16 August 2000
A further shore is reachable from here
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP will give the following keynote speech tonight in Derry City. Mr Adams will be speaking at the inaugural McCool/Coyle/Carlin Memorial Lecture in the Calgach Centre, Butcher Street, Derry City, at 8pm.
Turning Hope into Reality
George Bernard Shaw once said:
`Some people see things as they are and ask why? I dream things that never were and ask why not?'
`Why not? Why can't our dream be turned into a reality?'
If I had asked you five or ten years ago to imagine the changes that have occurred here, if I had asked you 20 years ago at the time of the first hunger-strike - what would you have said?
But look at what has happened. Look at how far we have come. Look at how strong the republican struggle is today.
How much more can we achieve if we refuse to give up, refuse to allow others to set limits on our potential? The struggle for full independence and sovereignty is not over. That struggle continues.
The Reconquest of Ireland
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin a few years ago described Sinn Fein as ``the voice of an idea''. It is an idea, an idealism that is both republican and labour, the idea of a free Ireland and a sovereign people. We envisage not only the political independence of our country but also the social and economic liberation of all citizens within it.
This means freedom from foreign domination, freedom from ignorance and fear, and freedom from poverty and inequality. Decades of emigration displaced many Irish people. Now the Celtic Tiger and the peace process are bringing some of them home.
But the Celtic Tiger does not cherish all the children of the nation equally and the plight of the less-well-off, people on the poverty line, and the position of the disadvantaged remain unchanged. Even young families with decent incomes can no longer afford a home.
Drug abuse, housing shortages, crowded classrooms and hospital queues are not the mark of a just and equitable society. Meagre hand-outs are not enough.
We have seen the many abuses of the planning process in the South.
We have witnessed the revelations of the various tribunals as they expose the corruption in the political system.
And here in the North, discrimination and inequality and abuses of human rights remain a feature of this state. Poverty, poor housing, bad health and unemployment exist in plenty, alongside a growing drug problem and youth alienation.
All of these burdens and injustices can be overcome. But this will only happen if we make it happen.
A National Democracy
We can build a national democracy. But we need strategy and tactics to achieve this. The reality is that the British still hold jurisdiction over a part of Ireland, although that has been significantly qualified by the repeal of the Government of Ireland Act.
For Irish republicans the Good Friday Agreement is not an end in itself but an Agreement with the potential for transition towards a full national democracy in Ireland.
It is an all-Ireland agreement with all-Ireland structures and institutions.
There is an Executive with obligatory power sharing and an Assembly with all sorts of checks and balances. There are also provisions enacted and others that are imminent for the full protection of human rights in the broadest sense of the term, including national identity.
There is the 32-County framework with a Ministerial Council and Implementation Bodies, both existing and yet to be initiated. In addition, there are other areas for structured co-operation which are themselves capable of expansion. Furthermore, the Irish Government maintains an important Northern role through the Inter-Governmental Conference in respect to all non-devolved matters.
Through our presence in all of these institutions and beyond, Irish republicans are articulating and advancing republican policies, and promoting the logic of the republican ideal. Sinn Fein is also strenuously advocating the case for Northern representation in Leinster House and in the Seanad, and for voters in the north to have the right to vote in Presidential elections and in relevant referenda on the Irish Constitution.
Building Political Strength
But we must realise that all of what we are seeking to do will falter and may be lost if we do not increase our political strength. But this does not mean that Sinn Fein can bring about all the changes required in society on our own.
We intend to link up with like-minded organisations and individuals and those in other parties and in pressure groups, to put together an Alliance for a New Ireland. One, which is free of corruption, and characterised by civic integrity and social justice.
It is true that republicans can look back over the last few years with some degree of satisfaction. We have been the architects of a peace process. We have increased our political strength on both sides of the Border. But we still have a long way to go.
If we are to establish a truly alternative form of politics to the Establishment parties then we need to surpass them, not just in our commitment but by our determination to convince others of our relevance and by our ability to shape a better future for all the people of this island.
Republicans and Unionists
We have mapped out a course for the future and we are taking the lead in charting that course - towards the end of British rule in Ireland.
Because Sinn Fein repudiates the British Government's interference in Ireland, it has been said by some unionists that their presence is thereby being repudiated. That is not the case and never was.
There is no desire on the part of republicans to expel any inhabitant of Ireland or prohibit anyone from designating themselves as British or from endeavouring to fulfil that attitude socially, culturally and politically.
Unionists have the right to pursue their goals politically and democratically. We have the right to pursue our goals politically and democratically.
Irish sovereignty is a fact in its own right and quite separate from the entitlements of unionists and those who categorise themselves as British. At the same time, it is my belief that more and more unionists will come to see the benefit of being 20 per cent of a United Ireland rather than 2 per cent of a United Kingdom where their interests are not pursued.
No Limits on What we can Achieve
Sinn Fein is a voice for the voiceless, a lobby for the marginalised, a champion of the forgotten, a campaigning party while at the same time appealing to a broad range of people on the platform of national democracy and social justice.
We will also be a party of serious opposition and good government and will be increasingly relevant to the creation of the Ireland of the future in time to come.
We are living through a time of great hope, great risk, and great opportunity. But it is also a time to remember that, as Seamus Heaney puts it:
``A further shore is reachable from here.''
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