The countdown to a united Ireland is underway, according to Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness.

As republicans took part in hundreds of Easter Rising commemorations across Ireland, Mr McGuinness told an event at Drumboe in County Donegal yesterday that 2007 had been a big year for republicans who he said were shaping history once again.

The Mid-Ulster MP, who is set to jointly head the new Six-County Executive when it is re-established on May 8 with the DUP leader Ian Paisley, as First Minister, insisted Sinn Féin was ready for government.

And he also said the party’s republicanism did not stop on the northern side of the border, with it aiming to be in government in both parts of the island.

“As the process progresses, more people are recognising that we have now entered the end phase of our struggle,” Mr McGuinness said.

“I truly believe that we have begun the countdown to a united Ireland, and we are continuing to get that message out as widely as possible.

“But Sinn Féin is the only party with the courage to say it aloud, and encourage proper management of the transition.

“Denying the obvious will serve no purpose, other than to give false hope to those wishing it were not so.”

Mr McGuinness said his party was working to create an alliance for Irish unity “with like-minded campaign groups, trade unions and other interested sections of our society”.

“The potential to progress an all-Ireland strategy for ensuring full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement is tremendous,” he said.

“Those who attempt to interpret our participation in implementing the Agreement as a dilution of our determination to achieve Irish unity and independence could not be more mistaken.”

The Sinn Féin MP said that, as republicans entered the final lap in the journey towards a united Ireland, they must try to understand the anxieties of unionists for whom such change was a terrifying prospect.

However, he said, unionists also had responsibilities, including the need to face down sectarian politics, which had been used by unionist paramilitaries to justify their refusal to follow the IRA lead and disarm.

He asked why groups such as the UDA and UVF still felt the need to retain their weapons.

“Who are they intended for use against?” he asked.

Mr McGuinness also called on the Dublin government to release Provisional IRA prisoners still being held in Castlerea jail.


In Dublin, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams called for unionists to take part in a “national reconciliation” at events marking the 91st anniversary of the Easter Rising.

During a commemoration at the GPO in O’Connell Street, party president Gerry Adams said Sinn Féin was “about building the Republic”.

“The unionist people have to be as much a part of that as any of the rest of us. People who say differently misrepresent what Irish republicanism is about,” he said.

He called for a “genuine process of national reconciliation” and said unionists and nationalists had to work together “to deliver for all the people”.

“Nobody else is going to do it for us. The safety blanket for unionists of the British government in London is no longer viable,” Mr Adams said.


Meanwhile, Republican Sinn Féin leader Ruairi O Bradaigh said Sinn Féin negotiators had worn the “time-honoured Easter Lily” in recent talks with the DUP while they “signed away the rights of the Irish people and “put back an obstacle on the road to the freedom of All-Ireland”.

“They have accepted Stormont under the Union Jack, British police, British courts and British law in denial and flat contradiction of that Proclamation and the deeds of the Volunteers, Citizen Army, Cumann na mBan and Fianna Eireann 91 years ago,” he said.

“The poets’ Insurrection of Pearse, McDonagh and Plunkett, as it was called, asserted the right of the Irish people to the ownership of Ireland, which right could only be extinguished by the destruction of the Irish people.

“It promised civil and religious liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities, and ignored the differences carefully fostered by an alien government. Resistance to British rule would continue, it said, until “the establishment of a permanent National Government, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrage of all her men and women”.

He said the task for Republicans today remains ‘to organise and lead the section of the Irish people opposed to English rule here. The way forward is through a nine-county Ulster Parliament as part of a new four-province federation.

“Optimum devolution of power and decision-making will provide for all sections, whether of the majority or of local minorities. Thus can the bright ideals of the 1916 Rising be advanced and the stand taken by Pearse, Connolly and their followers vindicated.”

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© 2007 Irish Republican News