Sinn Féin News, July 28, 2006

First anniversary of historic IRA statement

ending its armed campaign

Today is the first anniversary of the historic IRA statement announcing an end to its armed campaign.

On July 28th last year, the IRA leadership formally ordered all units to dump arms and to engage in purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means only.

Although the move was a huge boost for the peace process, progress has been delayed since then due to the DUP's ongoing refusal to share power with republicans.

Both the British and Irish governments said this week that they believed the IRA was living up to its commitments to engage solely in peaceful and democratic activity 100 percent.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams is due to address a press conference later today to mark the first anniversary of the IRA statement and is expected to express frustration at the way unionists are delaying political progress.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams:

Opportunity opened up by IRA decision can still be grasped
by British and Irish governments

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams was this morning joined by Donegal County Councillor Pádraig Mac Lochlainn and South Down Assembly member Caitriona Ruane at a press conference in Belfast to mark the first anniversary of the decision of the IRA to formally end their armed campaign. Mr Adams said that the "opportunity opened up by IRA decision can still be grasped by British and Irish governments".

Mr Adams said:

"The IRA decision has had an enormous impact over the last twelve months. The IRA definitively dealt with issues which had been presented as unionist concerns and its initiative opened up huge opportunities.

"But twelve months on people are growing impatient for change. Given the delays and stalling it is absolutely understandable that nationalists and republicans will have reservations about the commitment of the British and Irish governments to implementing an agreement which should have been implemented years ago.

"Consequently, the real focus now is on Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern and what they are going to do in the next three months. They are under no illusions about what republicans expect as we approach the make-your-mind-up time in the political process. They know that Republicans will continue to press hard for progress.

"In our ongoing discussions with the two governments we have made it clear that if the process doesn‚t move forward decisively, after this present effort to bring the DUP on board, then two governments need to map out clearly how their partnership approach will continue the process of change and of moving forward with the Good Friday Agreement.

"It certainly must include detail and real progress on the all-Ireland agenda and of moving ahead with issues like northern representation and developing and enhancing the all-Ireland implementation bodies. They must also press on with the agendas of equality and human rights for all."

Unionists still refuse to have open minds

By Jim Gibney

"The leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann has formally ordered an end to the armed campaign. The IRA leadership has also authorised our representative to engage with the IICD to complete the process to verifiably put its arms beyond use... we believe there is now an alternative way to end British rule in our country. There is now an opportunity to mobilise the considerable energy and goodwill which there is for the peace process."

Thus spoke the leadership of the IRA one year ago today.

Responding to this momentous and unparalleled decision in the history of the struggle for Irish independence Gerry Adams said it was a "bold and brave leap". He urged people, particularly unionists to "think beyond the moment" to consider "not the leap itself but the place it takes us".

In the history of the last 40 years of conflict there are probably two defining points for this generation of republicans, the hunger strike of 1981 when 10 prisoners died in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh and last year's decision by the IRA to end the armed campaign. History teaches us it takes time to assess the impact of great human upheavals, events or decisions.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the hunger strike. Today we can clearly see the political impact of the hunger strikers' deaths. Their deaths put the struggle for Irish independence onto a new plateau onto a higher moral plane. The manner of their deaths instilled in people an awesome regard which remains to this day.

The protesting prisoners defeated Thatcher's criminalisation policy, secured political status for political prisoners, reawakened interest around the world in Britain's occupation of Ireland, generated a tidal wave of support for Irish republicanism and fundamentally influenced how the republican leadership conducted the independence struggle in the years since.

Sinn Féin's involvement in elections was accelerated by the 1981 hunger strike. The roots of Sinn Féin's electoral strategy lie in the election victories of Bobby Sands, Kieran Doherty, Paddy Agnew and Owen Carron. The hunger strike of 1981 was this generation's 1916 Rising in terms of the heroism of those who died.

The IRA's decision to end the armed campaign has now created a context for Irish politics which has never before existed. Hitherto the issue of national independence and how it was to be achieved was largely dominated by the physical force tradition and the reaction of those opposed to that tradition.

With the IRA's armed campaign at an end Irish politics and politicians are being challenged by contradictions of partition and a British-imposed and maintained border which is rejected by the four-fifths of the Irish population.

Those in the southern political establishment, satisfied with the limited state freedom bestowed on them by the 1921 Treaty, are being forced to redefine themselves as republicans.

The legacy of British colonialism is being confronted by an articulate argument from Sinn Féin politicians which challenges the borders of the Free State 'nation' to expand beyond the 26 counties to include the people of the six counties. In recognition of the changing times the Irish government reinstated, after a 30-year lapse, a state ceremony marking the 1916 Rising.

Time and effort will be required to overcome the partitionist mentality. Last year's IRA statement is a catalyst for that process. Those in the political establishment in Dublin and Belfast comfortable with partition and the status quo are already opposing the emergence of this 'one nation' politic.

This can be seen in the niggardly approach of the Irish government to opening the doors of Leinster House to politicians from the six counties. It can also be seen in the political and media campaign against Sinn Féin in advance of next year's Dail election.

This fear of Sinn Féin's electoral appeal has led the Irish government to default on its commitments to the peace process. They have sided with the British government in their appeasement policy to the DUP while unionists remain obsessed with an IRA in peaceful mode, ignoring on-going loyalist violence.

One year on the unionists and their allies are still refusing to open their minds to the place the peace process can take us. But history teaches us with patience and effort we'll get there.