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Speech by Gerry Adams at the Easter Commemoration, Belfast, (Sunday 16 April 2006)



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

Speech by Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin, at the Easter Commemoration, Belfast, (Sunday 16 April 2006)

 

Sinn Féin - Looking to the Future

"90 years ago this Easter an alliance of Irish republican organisations and others, including elements of the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizen Army, Sinn Féin, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the woman's movement, socialists, trade unionists, nationalists and Irish language activists, rose up against British rule in Ireland and declared a Republic.

Much of this occurred in Dublin but republicans also took up arms elsewhere in the country, including the north.

Six days later, and with the centre of Dublin in ruins the leaders of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic ordered the surrender. In the weeks which followed 15 of the leaders were executed, and four months after that Roger Casement from this county was hanged in London.

Among those who died was Charles Monaghan from the Short Strand. He was killed on his way to meet Casement and is buried in Kerry.

Next Sunday at 2.30pm on the Mountpottinger Road, he will be remembered at a commemoration in Short Strand which will be addressed by the Mayor of Kerry Toireasa Ferris.

The British hoped by the speed of their actions and the scale of the executions that the flame of freedom would be extinguished. They were wrong.

At his court martial Pádraig Pearse got it exactly right:

'Believe that we, too, love freedom and desire it. To us it is more desirable than anything in the world. If you strike us down now, we shall rise again to renew the fight. You cannot conquer Ireland. You cannot extinguish the Irish passion for freedom.'

In my view the vast majority of Irish people recognise this.  That is why the decision by the Irish government to re-establish the state commemoration of 1916 is a popular decision.

That is why the streets of Dublin were packed this morning.

That is why in every county on this island, and in the United  States and Canada and Australia, and in England and other parts of  the world, Irish republicans will gather to celebrate and commemorate the men and women of 1916 and of all the generations since then.

I welcome the reinstatement of the government's commemoration of 1916. It should never have been abandoned in the first place.

And let us not forget that successive governments didn't just abandon this event, they also banned other commemorations.

On one shameful occasion, the daughter of James Connolly, Nora Connolly O'Brien, by then an old woman, was arrested for daring to do what Irish republicans have never failed to do - to honour our patriot dead.

All of us are proud to be part of that struggle. It is a struggle which continues.There is now a need for a great national effort to bring it to a conclusion. The Irish government should be part of that effort. The Taoiseach has called for a return to the core values of Irish republicanism. I welcome that call. The men and women of 1916 were very definite about the type of Republic they wanted to create.The Proclamation makes that clear.

The Proclamation

It is the heart and soul of Irish republicanism today. But in truth The Proclamation is also unfinished business. It is unfinished business which the vast majority of the Irish people want to see brought to completion.

Are there any real doubts about where Tom Clarke, Sean Mac Diarmada, Thomas MacDonagh; Pádraig Pearse; Ceannt, Connolly or Joseph Plunkett, would stand on the great issues of our time?

The Proclamation is about self-determination and democracy. Does anyone think that the men and women of 1916 would settle for a partitioned Ireland?

They fought for and I quote; "A permanent National Government, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrage of all her men and women."

Does anyone believe that they would block northern representatives being accorded speaking rights in the Dáil?

Does anyone believe that they would settle for anything less than an active engagement with the British government and unionism to promote and seek support for reunification?

Unionism

A central part of the work of Irish republicans in the time ahead is to engage with unionists, to talk to, debate with, but ultimately to seek to persuade unionists that their future and that of their children, lies with the rest of us on this island.

The fact is that no British politician has ever governed in any part of Ireland in the interests of nationalists and republicans and unionists.

They have always governed and exercised power in British interests. And they have used and exploited and deepened the divisions and fears of people to advance British interests.

The result has been exclusion, conflict, division, inequality and poverty. And no section of our people has been immune from these.

Why should a British Minister take decisions on the future of our children?

Why should a British Minister have the power to decide the priorities in our health or education services?

Irish republicans believe that in an independent and united Ireland we have the best chance of effectively tackling these issues. Unionists have a different opinion. That's fine.

Let's talk about these matters. And let us begin by reassuring unionists that we are not in the business of coercing them into a united Ireland.

Instead as we seek to build a shared space in which we can move forward we all must appreciate that, as some northern protestants have said to me, 'the wise man builds his house upon the rock'.

In this case that means a meaningful, working partnership between nationalists and republicans, unionists and loyalists.

I believe the opportunity to do that now exists.

I believe there is a huge opportunity to fulfil the historic destiny of our people by uniting orange and green in unity and justice and on the basis of equality.

The Peace Process

And it exists in no small measure because of the courage and wisdom of IRA Volunteers.

The announcement by the Irish Republican Army on 28 July to formally end its armed campaign was a historic development.

I want to pay tribute to the Volunteers of the IRA for taking this courageous and unprecedented step in order to advance the cause of peace with justice in Ireland.

Despite the profound difficulties of all this for many republicans, the IRA has provided a unique opportunity to significantly advance the peace process and to open up a new era in politics and relationships on this island and between Ireland and Britain.It is vital that this opportunity is availed of and the peace process advanced.This must include the release of all republican prisoners and an end to the ongoing discrimination against republican ex prisoners.

I believe that none of us should take each other for granted so I want to thank and commend our friends in the Green Cross and An Cumann Cabhrach and the other organisations which look after the interests of prisoners and their families.

Decision time for the governments and the DUP

The two governments are now faced with a stark choice. Are they going to stand by the Good Friday Agreement or are they going to continue to pander to rejectionist unionism? The answer to that question will become clear in the time ahead.

The governments have said that they will lift the suspension of the Assembly on May 15th. Sinn Féin will be in Stormont that day. We will be there for one reason and one reason only - the election of a government in line with the Good Friday Agreement. This also has to be the focus of the Irish and British governments.

Ian Paisley has a decision to make. He has failed in his campaign to smash Sinn Féin. He has failed in his bid to see unionist majority rule returned. The only way Ian Paisley will exercise political power is in an Executive with Sinn Fein. I do not say that to be triumphalist in any way. I say that because that is the reality which faces him today.

If Ian Paisley refuses then the two governments must deliver on their commitment to jointly implement all other elements of the Good Friday Agreement and increase substantially all-Ireland harmonisation and management.

Building unity - building peace

Republicans have mapped out a peaceful path which can deliver Irish unity. But we have to build a party which can achieve it. hat means building a truly national movement. It means recruiting more people. It means opening up our party. It means building alliances with others. It means more campaigning, more activism.

I believe that the republican struggle is in better shape today than at any time since partition. There are more republicans on this island now than at any time in our history. That is a good thing.

In many ways the republicans of this city of Belfast have led the way. I want to thank and to commend you all. e have a confidence in ourselves which arises from our shared experience together through decades of struggle.  want to thank the families of our patriot dead, all those on the Belfast Roll of Honour and the Roll of Remembrance for your great contribution to our struggle. I want to thank the volunteers of the Belfast Brigade for your discipline and commitment.

I also want to commend our councillors in Lisburn where they are fighting and winning the battle against discrimination and in Belfast where Sinn Fein now gets more votes than any other political party.

Our leadership in Belfast, representing all parts of our city, and including our MLAs has the ability to meet all of the challenges in the time ahead.

There will be many battles in the time ahead. I want to call on you all to join us in these battles, to join Sinn Fein and to be part of the great revival of Republicanism in this city.

Building political strength is key to the tasks which face us.  It has been the historic failure to do this that has allowed more conservative parties to engage in the rhetoric, but not the reality of Irish republicanism. A good example of this is to be found in the hunger strikes of 25 years ago.

As we gather today to remember the momentous events of Easter week 90 years ago, we should also reflect on those long and difficult months 25 years ago when a British government cruelly and cynically allowed ten of our comrades to die on hunger strike.

The Irish government of the day stood back and let the hunger strikers and their families down, safe in the knowledge that republicans at that time had neither the political strength nor organisation to stop them.

That is a lesson which we all must learn from.

The women in Armagh and the men in the H Blocks were extraordinary people who faced up to repression and  resisted it in the only way they could.

Their stand, their determination to assert their rights and the rights of the Irish people continue to inspire us, and we owe them and their families a massive and continuing debt.

It is vitally important that all of us use this anniversary year to tell a new generation of Irish republicans the story of 1981alongside the history of  1916.

So let us go from here today determined to complete their work.

We are right to be proud of the sacrifices of all our patriot dead. And we are  determined to make the Proclamation a reality.

Bobby Sands had a word for it, which echoed what Pearse and Connolly said here 90 ago.

In the last entry in his diary he wrote: "If they aren't able to destroy the desire for freedom, they won't break you. They won't break me because the desire for freedom, and the freedom of the Irish people, is in my heart.

The day will dawn when all the people of Ireland will have the desire for freedom to show."

Comrades and friends let us go from here to continue the work for that certain day."

 


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