[Sinn Fein]

8 November 1998

Opposition to equality and change lies at the heart impasse

Extracts of an address by Sinn Fein Assembly member fornorth Belfast Gerry Kelly at Edentubber on the 8th November 1998.

Mr Kelly said:

``Friends and comrades, we gather here today to pay tribute to Paul Smith from Bessbrook and Oliver Craven from Newry, Michael Waters from Louth, George Keegan from Enniscorty and Paddy Parle from Wexford town. In the early hours of November 1 1957, these five men were killed when a land mine exloded prematurely in a house here in Edentubber. These men came from different parts of the country and from very different backgrounds, but they had one thing in common -- they opposed the injustice of British occupation of our country and chose the hard but noble road of freedom struggle.

``This year is the bicentenary of the 1798 rising. That rising was the culmination of almost ten years of political agitation in Ireland which put centre stage the republican demand for separation between Ireland and England. For the first time in our history, the idea of a republic came into being. Then, as now, republicans were at the front in the vanguard of radical politics on this island.

``The demand then was not for a Catholic republic but for a republic which all the people of this island, Catholic, Protestatn and Dissenter could live in and could share with each other on the basis of respect for difference . The people of Ireland want nothing more than to live in peace and to have normal relations with our neighbouring isle, but that relationship can only be built upon equality.

``There is clearly now in the current phase of history an opportunity for this British government to fundamentally review its relationship with Ireland. It is now time for this British government to think the unthinkable, to do the undoable. Let them open their minds up to the argument, first canvassed by Wolfe Tone back in the 1970s, that is, independence for Ireland.''

Addressing the current situation, Mr Kelly said:

``It is obvious that Mr Trimble and other unionists are subverting the peace process. They are trying to cover their opposition to the agrement with bogus rhetoric. There is of course a very simple explanation for the stance of Mr Trimble. He is opposed to the potential for change that is contained in the agreement.

He doesn't want to se Sinn Fein in an Executive. He doesn't want to see a vibrant all-Ireland Council with nationalists and unionists co-operating with each other and planning the future for all the people of this island. He doesn't want to see the reality of equality between nationalists and unionist because this would mean the power, which is currently held in unionist hands, being shared.

``In practice this would mean equality everywhere between nationalists and unionists, not just catholics and protestants. It would mean equality in the legislature, equality in the civil service, equality in the judiciary, equality in the new police service. It wpuld mean cultural equality, it would mea nationalist symbols on display at the heart of all institutions. This scenario is the logical working out of the Good Frdaiy agreement and it is this which Mr Trimble is opposed to.

``But irrespective of opposition from unionist quarters the two governments are committed to the content of the agreement and we are going to see that these changes are implemented.

``The Edentubber martyrs and the hundreds of men and women volunteers who have since given their lives for Irish freedom have paved the way for the achievement of the dream of Irish Unity. We owe it to all of them to do all that we can in the coming months and years to further that objective.

There are no backward steps, no standing still. There is only one way for republicans and that is forward. The prize -- freedom, justice and peace -- and the tide of history demand that we continue going forward.

``Our message today is just as reasonable and valid as when it was first uttered by the heroes of Irish history -- from Wolfe Tone to the men and women of 1916, the hunger strikers of the H-Blocks of Long Kesh -- national self-determination for the Irish people. Saoirse, Ceart agus Siochan.''

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