Republican News · Thursday 27 April 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Not too late to save Agreement - McGuinness

Key to the future is in the hands of Tony Blair

Dublin City witnessed one of the biggest turnouts for an Easter Commemoration in recent years. Up to 2,000 people gathered at the GPO in O'Connell Street, headquarters of the republican forces in Easter Week, to listen to songs, music and readings from the platform, where proceedings were chaired by Sinn Féin Dublin City Councillor Nicky Kehoe.

The large crowd made its way to Glasnevin Cemtery led by a republican colour party and the Volunteers Smith/Harford/ Doherty Band from Dublin. The crowd were also entertained en route by tunes from the visiting Jim Larkin Band from Liverpool and the Pollock/Thornleigh RFB, Glasgow.

At Glasnevin, Sinn Féin's Chief Negotiator, Martin McGuinness MP, said it is not too late to save the Good Friday Agreement.

He said ``the courage and imagination of an IRA leadership in calling a cessation gave space to those politicians whose responsibility it is to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict''.

He continued:

``I want to commend the commitment and discipline of the leadership and volunteers of Oglaigh na hÉireann in maintaining its cessation in the face of provocation. British aggression has continued, from the refusal of British securocrats to demilitarise to the ongoing threats and attacks by loyalist death squads and the unilateral collapse of an international treaty.

``The British Army continues to pour millions of pounds into the refortification of its paraphernalia of war in the North while its government talks about the need to normalise society.

``Against that background, the IRA has maintained its cessation and the silence of its guns in a disciplined and honourable manner. It is the task of politicians to demonstrate that politics work. Republicans showed that we are prepared to make politics work and be seen to work when, in a leap of faith and in pursuit of such a goal, we signed up to the Good Friday Agreement. And we have kept every commitment we made in that agreement.

``The British Government's suspension of the institutions, established by the votes of the Irish people, is unilateral, illegal and totally contrary to the Good Friday Agreement. Nothing in the Good Friday Agreement gave Peter Mandelson - who no one in Ireland voted for - the authority to undemocratically veto the express wishes of the Irish people.

``Mandelson and the British Government must explain to the people of this island who voted for the Agreement, where does the Peace Process go now? Is everything that we have worked so hard for to be squandered?

``By his decision, Peter Mandelson has left us with a dangerous political vacuum and we now face the possibility that all of the good work of recent years could be undone. And, worse still, the vacuum created through the absence of politics has now emboldened the rejectionists who are only too willing to risk a slide back into conflict.

``We in Sinn Féin are determined to prevent this. It is still not too late to save the Good Friday Agreement.

``However they choose to dress it up, the British Government bowed to a unionist veto.

McGuinness said the issue of decommissioning was deliberately injected into the process as a stalling mechanism, not by unionists but by a former British Government.

``This farce, this utter farce of demanding an IRA surrender must stop and it must stop now. If all the guns are to be taken out of Irish politics - and that is an honourable objective - then the only way to do it is to prove that politics work, and that politics are allowed to work.''

He said Tony Blair had a responsibility to defend the Agreement: ``Never mind the hand of history on his shoulder - the key to the future is in his hand.''

The Sinn Féin MP pointed to continuing election successes, North and South, and said that Sinn Féin presents a real challenge to the establishment parties.

``Sinn Féin has arrived. The Irish people now have a real choice. The electorate now recognises the principled, progressive policies of Sinn Féin as the alternative to the sleaze and brown envelope culture that has passed for politics here for too long.

``The tired and worn-out parties of the establishment are now looking over their shoulders at Sinn Féin. They are talking about Sinn Féin making major gains at the next general election. Well that is a matter for the electorate. The one thing we can be sure of now is that Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin won't be the only Sinn Féin TD walking through the gates of Leinster House after the next election. And I think we can say with some degree of confidence that after the next Westminter elections that there will be other Sinn Féin MPs joining myself and Gerry Adams.''

During his address, Martin McGuinness declared his support for the campaign to exhume and rebury the bodies of those known as the Forgotten Ten. These are ten republicans, including Kevin Barry, who were executed by the British during the Tan War and whose remains still lie buried in Mountjoy Jail.

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