Sinn Féin has welcomed the Dublin government’s commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising but has accused the coalition government of merely paying “lip service” to the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams was speaking outside the GPO (General Post Office) at the party’s annual commemoration at the site of the declaration of Irish independence and the headquarters for the rebellion against British rule.
Mr Adams noted that his party colleague and the North’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness had represented Sinn Féin at the earlier ceremony, the newly restored official State ceremony, which was held at the same location.
But the State’s remembrance service was a recent development and the Government’s commitment was “purely rhetorical” whereas the men and women behind the Rising went beyond this, Mr Adams said.
Calling for a national conversation on the type of Ireland we desire, he asked those present to imagine “how much progress could be made” if there was a move beyond simple commemoration.
“We are living in a time of great hope and opportunity for republican ideals and objectives.
“Irish reunification is no longer an aspiration, it is a work in progress,” he said.
“And that work must intensify now and in the time ahead. That means we have to repopularise the ideals of 1916, particularly among young people.”
With this in mind, he called on all parties who espouse the cause of Irish reunification to set aside their political differences, and to find “common cause”. This would include winning unionist support.
Mr Adams made his address to several hundred republican supporters at approximately 3pm yesterday. They had gathered outside the GPO after marching from Parnell Square towards O’Connell street and College Green, before returning to the GPO.
Many of those who participated in yesterday’s march carried banners and placards commemorating the signatories to the Proclamation and other republican figures.
Among the other groups represented were the Shell to Sea campaign and the Tara valley protesters.
After attending the Dublin government’s commemoration ceremony alongside Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and President Mary McAleese, Martin McGuinness said he found it to be a “very dignified commemoration”.
“It was obviously very well attended. It is very clear that the people of Ireland remember those involved in the 1916 Rising,” he said.
The military parade, was revived in 2006 as a special event to mark the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. However, it was decided to make the military parade and ceremonies at the GPO a permanent annual event again as it had been for decades before the conflict began in the North.
Mr McGuinness is the most senior member of Sinn Féin to have attended the official government commemoration. However, he said he “wouldn’t read any significance” into it.
The Provisional IRA issued its annual Easter statement at the weekend. The statement read:
“On this the 92nd Anniversary of the 1916 Rising, the leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann extends solidarity to the families of our patriot dead.
“We remember, with pride, our comrades from every generation who have given their lives for the cause of Irish freedom and independence.
“We extend solidarity to our imprisoned comrades and their families.
“This year marks a number of important anniversaries in the republican calendar. We applaud those across the country who have organised in their local areas to commemorate these events.
“When we gather to honour our patriot dead, we do so to celebrate their lives and to recommit ourselves to achieving our republican objectives.
“We are proud of our patriot dead and we are proud of their families.
“Our task and that of all Irish republicans is to shape the future through our commitment to achieving our goal of a united Ireland.
“Since 28 July 2005 IRA Volunteers are playing a positive role in the new phase of our struggle. You have entered into this with energy and vigour. We commend this work and appeal to everyone to continue until we achieve our objectives.
“The ideals and principles enshrined in the Proclamation of 1916 remain as relevant today as they ever were.
“We have proven that together, in unity and with comradeship, we can advance our struggle. Let us rededicate ourselves to that goal.”