20th April 2003
`Get your own house in order' TD says to those blaming Republicans for current impasse
Speaking at this year's annual Easter 1916 Commemoration in Dublin on Sunday April 20th Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said that ``the IRA have taken courageous decisions'' that too often had been taken for granted. He said that those who point the finger of blame at republicans should ``get their own house in order''.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
``Republicans have always said that if a viable path of struggle for Irish freedom, not involving armed action, became available then they were obliged to employ that route. They have been true to their word. The IRA demonstrated initiative and innovation and ever since their first cessation in 1994 they have taken courageous decisions that have caused real and soul-searching difficulties for many republicans. Too often these efforts have been taken for granted by some who were themselves hostile to the peace process at its inception. So to those who would point the finger at the IRA for the current difficulties in the peace process I say: ``Get your own house in order.''
``We must recognize that a major factor in the political equation of the peace process now is the concern of the Fianna Fáil/PD government at the growth of Sinn Fein, particularly here in Dublin and throughout the 26 Counties. That is understandable and as political parties they have every right to fight their corner. But we say to them that they must act firstly as an Irish government elected to represents all citizens on this island. They must not let their party political role cloud their thinking in the peace process.
``It would suit many of our political opponents in this State to see a situation where republicans were held responsible for any delay or deadlock in the peace process. We will not accept such a situation and we will continue to assert the rights of those who vote for Sinn Fein throughout the 32 Counties, and the rights of everyone who voted for the Good Friday Agreement, rights that are not subject to preconditions by governments, political parties or armed groups. The days of demonisation and discrimination on either side of the Border are over and they are not coming back. All parties in Leinster House please note!
``In the local government and EU elections next year Sinn Fein will be presenting its largest ever number of candidates. We are resolved to send strong teams of Sinn Fein councillors onto all four local authorities in the greater Dublin area. And we are also determined to elect the first ever Sinn Fein MEP when we secure the seat for our Dublin candidate Marylou McDonald. `` ENDS
It is a privilege to address you here on Easter Sunday in our capital city where 87 years ago brave Irish republican men and women marched out to fight for Irish freedom and to challenge the British Empire at the height of its power. We remember them with pride. We remember with pride the courage of the men and women of 1916 and of every generation since then who worked and struggled and fought and died for the Irish Republic proclaimed in Easter Week. The bravery of a handful of Volunteers in this city at Easter 1916 inspired not only the Irish people but nations struggling for freedom throughout the world.
In every decade since 1916 republicans have made the supreme sacrifice for the independence of our country and for liberty, justice and equality for all our people. We honour especially those republicans who have died in the latest phase of the struggle for freedom since 1969. The Republican Volunteers of Easter Week laid to rest in this 1916 Plot in Glasnevin are the comrades of the Irish Republican Army Volunteers who died in this country in the past three decades. The IRA are the successors of the men and women of 1916.
We pay tribute to the Volunteers of Óglaigh na hÉireann and we acknowledge the role they have played in the struggle for Irish freedom. We acknowledge also the tremendous efforts they have made to ensure that the Irish peace process succeeds. Their efforts have required courage, resolve and clear-sightedness and these qualities they have shown in abundance. Republicans have always said that if a viable path of struggle for Irish freedom, not involving armed action, became available then they were obliged to employ that route. They have been true to their word. The IRA demonstrated initiative and innovation and ever since their first cessation in 1994 they have taken courageous decisions that have caused real and soul-searching difficulties for many republicans. Too often these efforts have been taken for granted by some who were themselves hostile to the peace process at its inception. So to those who would point the finger at the IRA for the current difficulties in the peace process I say: ``Get your own house in order.''
The 1916 Rising marked the beginning of the end of the British Empire as oppressed people throughout the world took courage from the Irish example. When Pearse and Connolly and their comrades struck in 1916 they knew that their actions had international as well as national implications. They were against empires not only in Ireland but worldwide. Sinn Fein stands in that proud Irish republican tradition when we oppose the current aggressive international policies of the US and British governments. Their invasion of Iraq was wrong. The military occupation of that country is wrong and the latest threats to neighbouring countries are wrong also. It is for the people of Iraq and the entire Middle East to free themselves. Only the people of that region, not native dictators like Saddam Hussein or foreign military occupiers like the US and Britain, have the right to determine their future. We reject these wars for oil and we demand instead that the resources used to slaughter innocent civilians in Iraq and Palestine be diverted to a war on hunger, inequality and injustice.
No Irish Government can claim the mantle of 1916 when it has abandoned Irish independent foreign policy and violated Irish neutrality by allowing our airports and seaports to be used for the illegal invasion of Iraq. We in Sinn Fein have been to the fore in demanding positive Irish neutrality and independent Irish foreign policy. In the Dáil my fellow Sinn Fein TDs and I have tabled a Bill to put positive neutrality in the Constitution and we exposed the real anti-neutrality coalition forces in Leinster House - Fianna Fáil, the PDs and Fine Gael who all voted against our Bill. Outside the Dáil Sinn Fein has also played a leading role in the anti-war campaign and I commend in particular the work of our party here in Dublin. It is a prime example of how the work of our TDs in Leinster House complements the work of our political activists on the ground.
Our opposition to the aggression of big powers against small nations and our demand for negotiated peace settlements is sharpened by our own history of struggle against imperialism and our experience of peacemaking in Ireland. For the past decade the political priority of Sinn Fein has been our work to achieve a lasting peace in Ireland through dialogue and negotiation. That work reached a decisive stage five years ago with the Good Friday Agreement. It is not a republican document, it falls short of our demands in many ways but it represented and still represents, a very significant step forward.
We need to put the current impasse in the peace process in the context of the Good Friday Agreement and what it actually contains. For the past five years repeated efforts have been made to prevent the implementation of the Agreement. And what is being blocked? Not concessions to republicans as is so often wrongly stated. Not special privileges for nationalists that mean losses for unionists. What is being blocked is the implementation of basic rights that should be the norm in any society, rights that will benefit all citizens, regardless of political affiliation or religious persuasion, unionists as well as nationalists.
- The right to fair and equal representation in democratic institutions including the Assembly and the Executive and the All-Ireland Ministerial Council
- The right to a new beginning to policing with a truly accountable, representative, depoliticised and demilitarised police service
- The right to live free from sectarian harassment
- Equal opportunity in employment
- Language and cultural rights
- The right to live in a demilitarised environment and not in the shadow of watchtowers and spyposts.
All of these things should be in place since 1998. Why have they been blocked? I believe the answer is that while the British government and the unionist leadership saw the potential for major change contained in the Agreement they also believed it could be contained and that Sinn Fein could be contained. The political establishments on this island wrongly saw the Agreement as a victory for the so-called middle ground and believed that it would enthrone a UUP/SDLP dominated Assembly and Executive in which Sinn Fein could be marginalized.
They meant it to be, in the words of Séamus Mallon, ``Sunningdale for slow learners.''
What they did not provide for was the growth of Sinn Fein, now the largest nationalist party in the North. They did not expect that Sinn Fein would become a major force in politics here in the 26 Counties. And they did not anticipate that we would use our political strength to ensure the full implementation of the Agreement and to fulfil all its potential. The establishment's job is to lower expectations. Ours is to reach those expectations and to exceed them.
That is why unionism has resisted the implementation of the Agreement and why they have been facilitated all along in their obstruction by the British government.
That is understandable from a unionist point of view because the unionist people with whom we share this island have many genuine fears and concerns about their future. We have a duty to allay those concerns and meet unionists on common ground. We say to them frankly that we are out for a united Ireland that includes them and in which they can play a key and constructive role. We have no hidden agenda. Their rights are guaranteed in the Good Friday Agreement. When we have a united Ireland - and I firmly believe it is when and not if - republicans will be the most pro-active in ensuring that the rights of all citizens and of all the diverse sections of our national community, are protected and vindicated.
There can be no excuse for the failure of the British government to meet its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement and still less for the Irish government to do so. We must recognize that a major factor in the political equation of the peace process now is the concern of the Fianna Fáil/PD government at the growth of Sinn Fein, particularly here in Dublin and throughout the 26 Counties. That is understandable and as political parties they have every right to fight their corner. But we say to them that they must act firstly as an Irish government elected to represent all citizens on this island. They must not let their party political role cloud their thinking in the peace process.
It would suit many of our political opponents in this State to see a situation where republicans were held responsible for any delay or deadlock in the peace process. We will not accept such a situation and we will continue to assert the rights of those who vote for Sinn Fein throughout the 32 Counties, and the rights of everyone who voted for the Good Friday Agreement, rights that are not subject to preconditions by governments, political parties or armed groups. The days of demonisation and discrimination on either side of the Border are over and they are not coming back. All parties in Leinster House please note!
Five years ago at the time of the Good Friday Agreement the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern asked the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution to consider how the people of the Six Counties might play a ``more active role in national political life''. It took the Committee from 1998 to last year to report on the issue. The time for action is now and it is long overdue. Recently the Taoiseach said he agreed with the Committee's recommendation that MPs should have the right to speak in the Dáil. That was welcome but we need a pro-active engagement by the Taoiseach with all the parties to make this happen. Sinn Fein is seeking:
- Right of attendance at the Dáil for the 18 Westminster MPs elected in the Six Counties.
- Reform of the Seanad to include election by a national list system with people in the Six Counties having the right to vote.
- The right to vote in Presidential elections for citizens in the Six Counties.
We urge the Taoiseach to act decisively and to act now.
The Irish Government must also act on two other very important issues. In relation to the Castlerea Five this Government has an obligation to fulfil it's responsibilities under the Good Friday Agreement. These men should have been released long ago. This very point was acknowledged by the courts in the recent case taken by the men. They are qualifying prisoners and we are demanding here today that the Government live up to their responsiblities and release them immediately.
The also have a responsibility to ensure the safe return home of the three Irishmen currently being held by the Colombian authorities. Following the latest court proceedings in Colombia it has become blatantly clear that there is no evidence against Jim Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly. The Irish Government has a duty to offer protection to Irish citizens wherever they are. Again we are calling on Bertie Aheren and Brian Cowen to intervene directly with the Colombian government to bring an end to the farce that is called a trial and to guarantee the safe return of the three men to Ireland.
Sinn Fein faces major challenges in the days and weeks ahead.
Our negotiators are still fully engaged and I want to pay tribute to them from this platform and to join with you in recognizing the leadership and skill they have shown. They have done republican Ireland proud.
On May 29th people in the Six Counties are due to go to the polls in what will be a hugely important Assembly election. Sinn Fein is confident and strong and we are poised to significantly increase our support in votes and in seats and to become the largest nationalist party in the Six Counties. It will not happen without hard work and I make a special appeal here to our activists in Dublin to become involved directly in the Assembly election campaign. We are an all-Ireland party so let us show it by making an all-Ireland effort in these elections and ensuring a result that will be celebrated throughout the 32 Counties.
I would also urge that republicans in Dublin mobilize for the National Hunger Strike Commemoration in Belfast on 4 May. In the context of current developments in the peace process this is a very important rallying point and I urge everyone to attend.
Sinn Fein has taken on many challenges, above all to complete the historic task of Pearse and Connolly, to unite our country and achieve the Republic. But we will not meet those challenges unless many more people join Sinn Fein. In the words of Bobby Sands everyone has a part to play and I urge those here who are not yet actively involved to join Sinn Fein and to play your part. The work is hard. The hours are long. There are no material rewards. But, in the words of another great republican, James Connolly, who said in 1916: ``Never had man or woman a grander cause. Never was a cause more grandly served.''
I want to pay tribute to Sinn Fein Átha Cliath, the fastest growing section of the fastest growing political party in Ireland. Dublin Sinn Fein has been to the fore in campaigning on a wide range of issues including the unjust Bin Charges, cuts in Public Services, the gross inequality in healthcare, the housing crisis, opposition to the Nice Treaty and the War on Iraq and support for the Irish peace process. In the Dáil and on the ground the only real opposition to the dishonest and discredited policies of this Fianna Fáil/PD government is Sinn Fein.
Five years ago when I stood here to give the Easter address just two days after the Good Friday Agreement I was the sole Sinn Fein TD in Leinster House. Since then I have been joined by four colleagues and I want to pay special tribute to Dublin Sinn Fein activists and to the people of Dublin South West and Dublin South Central who elected Seán Crowe TD and Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD. Seán and Aengus are giving first-class representation to their constituents and to the republicans of this city in Leinster House. As part of the Sinn Fein team they are challenging this government of broken promises and bankrupt polices. We in Sinn Fein are presenting the real alternative. We are committed to social and economic freedom for the people of Ireland. We are just as determined to achieve an Ireland where poverty and inequality are eliminated as we are to achieve an end to partition.
None of this can be achieved without greater political strength for Sinn Fein. In the local government and EU elections next year Sinn Fein will be presenting its largest ever number of candidates. We are resolved to send strong teams of Sinn Fein councillors onto all four local authorities in the greater Dublin area. And we are also determined to elect the first ever Sinn Fein MEP when we secure the seat for our Dublin candidate Marylou McDonald. This can and will be achieved but only with the full and active participation of all Sinn Fein supporters in Dublin.
Is é Poblacht na hÉireann ár gcuspóir. Le Pádraig MacPiarais deireann muid go bhfuil uainn Éire ``ní hamháin saor ach Gaelach, ní hamháin Gaelach ach saor''. Le Seamus Ó Conghaile deireann muid ``Ni saoirse go saoirse lucht oibre'' agus ``Is e cúis na hÉireann cúis an Lucht Oibre agus is e cúis an Lucht Oibre cúis na hÉireann''.
A chairde, we have a great deal of work to do. But we are at the cutting edge of Irish politics. We are proud of our past, strong in our struggle and confident of the future. Together we will achieve Irish unity and independence. We will live in the Irish Republic for which so many have sacrificed so much.
Ar aghaidh linn le chéile agus beidh an bua againn.
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