Irish Republican News · April 26, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Sinn Féin will weather storm
Sinn Féin will weather storm
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP gave the following address at the launch this morning of the exhibition of Sinn Féin’s centenary celebrations.

 

2005 marks the 100th birthday of Sinn Féin.

This exhibition will be travelling the length and breadth of Ireland informing, educating, entertaining, encouraging debate and dialogue and analysis about the history of Irish republicanism, its significant role in Irish politics and our relevance for the future.

I want to commend the organising committee and all of those who have helped put this exhibition together and who will organise events throughout this year.

This is an important part of the process of re-popularising the republican struggle; and of learning the lessons of a century of struggle.

The exhibition reveals the political and personal commitment and dedication of generations of republican activists.

It provides some sense of the meaning of Sinn Féin. Not just our name but our politics, our role as a national independence movement, as a republican campaigning organisation and, in 2005, as the only all-Ireland political party and the fastest growing party in the country.

In 1905 the most important principle of Sinn Féin was self-reliance.

And that is still true today.

It was the view of those who laid the foundations for this party that only the Irish people can mould a society to suit our unique heritage, character, economic needs and place in the wider world.

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 Irish people.

In 1905 Sinn Féin was at the centre of the renewal and rebirth of political and cultural expression in Ireland, and from the beginning women were centrally involved in this organisation.

Women like those here this morning. Women like Margaret McKenna from Lavey in South Derry, a former Sinn Féin Councillor, who was preparing to stand again for the party in May and whose funeral takes place this morning.

But too often women have been the workers in the background, the often invisible foundation of this party and this struggle. We have made progress in redressing the balance but much more needs to be done.

In 2005 one of our key aims coming out of our centenary year is to increase the number of women in Sinn Féin and the number of women in positions of leadership.

The exhibition also covers the difficult years -- the lean years -- when being an Irish republican was hard. It is a source of great strength and encouragement that Republicans have survived censorship; imprisonment; death squads; concerted and protracted campaigns of vilification and criminalisation.

But we did more than survive. We moved from a culture of resistance to a culture of change. Through dedication and commitment and the votes cast for us, not the patronage of the establishment, Sinn Féin is today the largest nationalist party in the north, the largest pro-Agreement party in the north and the third largest party on this island.

As I look around me this morning I see many friends and comrades who have helped make that possible.

We also remember those republicans who lived, worked and died for freedom. But in honouring their memory our responsibility must be to advance the cause for which they died.

That means defining and redefining our republicanism for today’s world. Our contemporary experience helps shape this, as does the inspiration we draw from Maire Drumm and Bobby Sands, from Eddie Fullerton and Sheena Campbell. And many others, like Sinn Féin Councillor John Davey who was killed by a loyalist death squad in collusion with British forces 16 years ago next Monday.

Sinn Féin is an Irish republican party. Our strategy to achieve a united, independent Ireland marks us out from other Irish political parties.

Republicanism is about the people. It’s about self-determination and democracy. And a new relationship between these islands resting upon our mutual independence and mutual respect.

Our republicanism is about change -- fundamental, deep-rooted change. And empowering people to make that change.

Key to achieving this is the hard, tedious, difficult work of building political strength.

And it is our success in doing this which has unleashed the torrent of abuse directed at us, particularly in Dublin.

When I came to pen these lines and to reflect upon the current poisoned political atmosphere it struck me that many of those who are attacking us are back where they are most comfortable.

It’s almost like the days before the peace process when the Irish and British establishments and unionists parties ganged up trying to out do each other in anti-Sinn Féin hysteria, aided at times by compliant sections of the media.

All that remains of the peace process at this time is the IRA cessation. There is no political process. No effort at meaningful dialogue. No serious attempt to resolve difficulties.

Rather than press the British government to implement outstanding aspects of the Good Friday Agreement or to deliver on their own commitments, the Irish government is leading the charge in the campaign against Sinn Féin.

I am sure that malign elements in the British system are laughing all the way to the bank at the outbreak of civil war within Irish nationalism.

The Taoiseach in particular has crossed the line on a number of important issues and is in the business of imposing or supporting the imposition of preconditions on the rights of Irish citizens.

This is the politics of the cul-de-sac. The politics of spin.

Sinn Féin will weather this storm. There is confusion out there. There is anger. But for the first time in decades Irish republicans are politically organised throughout this island and no amount of misrepresentation or vindictiveness is going to prevent us from continuing with our work.

What is that work? To continue the process of change by defending the peace process, by opposing any return to violence by anyone, including British government agencies, by campaigning for the equality and other elements of the Good Friday Agreement and by upholding the rights of all citizens, including those who vote for our party.

While Sinn Féin is prepared to enter into meaningful dialogue at this time and while I believe these outstanding issues can be resolved, and the work to do this should commence at this time, it is obvious that the Irish government and others are of a different mind.

All of them are already fighting the elections. They are setting out their agenda and creating the most negative context possible. This is nothing new. In the northern elections Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, the PD’s, and Labour have always campaigned vigorously for our opponents.

We will not abandon the peace process for anyone and our negotiating team will engage, not on the DUP agenda, or the PD agenda but on the tried and tested basis that has brought the changes in recent years. We will not exclude any item in a genuine effort to build the peace but we will not acquiesce to any one item agenda.

I have spoken of how united our opponents are in attacking us. They are united also in their conservatism on many social and economic issues and they have something else in common in regard to the peace process. They have not put forward one constructive suggestion of how to resolve the current difficulties. That is another glaring aspect of the short-sightedness of the current approach.

And it is my view that they know that beating up on us is unhelpful and damaging to any effort to put the process together again. So, if there is to be no meaningful progress at this time, if the only agenda is to be the election - well, we’re up for that. Not just here in the north but in the Udaras elections and in the upcoming by-election in Meath.

So, my friends we have a lot to do.

Ian Paisley’s desire to humiliate republicans; his constant use of offensive language, particularly in describing republicans as criminals and gangsters, is now the accepted rhetoric of political debate at this time. The prize of a just and lasting peace demands that all responsible political leaders must rise above the difficulties of the moment.

We in Sinn Féin have a lot of achievements to be proud of.

Our party has an honoured name and a history that others covet.

This centenary year will see more advances by us.

Let us take nothing for granted. Including each other.

Too often republicans take as a matter of fact the sacrifies and contributions of friends and family, comrades and fellow activists.

I commend you all.

La breithe shona daoibh.

© 2004 Irish Republican News