Irish Republican News · September 7, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: No other law
No other law
The following is an edited version of the address by Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew, speaking at the annual Sinn Féin commemoration of IRA figure Liam Lynch on Sunday at his graveside in Goatenbridge, on the Tipperary-Waterford border.

 

``We have declared for an Irish Republic and will live under no other law' - so said Liam Lynch. Liam Lynch was an unapologetic Irish Republican. Despite great personal sacrifices and safe in the knowledge of the righteousness of his cause he was prepared to face the might of the British Empire at a time when they still occupied much of the world.

His legacy has of course been the subject of much revisionism and counter revisionism over the decades. But what can be in no dispute is that Liam Lynch continues to rank as one of the most influential Irish figures of the last century. Republicans, particularly here in Munster are rightly proud of the contribution which he made and indeed it says much that over 80 years after his death Republicans from Cork and surrounding counties still come together each year to commemorate his life and ensure that his memory is cherished and honoured.

Irish people are proud and rightly so of the contribution made by people like Liam Lynch. Mick Fitzgerald and countless others throughout the course of the last century who risked their lives and liberty in pursuit of the goal of an independent republic.

Republicans of my generation who grew up through 30 years of political conflict and violence in the six counties of course have an affinity with the modern day IRA. Ten years ago the leadership of the IRA called a cessation of military operations. It opened up the potential for the first time since the 1920's of the development of a process of change which if approached by progressive forces across the island would offer us a bridge away from partition and into a new and agreed Ireland. Since then, and despite much provocation the IRA has remain disciplined and resolute and has on numerous occasions demonstrated its support for the peace process.

It is also well known that the process is currently in a major crisis. The promise of 1994 and indeed of 1998 and the Agreement has not been delivered upon as the Irish people demanded in referenda across the island. But Sinn Féin are deeply committed to the job of peace making and the job of delivering the sort of Republic which men like Liam Lynch, Mick Fitzgerald and Bobby Sands died for.

Any strategic moves which the leadership of Sinn Féin have embarked upon have been rooted in advancing our primary political goal of Irish Unity and Independence. That will continue as we approach the latest round of political talks.

We are approaching the current discussions positively and with a determination to see the crisis resolved, the political institutions restored and the process of change accelerated. Agreement is possible but that requires that the other parties also come at the discussion with determination to make progress and crucially with a sense of reality. There is little evidence in the public pronouncements of the DUP of a recognition of current political realities. The recent outbursts from the DUP leader Ian Paisley are hardly a reflection of a party prepared to do business or reach agreement. These comments are not only negative, they are sectarian, provocative and totally unacceptable. The DUP, including their leader, need to come into the 21st century. They need to get real. They need to respect the Sinn Féin electorate. They need to come to terms with the reality. Sinn Féin is the largest nationalist party in the north. If the DUP want to do a deal - if they want to share power then that means sharing power with Sinn Féin.

It has yet to be established whether or not the DUP are capable of sharing power with nationalists and republicans and accepting us as equals. Despite recent comments I hope they are. Sinn Féin is certainly approaching this engagement positively.

However if the DUP are incapable of accepting equality, if they are incapable of sharing power then there is an onus on the two governments, and the British government in particular, to move immediately on the human rights, equality, policing and demilitarisation agendas.

The British government needs to stop rewarding negative unionism. They must advance and accelerate the agenda of change set out in the Good Friday Agreement. They must stop denying people basic rights and entitlements on the whim of Ian Paisley. The Good Friday Agreement was endorsed democratically by the majority of the Irish people, north and south. The process of change must not be frozen because unionism cannot come to terms with new political realties. If necessary, that means moving forward above the heads of political unionism. Sinn Féin wants to see an accommodation with unionism but such an accommodation must be on the basis of equality, inclusivity and mutual respect. Unionism, if it is not up to the challenge of equality, cannot be allowed a veto over progress.

Irish Republicans want to see the peace process work. We want to see an end to conflict on our island. We want to see the political institutions re-instituted. We want to see the Good Friday Agreement implemented. We want a united, free and independent Ireland.

We know as the lead nationalist party in the north and the largest pro-Agreement party, that there are huge responsibilities on us and we are up to the task. But we cannot achieve this alone.

Everybody who voted for the Agreement needs to impress upon the two governments the importance of ensuring that our rights and entitlements are not continually filtered through the prism of negative unionism.

The Irish government needs to fulfil its role as a co-guarantor of the Agreement, defending the rights and entitlement of Irish citizens.

And, I want to make a direct appeal to everyone here today and to nationalists and republicans the length and breadth of this island, to join with us in reasserting the primacy of the peace process.

The progress we have achieved, together, in the last decade have been hard won and must be protected as we try to move beyond the current difficulties.

The task ahead of us is not easy but it is not impossible. It is a matter of political will and political courage. Republicans are up for the challenge - only time will tell of others are up for it also.

© 2004 Irish Republican News