Sinn Féin News, 24 April 2006
Gerry Adams calls for a national coalition for Irish unity
The following is Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speech at the Easter
Commemoration in Dublin on Easter Saturday calling on all those who support
Irish unity, regardless of political affiliation, to come together in a
national coalition for Irish unity.
Gerry Adams, Easter Saturday 2006, Dublin (Full Text of speech):
I want to dedicate these words today to our friend Siobhan O Hanlon who died
this week in Belfast.
90 years ago this Easter an alliance of Irish republican organisations and
others, including elements of the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizen Army,
Sinn Féin, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the woman's movement, trade
unionists and Irish language activists, rose up against British rule in
Ireland and declared a Republic.
On Easter Monday 90 years ago Pádraig Pearse stood on these steps and read
out The Proclamation of that Republic. Six days later, and with the centre
of this city in ruins the leaders of the Army of the IrishRepublic ordered
In the weeks which followed 15 of the leaders were executed, and four months
after that Roger Casement was hanged in London.
The British hoped by the speed of their actions and the scale of the
executions that the flame of freedom would be extinguished in Ireland. They
At his court martial Pádraig Pearse got it exactly right:
'Believe that we, too, love freedom and desire it. To us it is more
desirable than anything in the world. If you strike us down now, we shall
rise again to renew the fight. You cannot conquer Ireland. You cannot
extinguish the Irish passion for freedom.'
I believe that passion for freedom is to be found in the heart of almost
every Irish person - of every man and woman. And why wouldn't it?
The desire for freedom, of the right to be treated properly and with
dignity, to be acknowledged and cherished in your own place, is part of the
It is not uniquely Irish but for those of us who are Irish there is no
better cause than the struggle for the freedom of our island and the
emancipation of our people.
In my view the vast majority of Irish people recognise this. That is why the
decision to re-establish the state commemoration of 1916 is a popular
That is why O'Connell Street will be thronged with people tomorrow.
That is why in every county on this island, and in the United States and
Canada and Australia, and in England and other parts of the world, Irish
republicans will gather to celebrate and commemorate the men and women of
1916 and of all the generations since then.
I welcome the reinstatement of the government's commemoration of 1916. It
should never have been abandoned in the first place.
And let us not forget that successive governments didn't just abandon this
event, they also banned other commemorations.
On one shameful occasion, the daughter of James Connolly, Nora Connolly
O'Brien, by then an old woman, was arrested here for daring to do what Irish
republicans have never failed to do -- to honour our patriot dead.
The Taoiseach has recently said that tomorrow's state event is to
commemorate what the Irish Defence Forces have done for the state and for
the United Nations. That is a good thing to do - but it is not what the
Easter Commemoration will be about.
Since 1916 there has been an almost continuous struggle for the liberation
of our country and the freedom of our people. It's little wonder that this
struggle is so well known in the history of freedom struggles, not only here
but also throughout the world.
I am proud to be part of that struggle. It is a struggle which continues.
There is now a need for a great national effort to bring it to a conclusion.
The Irish government should be part of that effort.
The Core Values of Republicanism
The Taoiseach has called for a return to the core values of Irish
republicanism. I welcome that call. That is what the Easter commemoration is
The heart and soul of Irish republicanism - its core values - are to be
found in the Proclamation of 1916. It is suggested, by some within the Irish
establishment, that the Proclamation has been delivered on. This is a great
Yes, there has been progress and no one can gainsay that. Yes, there has
been a lot of great work done. But in truth The Proclamation is unfinished
It is unfinished business which the vast majority of the Irish people want
to see brought to completion.
Are there any real doubts about where Tom Clarke, Sean Mac Diarmada, Thomas
MacDonagh; Pádraig Pearse; Ceannt, Connolly or Joseph Plunkett, would stand
on the great issues of our time?
The Proclamation is about self-determination and democracy. Does anyone
think that the men and women of 1916 would settle for a partitioned Ireland?
Does anyone believe that they would block northern representatives being
accorded speaking rights in the Dáil?
Does anyone believe that they would settle for anything less than an active
engagement with the British government and unionism to promote and seek
support for reunification?
The Proclamation promises to cherish all the children of the nation equally.
Today, despite the unprecedented prosperity in the Irish economy we have one
of the most inequitable societies in the developed world.
In this state one in seven of our children live in poverty.
There is a two-tier public/private health care system which is grossly
unequal. We have hospitals in which patients linger on trolleys.
There was never any excuse for this type of system. But at a time of great
wealth such conditions are a direct result of a policy which holds that
inequality is good for society. It sees health as a private business, as
opposed to a public service.
The Proclamation says that the ownership of Ireland belongs to the people of
Successive governments have sold off natural resources to powerful
multi-national corporations. In their Proclamation the ownership of Ireland
belongs to Shell or to the National Toll roads and other big businesses.
This government is also about the business of selling off public or state
bodies to their cronies in the private sector.
The ideology, which underpins the privatisation of our health services is
evident also in the sell-off of Aer Lingus. What part of the Proclamation
does this fulfil?
In 1916 Pearse and Connolly and Markeviez stood against the war being waged
by the big powers of that time. Today the Irish government hands over
Shannon airport to be used by a big power waging war in Iraq in this time.
In the spirit of the Proclamation we also say it is vital that the new
communities who have made their home in Ireland, people from all over the
world who have come here to work and study, should be made welcome.
So, I urge the Taoiseach to follow through on the logic of what he has said.
The men and women of 1916 were very definite about the type of Republic they
wanted to create. The Proclamation makes that clear. In it they use words
like sovereignty, independence, equal rights, civil and religious liberties
and cherishing all of the children of the nation equally.
It is words and values like these that continue to guide Sinn Féin in 2006.
Sinn Féin doesn't have all the answers but there are enough people on the
island of Ireland to make partition history if we work together.
I want to send out a call to all those who support Irish unity, regardless
of political affiliation, to come together in a national coalition for Irish
I believe such a coalition could come together around three basic principles.
the sovereignty of the people, to democracy in its fullest sense.
unity of Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter and the rejection of
sectarianism of any kind.
unity of this island and its people, national self-determination, an end to
partition and the establishment of a sovereign 32-County Republic.
So there is a lot of work for all of us in the time ahead if the
Proclamation is to be made real.
I hope that those in political leadership of all the parties will put
partisan politics to one side when the Dáil returns and support Sinn Féin's
motion to prevent the sale and export of irreplaceable historical documents.
They should be kept here in Ireland and in the ownership of the people.
Dialogue with Unionism
A central part of the work of Irish republicans in the time ahead is to
engage with unionists, to talk to, debate with, but ultimately to seek to
persuade unionists that their future and that of their children, lies on
The fact is that no British politician has ever governed in any part of
Ireland in the interests of nationalists and republicans and unionists.
They have always governed and exercised power in British interests. And they
have used and exploited and deepened the divisions and fears of people to
advance British interests.
The result has been exclusion, conflict, division, inequality and poverty.
And no section of our people has been immune from these.
Why should a British Minister take decisions on the future of our children?
Why should a British Minister have the power to decide the priorities in our
health or education services?
Irish republicans believe that in an independent and united Ireland we have
the best chance of effectively tackling these issues.
Unionists have a different opinion. That's fine.
Let's talk about these matters. And let us begin by reassuring unionists
that we are not in the business of coercing them into a united Ireland.
Instead as we seek to build a shared space in which we can move forward we
all must appreciate that, as some northern protestants have said to me, 'the
wise man builds his house upon the rock'.
In this case that means a meaningful, working partnership between
nationalists and republicans, unionists and loyalists.
I believe the opportunity to do that now exists.
The Peace Process
I believe there is a huge opportunity to fulfil the historic destiny of our
people by uniting orange and green in unity and justice and on the basis of
And it exists in no small measure because of the courage and wisdom of IRA
Since we last met in 2005 momentous events in Irish politics and in the life
of this country have taken place.
The announcement by the Irish Republican Army on 28 July to formally end its
armed campaign was a historic development.
I want to pay tribute to the Volunteers of the IRA for taking this
courageous and unprecedented step in order to advance the cause of peace
with justice in Ireland.
Despite the profound difficulties of all this for many republicans, the IRA
has provided a unique opportunity to significantly advance the peace process
and to open up a new era in politics and relationships on this island and
between Ireland and Britain.
It is vital that this opportunity is availed of and the peace process
This must include the release of all republican prisoners and an end to the
ongoing discrimination against republican ex prisoners. It must include the
full delivery of the Good Friday Agreement.
Decision time for the governments and the DUP
So there are many challenges ahead. There are many decisions to be taken.
But the challenges presented by the IRA initiative of last year are not
confined to Irish Republicans.
The two governments are now faced with a stark choice. Are they going to
stand by the Good Friday Agreement or are they going to continue to pander
to rejectionist unionism.
The answer to that question will become clear before the summer months.
The governments have said that they will lift the suspension of the Assembly
on May 15th. Sinn Féin will be in Stormont that day. We will be there for
one reason and one reason only -- the election of a government in line with
the Good Friday Agreement.
We are not interested in talking shops or shadow assemblies. This also has
to be the focus of the Irish and British governments.
Republicans have taken the hard decisions over the past number of years. We
have honoured and stood by every commitment entered into. Decision time now
looms for others. And I speak specifically of the DUP.
Ian Paisley has a decision to make. He has failed in his campaign to smash
Sinn Féin. He has failed in his bid to see unionist majority rule returned.
The only way Ian Paisley will exercise political power is in an Executive
with Sinn Fein. I do not say that to be triumphalist in any way. I say that
because that is the reality, which faces him today.
If Ian Paisley continues to refuse to recognise the rest of us as equals
then the two governments must deliver on their commitment to jointly
implement all other elements of the Good Friday Agreement and increase
substantially all-Ireland harmonisation and management.
But regardless of the decisions taken by Ian Paisley, either to share power
or not - and I hope he decides to share power - we as Irish Republicans have
a mighty job of work ahead of us.
Building unity - building peace
An unprecedented opportunity to open up a new era in politics both on this
island and between Ireland and Britain now exists. It is vital that we grasp
Republicans have mapped out a peaceful path which can deliver Irish unity.
But we have to build a party which can achieve it.
That means building a truly national movement. It means recruiting more
people. It means opening up our party. It means building alliances with
others. It means more campaigning, more activism.
The events of the past year have placed a heavy responsibility onto the
shoulders of each and every one of us here today.
I believe that the republican struggle is in better shape today than at any
time since partition. There are more republicans on this island now than at
any time in our history. That is a good thing.
But there will be many battles in the time ahead. Especially here in the
capital. I want to commend all of our Dublin members and activists -- I want
to commend you for the mighty work you are doing.
In many ways you are the pace setters for the other parties who envy our
volunteerism and sense of idealism and energy. I want also to commend our
councillors and TDs and our MEP, Mary Lou McDonald.
It was your success, which culminated in the election of Mary Lou and
triggered the most recent campaign of vilification against us. That campaign
has failed. But we cannot be complacent.
The entire focus of the establishment parties has been about stopping the
growth of Sinn Féin, particularly in this state and especially in this city.
Well, let me tell them that we have the leadership in Dublin which will see
off any effort to put us, or our electoral base in second place.
We are a first class political party, representing first class people, who
have the right and the desire to build an alternative to the mediocre
politics of the other parties.
Building political strength is one of the key tasks, which face us. It has
been the historic failure to do this that has allowed more conservative
parties to engage in the rhetoric, but not the reality of Irish
A good example of this is to be found in the hunger strikes of 25 years ago.
So as we gather today to remember the momentous events of Easter week 90
years ago, we should also reflect on those long and difficult months 25
years ago when a British government cruelly and cynically allow ten of our
comrades to die on hunger strike.
The Irish government of the day stood back and let the hunger strikers and
their families down, safe in the knowledge that republicans at that time had
neither the political strength nor organisation to stop them.
That is a lesson, which we all must learn from.
By this time 25 years ago Bobby Sands had already been elected as MP in
Fermanagh & South Tyrone. Thatcher had already been exposed to the world for
what she was.
But the struggle in the Blocks was to go on for another six long and
The women in Armagh and the men in the H Blocks were extraordinary people
who when faced with repression and tyranny resisted in the only way they
Their stand, their determination to assert their rights and the rights of
the Irish people continue to inspire us, and we owe them and their families
a massive and continuing debt.
It is vitally important that all of us use this anniversary year to tell a
new generation of Irish republicans the story of 1981, just as it is vital
that the idealism and vision of 1916 is never lost.
So let us go from here today determined to complete their work.
Proud of the sacrifices of all our patriot dead. And determined to make the
Proclamation a reality.
Bobby Sands had a word for it, which echoed what Pearse and Connolly said
here 90 ago.
In the last entry in his diary he wrote: "If they aren't able to destroy the
desire for freedom, they won't break you. They won't break me because the
desire for freedom, and the freedom of the Irish people, is in my heart.
The day will dawn when all the people of Ireland will have the desire for
freedom to show."
Comrades and friends let us go from here to continue the work for that