The struggle is not yet over
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams is this week in the United States. The following is an edited version of an article on his visit by KATE SHERIDAN, to be published in this week's issue of Irish Northern Aid's newspaper, The Irish People.
The Orange Order, after centuries of domination and anti-Catholic derision, is self-immolating in the wide eye of the international cameras and at the expense of beleagured nationalists across the Six Counties.
``The RUC behaviour this week - their acceptance and tolerance of continued loyalist violence against the Irish nationalist people - makes one thing very clear. For those who thought the struggle in Ireland was over - well, the struggle isn't over. It isn't over.
But none of the drama unfolding in the Six Counties this week was readily apparent in his voice or bearing this week as Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams stood once more on the world stage in Washington, DC, and challenged the British government again - intoning clearly and repeatedly - ``The struggle is not over yet.''
After days of unabated loyalist violence in the north, Adams said the refusal of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) to protect Irish nationalists and republicans shattered the complacency some may have felt after a relatively friction-free past few months.
A few enduring images of the RUC in action - and much notable inaction - had left Adams in no doubt as to the RUC's role in the current violence sweeping the north.
``When you can see the RUC arrest a man like Breandán Mac Cionnaith (leader of the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition) and then see a man like Johnny Adair swaggering freely from place to place, inciting violence against Irish nationalists, then at least one knows the RUC are engaged in tacit compliance - if not complicity - with a massive loyalist campaign of
disruption,'' said Adams.
``People in America cannot imagine their own police force standing by while people are intimidated from their homes or schools are being burned, but the RUC are standing by. Their behaviour simply shows the RUC organisation up for what it has always been, what we in Irish republicanism have always knows it to be - the essence of containment of nationalist dissent.''
Adams said he believed that if First Minister David Trimble called for an end to the Orange Order's violence, ``his call would make a difference.
``But I think too that David Trimble knows he has problems. Trimble has a sense that these rioting rejectionists want to remove him from office, remove him as the leader of unionism, remove him as First Minister. He knows he has to be very careful.''
Sinn Féin, Adams said, ``believes in the right of Orangemen to march, to fulfill whatever sense of self they think they achieve by marching, but like the rest of us, they have the right to march, and a right to protest, as long as they do it in ways which are not threatening. Clearly, that is not the case now. Clearly, the Orange Order is triumphalist and unwelcome in many communities - and they are likely to remain unwelcome until they recognise these people, the residents, are their equals.''
The more than 100 American observers on the Garvaghy Road is indisputable evidence of the keen enduring interest in the Irish struggle among Americans, he said, adding that American support for the Irish struggle has rarely been stronger - and more necessary.
``The RUC behaviour this week - their acceptance and tolerance of continued loyalist violence against the Irish nationalist people - makes one thing very clear. For those who thought the struggle in Ireland was over - well, the struggle isn't over. It isn't over,'' Adams said.
``We must continue on, no matter what faces us or seems to bar our way. And we must redouble our efforts, especially now. We must remember that the only way the rejectionists and the bigots can win is if the rest of us, who are working for justice and equality and peace, give up. So we cannot ever give up. We must prevail.''
Adams and other Sinn Féin leaders including US representative Rita O'Hare, have conquered both houses of the US Congress on the touchstone issue of policing the north.
Adams spoke with calm confidence, borne of an unshakable resolve, about the unprecedented level of support the Irish struggle for freedom and peace-with-justice is receiving from members of the US Congress and the American people.
Two US Congressional resolutions supporting the Sinn Fein position on policing were won with a large support base - a Senate resolution introduced by Ted Kennedy and Chris Dodd, and now a companion House resolution introduced by Richard Neal and still attracting signers. Both resolutions shared a common goal, Adams noted: They call on the British government to honour its commitments to the Irish people and implement the Patten Commission report in full.
independent, international commission on policing - headed by British Tory Chris Patten - identified some 175 reforms that were absolutely necessary in order for the north of Ireland to enjoy ``proper, decent, accountable civic policing,'' Adams said.
``What the British have now proposed (in legislation pending in the House of Commons) would not be acceptable to Sinn Féin, nor to the Irish government.
``The policing service being proposed meets only 11 of the Patten reforms. A full 89 of Patten's reforms are ignored. What happens to the remaining 75 still remains to be seen.''
Sinn Fein's position on the disbandment of the RUC has not changed.
``We believe the RUC have no place in the future of the island,'' Adams says. ``They are a partisan, quasi military, armed wing of unionism.''
Washington DC was awash with the clarity of that message before the sun set on Monday. In just a few brief, productive hours, Adams had completed a spectacularly successful, nationally televised briefing before the National Press Club ... helped frame the arguments underpinning the Congressional appeal to the British ... and held meetings with White House National Security Advisers.
On Tuesday, Adams addressed a jam-packed meeting of the House of Representatives' International Foreign Relations Committee, which drew the largest turnout ever for a meeting of its kind, indicative of the heightened level of interest and awareness surrounding the ``Irish issue.''
Undoubtedly, the Irish issue has been nurtured by US President Bill Clinton, who first opened the American door to Adams in the mid-1990s. Adams says a huge amount of the credit for ongoing American interest and involvement must go to Rita O'Hare, good-naturedly tagged by Adams as ``the Boss,'' whose work in the nation's capital has been nothing shot of spectacular. Adams also thanked the literally hundreds of American politicians who have given thoughtful consideration and time to the knotty conflicting issues and various historical interpretations characterising the British-Irish relationships through the centuries.
d then there's the tragedy that galvanized the US Congress: the undeniably vivid, enduring spirit of Lurgan nationalist and human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson. In a voice now noticeably more quiet, Adams describes Rosemary's presence not two years ago on Capitol Hill and her subsequent assassination as a turning point in American attitudes toward human rights abuses and the RUC.
``Rosemary Nelson had such an impact here,'' he says. ``I was here for that St. Patrick's Day, I saw and felt the impact. Rosemary's death reached right into the White House.
She was not a stranger, they felt they knew her; she had a name, they had dealt with her as a person. And she was a human rights lawyer, and they could identify with her cause.''
Washington has not forgotten its ``very real, deeply felt sense of outrage at her murder,'' Adams said.
``And people here saw that she was killed because of who she was and what she believed. She struggled to help those who were seeking only justice from an unjust system. She was a true champion for justice. People in America have a clear understanding of that, and in fact that issue was raised today in connection with discussions about the RUC.