Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams this week accused Michéal Martin of an “outrageous” attack after the Fianna Fail leader claimed Sinn Féin had “prolonged the suffering” of the Irish people.
Martin chose his party’s annual Arbour Hill commemoration ceremony to rule out any possibility of a coalition with Sinn Féin, which has recently overtaken his scandal-plagued party to become the second most popular party in the 26 Counties.
Martin also took the opportunity to condemn Sinn Féin for supporting the Provisional IRA.
“I am glad that Sinn Féin seems to have, at last, recognised that the Irish people will make their decisions based solely on the ballot box and not the Armalite,” said Martin.
“But it took them too long to realise this and it caused human suffering.”
The Corkman then said it was incorrect and “historically dishonest” to equate those who fought for Irish freedom in 1916 and in the subsequent War of Independence with the actions of the Provisional IRA.
“The terrorist campaign that was waged in the North was not a clean fight,” he said. “It was dirty and nasty. It cost thousands of lives and did untold damage. It was unequivocally wrong.”
Commenting on Martin’s remarks, Gerry Adams said the comments were about Fianna Fail’s current difficulties, “in particular Michéal Martin’s leadership of that party and internal challenges to his stance on the Austerity Treaty referendum and other issues.”
He said many people across the island, “not least supporters and members of Mr Martin’s own party”, would be disappointed at his remarks.
“The irony of Deputy Martin using an Easter commemoration at Arbour Hill to launch an attack on republicans will be lost on very few.
“Sinn Féin is dedicated to the achievement of the ideals of the leaders of the 1916 Rising. We seek a mandate for a genuine republican approach to the issues that face the Irish people at this time.
“Our primary political objective is a united Ireland achieved through peaceful and democratic means.
“In the immediate term we are seeking to build support for an alternative approach to addressing the economic crisis and as part of that securing a No vote to the Austerity Treaty.”
Martin is facing a crisis over growing support within Fianna Fail for the stance of Eamon O Cuiv, who was forced to resign as deputy leader of the party last month over his opposition to the EU’s Austerity Treaty. Three Fianna Fail councillors in the west of Ireland have endorsed O Cuiv’s position on the referendum.
The grandson of Eamon de Valera this week also held out the controversial possibility of Fianna Fail entering a future coalition government alongside Sinn Féin. In an article published by the Irish Mail on Sunday, Mr O Cuiv suggested Sinn Féin would be “natural coalition partners” to Fianna Fail due to their shared republican ideology.
That statement apparently provoked Martin’s outburst against Sinn Féin.
“Sinn Féin has been central to bringing peace to this island,” Mr Adams said, in response.
“Cementing the peace we all now enjoy remains of critical importance. That and the task of building a genuine process of national reconciliation is Sinn Féin’s central political focus.
“We will not be distracted or deflected by Deputy Martin’s attempts to use issues related to the recent conflict in a cynical and opportunist way.
“The work of building peace and reconciliation is far too important to be reduced to narrow, party political point scoring.”