By Gerry Adams (for Leargas)
Since Ronan Kerr’s murder on Saturday April 2nd I have met many people. Most have been former republican prisoners and their families and other activists of long standing.
These are the stalwarts who over decades of conflict lost loved ones to the British Army, RUC and collusion; were tortured, imprisoned and had their homes raided and often wrecked.
They were and are the people who have been the backbone of the republican struggle over many years. And they have suffered grievously for their stand against British injustice and partition.
And they are seething with anger at the violent actions of a small core of anti-peace groups who have killed citizens; forced the elderly from their homes; injured children; threatened community workers; orchestrated sectarian conflict at interfaces and some of whom are involved in extortion and drug related crime.
I want once more to address these groups directly. Sinn Fein has offered - through people like me and Martin McGuinness - to meet you and to outline our strategy for advancing republican and democratic objectives and our belief in the futility of armed actions.
So far you have refused to speak to us, dismissed us and placed a death threat on some of us. Despite this I make the same offer again.
I have no problem with anyone disagreeing with Sinn Fein. That is your right, but you have no right to attack anyone and there is no support for this. That is clear from the overwhelming public rejection of the attack which killed Ronan Kerr. The people of this island demand that you stop.
I am prepared to meet you anywhere at any time to listen to what you have to say and to tell you that there is now a democratic peaceful way to unite our people and our country on the basis of equality.
Your achievement has been to unite us all in opposition to your actions. It is time to end these futile attacks on the peace process; they will not succeed.
I would also like to address the smal number of people who might have some tolerance for armed actions. To those who might shelter or provide resources and facilities to the perpetrators of these actions you need to ask yourselves what purpose is being served?
Don’t be fooled into thinking that you are helping the IRA. The war is over. The IRA is gone. The IRA embraced, facilitated and supported the peace process. When a democratic and peaceful alternative to armed struggle was created the IRA left the stage.
Those who murdered Ronan Kerr are not the IRA. Those who murdered Ronan Kerr have no coherent strategy. Your actions do not advance republican objectives. In fact they advance no political agenda whatsoever.
Moreover as has happened in many other conflict resolution processes some of those who were formerly engaged in conflict turn their hand to criminality or those who are purely criminal exploit the situation for their own ends.
This is not a new phenomena nor is it uniquely Irish. However some of these people who are masquerading as activists and others who support violent anti-peace actions are heavily involved in extortion, robberies, and tiger kidnappings in republican heartlands.
Sinn Fein is totally committed to exposing this activity and to making a stand against them.
What is remarkable at this time is that no one is articulating any defence or explanation or rationale for these actions. Where are the political groups who criticise Sinn Fein and vent their anger at our strategy.
Some of these groups, or individuals associated with them - a small number - are standing in local government elections in the north. They should be challenged on these issues.
Irish republicanism was always about more than militarism.
You claim to be republican but your actions are anti-republican and against peace.
You are unrepresentative of the community and do not define republicanism.
You are not dissidents; dissent is a good and necessary part of any democratic or social movement.
Through a long and hard process of negotiation, effort and hard work, Sinn Fein developed a peace strategy and with others created a peace process that has brought about fundamental and positive change.
Significant progress has been made, although this is a continuing struggle. One example of this is the fact that in four weeks there will be an election to the power sharing Assembly and Executive at the end of a successful four year term.
Who could have imagined 20 years ago that Martin McGuinness would be in government with Ian Paisley or Peter Robinson, and that there would be a power sharing system involving Sinn Fein, the DUP and other parties?
Who could have imagined the all-Ireland institutions that are working and delivering for citizens and each day making the border more and more irrelevant?
Who could have imagined that Irish republicanism would be in the vanguard of change. The largest party in the north, with Ministers in an Executive and 14 newly elected TDs in the Dail?
Almost 400,000 citizens have voted for Sinn Fein in the last 12 months. More than vote for Fianna Fail.
This is evidence of the growth and strength of real republican politics.
This is progress and it should be developed.
The Good Friday Agreement provides a peaceful and democratic means to achieve republican objectives for those who have such goals. In referenda and in every subsequent election the people of this island have voted for this and subsequent agreements.
There is a huge onus on mainstream political parties, civic, church, leaders to go beyond the politics of condemnation. The Irish government in particular, along with the Executive have a solemn responsibility to fully implement all aspects of the Good Friday and subsequent agreement.
The Irish government in particular has a responsibility as a co-equal partner with the British government, to ensure that London fulfils all of its responsibilities. This will require a step change in Dublin’s approach to these matters.
It also of huge importance that the response to the actions of these anti-peace process groups is entirely within the law and human rights compliant.
There is no excuse, justification or explanation that can validate the murder of Ronan Kerr or any of the other actions of those involved in his killing.
Our goal in the time ahead must be to defend the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.
In summary Sinn Fein believes that the conditions which in the past led to republican armed actions have fundamentally changed.
Political conditions have changed. New opportunities now exist to advance republican goals.
I am and others in the Sinn Fein leadership are willing to discuss all of this with any prepared to speak to us.