[Sinn Fein]

9 November 1997


Address by Sinn Fein Chairman Mitchel McLaughlin


In the early hours of November 11th 1957 five Republicans were killed when a land mine exploded prematurely in a house here in Edentubber.

They were Paul Smith (19) from Bessbrook, Oliver Craven (19) from Newry, Michael Watters (55) in whose cottage the fatal explosion occurred, George Keegan (29) from Enniscorthy and Paddy Parle (27) from Wexford Town.

>From differing social and family backgrounds, they would have expected to live long and productive lives in a normal society, in whatever trade or profession they would have chosen. But as has been the case throughout the troubled history of our country, these brave Irishmen from North and South, like so many before them, opposed the injustice of British occupation of our country and choose the hard but noble road of freedom struggle.

They came from a tradition that has borne the brunt of the struggle for Irish freedom. They were Irish Republicans in the tradition of the United Irishmen whose 200th anniversary we will commemorate next year. They like the United Irishmen believed that the root cause of Irelands ills is British occupation and interference in our country. They were not prepared to stand idly by while the Ireland envisioned by the United Irishmen had yet to be realised. They were angered as we are, by the lip service paid to the reunification of Ireland by successive governments in Dublin. They rejected the opportunism of those constitutional Irish political leaders who annually traipsed to the gravesides of Wolfe Tone and other great Irish Patriots and paid public homage to the ideals for which they sacrificed their lives, but did little that was practical to remove the injustice of partition.

As with the United Irishmen and Irish Republican revolutionaries in every generation before and since, these brave volunteers tried all available peaceful methods of ending British occupation and repression in Ireland. Had successive Dublin governments and Leinster House politicians exercised their mandated responsibility to assert the right to national self-determination then an inclusive and democratic resolution would have long ago been achieved and many lives saved.

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 the United Irishmen. An Ireland in which Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter ar united under the common name of Irishperson.

This generation has the greatest opportunity since partition to finally achieve genuine national self-determination. But if we are to be successful then we must resist those in the media and political establishment who would have us lower our expectations.

All of the nationalist parties on this island and the two governments accept that there can be no internal Six-County settlement. They accept that partition has been a failure. They have also agreed that the status quo is not an option. Therefore it is obvious that all attempts to reform the irreformable, to fix the unfixable should also be abandoned.

There is a solution to centuries of turmoil and trauma. The present Irish government should be more forceful and unapologetic in the negotiations in promoting its stated preferred option - a united Ireland. Let us agree to end British interference and dismantle the institutions of partition and work together to establish the political institutions and structures of a government of Consensus in Ireland. Our generation have the opportunity, we have the unavoidable responsibility to create a new and agreed Ireland. The United Ireland of our future.

The British government must also exercise a crucial responsibility. By its acceptance that there can be no internal Six-County settlement the British government clearly supports a consensus that partition and it's policy on Ireland has failed. The British government should change or re-interpret that policy to one of ending British involvement in our affairs. Tony Blair should use his influence and power to convince the unionist leadership that the future of all of our people lies in a stable, peaceful sovereign Ireland agreed amongst the people of this island.

The Unionist leaderships cannot be allowed to prevent - for selfish political reasons - real, meaningful and substantive negotiations. Their schoolboy antics of disruption and non-engagement in the negotiations at Stormont can only succeed if the British government refuses to denounce this behaviour. Tony Blair is in a very powerful position to insist that the Unionist party leaders face up to the fundamental constitutional change that is required if we are to resolve this conflict.

Sinn Fein is determined to ensure that the Irish Republican analysis is presented in the clearest possible terms to all the participants to these negotiations. David Trimble can scuttle in and out and he can run around the Stormont Buildings but he can't hide. Eventually he will have to stop his messing about and face up to the reality of negotiation with Sinn Fein. David, we are not going away you know! If our people, of whatever political opinion, are to arrive at a negotiated democratic settlement that respects every person on this island as human beings in equal standing, then we must negotiate with each other as equals and we must do it now.

Irish Republicans today wish to assure the Unionist section of our people that the agreed Ireland that we envisage is not one in which they will have to fear discrimination or second class citizenship. When republicans demand equality we demand it for all the people of this island irrespective of religious or political persuasion, ethnic origin or social standing. We recognise that in social and economic terms there are those of the unionist tradition who have also been treated as second class citizens.

David Trimble would be well advised to pay more attention to the wishes of his own people and their desire for a process of real engagement in the search for peace.

His scare mongering with his comments on the Louth resignations are a desperate attempt to deflect attention from his negative politics and his schoolboy antics in the Stormont negotiations. I regret both the resignations and the media hype surrounding them. But our door is open for those who wish to reconsider their actions.

The unity, vibrancy and continual growth of Sinn Fein frightens David Trimble. He is so afraid of our ability to articulate the logic of our analysis that he cannot yet find the courage to debate our respective analysis face to face. But change will happen anyway. It is already underway and the confidence within republicanism and nationalism is a general reflection of that reality.

David Trimble's pronouncements over the past few days about the stability of the IRA cessation and his glee at a small number of resignations from Sinn Fein's is in stark contrast to his deafening silence when the entire CLMC resigned and then killed one of their own members. He was so scared to upset his allies in the loyalist paramilitary parties that he refused to comment. There seems to be no bounds to David Trimble's hypocrisy.

I can assure everyone that Sinn Fein is a progressive, united and cohesive political force, confident enough that we can allow those who may differ with our analysis to have their say and then move forward without rancour. Can David Trimble give the same assurance about the Ulster Unionist Party?

If he believes he can, then when is he going to show the political courage to face his political opponents, in open and mature debate, about the kind of Ireland we want to bequeath to future generations on this island.

If David Trimble cannot do the honourable thing and negotiate in good faith then he should at least stop trying to continually find something or somebody else to blame for his political and leadership inadequacies. In other words he should grow up and enter the real world.

Sinn Fein is committed to agreement achieved by peaceful means, but we can only convince our political opponents of our bona fides by face to face discussion and negotiations. Therefore if David Trimble is refusing to take these negotiations seriously, it becomes incumbent on those progressives in positions of influence within the unionist community to encourage him to engage and to support him publicly when and if he does.

The search for a resolution cannot of course be left entirely to those involved at Stormont. Each and every individual has their own special part to play. Let us be critical when it is appropriate to do so. Where are all of the campaigners who were so vociferous in their demands for a cessation of the IRA's armed struggle? What are they doing now to ensure that the opportunity that has been presented for the second time in three years is not wasted like the last one? What are these `Peace Campaigners' doing to bring pressure on the British government to act on confidence building measures around issues such as release of prisoners, cultural rights and equality? Do those who campaigned so vigorously for an IRA cessation realise that the only armed group maintaining a genuine cessation is the IRA? Where are the Peace Trains to South Armagh, West Belfast and County Tyrone as the British Army continues to build and fortify military installations? Where are the demands for a British Army cessation of military operations? Where are the demands for the renewal of the CLMC cease-fire?

Until all these issues are addressed we will not have genuine peace on this island. It is important therefore that each and every person seriously interested in a democratic resolution of this conflict become involved in pressure campaigns to demand the release of all political prisoners, demilitarisation, equality and real and substantive negotiations now.

I would ask you to leave here today determined to make the best contribution you can to the building of a new Irish democracy in the vision of the United Irishmen, the Edentubber Martyrs and all the other Irish patriot men and women. Together we can build the United Ireland of our future.

Go raibth mille maith agaibh.

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