The north survives on susbsidies from the British Exchequer and with some of the highest levels of poverty in Western Europe. Throughout the rest of Ireland the gap between rich and poor has widened.

It is a scandal that 15% of children under 15 in this State suffer from poverty - in other words they live in households that struggle every week to provide the basics such as food, clothing and heating.

The public services which working people pay for through taxation have been mismanaged, badly planned and neglected by successive Governments.

Our health services are limping from crisis to crisis, especially in the disgraceful state of accident and emergency units. Because of underfunding and lack of resources our education system is struggling to cope.

Children with special needs are not provided with the facilities they require. The Fianna Fáil/PD government has no housing policy. It leaves it all to private developers to reap big profits as housing prices spiral beyond the reach of people on average incomes. Those with a mortgage face decades of debt.

Many find themselves in badly planned new housing estates without schools, public transport or childcare.

The government has not used the prosperity wisely for the benefit of the maximum number of people. In fact the court recently ruled that deductions taken from old peoples pensions in state homes is illegal. This practice was defended by the Tanaiste but in truth all the other parties allowed it as did successive governments over the years. It is still not clear how much was robbed from these senior citizens but the government's own estimates put it between 500million and 2billion EURO.

So the government has not invested in the people or in the future.

Chuir siad na milliún punt amú le cúig bliana déag anuas.

It's time for Change. But we all know this. We know the failures of successive governments - the point is to find the solutions.

And that is what Sinn Féin is about. We are working with people to bring about real change for the better in the here and now - not at some distant time in the future. And we measure our success by the amount of positive change we have brought about.

For example, after Sinn Féin's success the Government has rediscovered its social conscience. Or at least it now recognises the key social and economic issues that Sinn Féin has been campaigning on.

They have yet to properly address these issues but they have been moved. So too on the National Question. The growth of Sinn Féin has forced most of the parties to rediscover their nationalist or republican roots. That reflects public support for these concepts.

Sin an fath go bhfuil muid ag guí ar muintir iomlán an oileáin seo. Is cuma cén páirtí ina bhfuil sibh cuidigí linn ag brú ar aghaidh d'Éire Aontaithe.

Public support for the peace process will bring them back to that process as well. But progress demands more than rhetoric from these other parties.

Sinn Féin needs to continue to grow. Our goal is to have a Sinn Féin cumann in every electoral ward across Ireland. We have to open our party up to women and to people who will bring their own life experiences and values.

There is also a need to build a national mood for positive change, which can harness the creative power of what people do best in society - the imagination and energy of children and young people; the commitment of parents and carers; the dedication of those who work tirelessly in the voluntary, and community sector; or in the health services; the skills and talents of workers in many fields.

All those who seek political progress must mobilise that good will and turn that desire for a better society into an unstoppable movement for genuine equality. Sinn Féin has no copyright on this. There is plenty of work and lots of space for everyone. So let us move the struggle forward in the widest sense possible. Let us move it forward also by building our party.

In the time ahead we face many party political challenges -- four election campaigns -- the Meath by-election, toghchain Udaras na Gaeltachta and Local Government and Westminster elections in the north. We will also face a referendum on the EU Constitution.

There is a lot of organisational and recruiting work to be done and I want to appeal to people to join Sinn Féin. I particularly want to commend Ógra Sinn Féin for their dedicated work and also the staff of An Phoblacht.

A lot of my remarks today are aimed at other political parties. The British government scarcely gets a mention. That is a sign of these times. I am conscious also of conflicts and famines and disasters in other parts of the world. I am conscious of efforts to resolve problems in the Middle East. I salute these efforts and I salute Palestinian Ambassador who is here with us today.

Meanwhile the imperatives of Irish domestic politics tear the Irish peace process asunder and Sinn Féin is savaged as the British government is let off the hook.

Is that what the republican and nationalist people of this island want? I think not. I think they want us to face up to our responsibilities and others to do likewise. And I think they want Sinn Féin to continue to be a persuasive voice in this process.

Níor chúlaigh muid ó dúshlán riamh ní bheidh muid ag cúlú ón dúshtán seo.

So let us all get our act together. Let us find a fair and equitable accommodation with unionism. It is my conviction that the DUP and Sinn Féin will be in government together.

Let us put it up to the British government to do the right thing by Ireland. The most important thing we all have to do at this time is to rebuild the peace process

We are up to that task. Turning back is not an option. We're moving forward -- forward to a better future."

 


CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within the University of Ulster.


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