[Sinn Fein]

12 November 1997

Kelly calls for end to British security agenda

Speaking in advance of a meeting in Richardsons, Eyre Square, Galway tomorrow night (8pm) Sinn Fein representative for North Belfast, Gerry Kelly said:

The partition of Ireland was a calculating and ruthless move by the British state to defend its strategic interests in Ireland, in the face of massive and widespread opposition to its imposition. The proposal of partition had the distinction of being opposed by both nationalists and unionists of the time. The border partitioning Ireland was a contrived arrangement to ensure an artificially constructed unionist majority.

The imposition of this division by means of the threat of ``immediate and terrible war'' can be seen to have been the primary violence from which so much suffering has ensued.

Structural violence, the means by which British state influence has endured in Ireland, has affected each and every facet of the patterns of life of the people of this island in a fundamental way. It is important that those who represent people on this island, who seek an end to partition and its divisiveness, must leave the British state and the wider international community in no doubt that national self determination is the basis on which our future must be based.

This requires a clear and united expression from nationalist and republican Ireland that time has not made partition any more legitimate. The six county state has survived through the use of emergency legislation, state violence, and of death squads. Present circumstances have given all of us the chance for a fundamental and inclusive solution to become a reality. We must ensure this opportunity is grasped and is successful.

Republicans have taken on our responsibilities in relation to working for an end to conflict and to building the peace process. Indeed it is republicans who have taken the greatest risks in all of this. There have been resignations from Sinn Fein and the IRA. While we are sorry that people have resigned everybody has a right to their own opinion. However there are mischievous elements in the media and some people working in the background who are trying to add fuel to start the fire which will destroy the peace process. The very legitimate concerns that people are raising are increased by the lack of any real movement in the talks.

In relation to the mischievous agenda being operated by some in the media I would like to say that I know of nothing that would give substance to today's story that there have been resignations from the South Armagh area.

We seek the replacement of the old security agenda, which is still being pursued by elements within the British establishment, with confidence building measures. These include the release of all political prisoners, an end to harassment and the withdrawal of British troops. There is a need to begin a process of demilitarisation particularly the dismantlement of British military fortifications throughout the six counties.

A credible process of negotiations has to tackle in a fundamental and constructive way the causes of conflict in Ireland, and to bring about substantial and significant change on constitutional and political matters as well as democratic rights.

Democracy is about all of those principles which, for far too long, have been denied to nationalists - respect, dignity, justice, civil rights, political rights, cultural rights, democratic rights - Equality. Democratic rights also include national rights.

Self- determination is a nations exercise of the political freedom to determine its own economic, social, and cultural development, without external influence and without partial or total disruption of the national unity or territorial integrity. Ireland today clearly does not have this freedom, nor does the pretext for partition hold good against these criteria.

Success will be best served by a collective analysis from the many different perspectives that make up Nationalist Ireland. An analysis which can then be put before the world as a vision of what is possible in a new agreed Ireland. Such cohesion would also counter what has always been the British states modus operandi in relation to Ireland, namely the promotion of secondary differences among those in Ireland who seek national democracy, to blur the reality of the primary issue, what I referred to earlier as the primary violence, which is the partition of Ireland.

Sinn Fein has always urged those who showed an interest in conflicts all over the world from Central America to South Africa to be consistent in their analysis when it came to Ireland. I'm sure you will understand for example the frustration felt by Sinn Fein when the Major government used the issue of arms to try and stall the process. This is the same government which oversaw the second largest arms supply industry in the world including sales to such countries such as Indonesia and Kenya with their appalling human rights records.

We believe that the processes involved in the exercise of national self-determination will create a dynamic which will involve challenging those aspects of the social and economic structures on the island which leave sections of our people marginalised.

Sinn Fein's idea of social justice involves the harnessing of economic activity for the benefit of all.

Let me take the sector of life most of you here find yourself involved in, namely education. Public funding of education in the 26 counties is to put it bluntly, unjust. Primary education, the sector in which most of the population participate is the most badly funded, while the third level sector which is the least representative sector, receives a greater share of state finances. This inequity manifests itself in situations such as that in University College Dublin, the largest University in this state. While it has a student body of over 15,000 students, this year they provided the grand total of ten places to disadvantaged students under the ``Equal Participation Admissions Programme of Partnership 2000.'

Union of Student in Ireland figures show that approximately nine out of ten children of parents in the higher professions go to higher education, the figure for children of parents in semi skilled and unskilled manual work lies at one in six.

We in Sinn Fein give a commitment to bring the same energy we have sought to attain national rights with, to work for equality in all sectors of life on the island.

Mr. Kelly continued:

We recognise that a section of the people of Ireland cherish a British heritage. We do not seek to end the expression of this legitimate sense of identity. What we do seek is an end to British sovereignty, partition, and the denial of basic human and civil rights.

When Irish Republicans talk about British interference and the British presence we do not mean the Unionist section of the people of Ireland. Being marginalised, abandoned and disempowered is wrong for nationalists. It would also be wrong for unionists.

I would like to briefly address the issue of consent. If consent is a principle it must apply to all. Nationalist consent was never sought or given to the division of Ireland. So abused has the issue of consent become that it is in fact, and in its effect, a unionist veto on progress of any Kind. It has become the unionist veto dressed up in democratic garb.

The perversion of consent means that it applies only to unionists and becomes a political instrument for bludgeoning nationalists into accepting a unionist outcome to negotiations. No duty or responsibility is placed on unionists to seek the consent of nationalists to anything, other than to the continued division of the people of Ireland.

Consent is an important matter in the search for agreements which are for the Irish people alone to democratically determine. Consent must be universally applied to the people of Ireland. Universal application precludes any sectional approach. Consent cannot be reduced to a matter of arithmetic.

Republicans are for consent, we are for agreement, we are for national reconciliation, we are for equality and justice. It is vital that we bear in mind that one of the lessons of conflict resolution is that reconciliation and agreement are only possible among equals, in a situation where all views are accorded validity and respect.

Given the need for this framework of respect, we in Sinn Fein are disappointed by the behaviour of the Ulster Unionists at the Stormont talks. Insults and stonewalling will not deliver the future the people of this island deserve. I would appeal to Unionists to engage positively and practically in the talks. Unionism is needed in the planning of negotiation, in managing the change which is inevitably coming, and in securing an agreement which threatens no ones civil, religious or cultural rights.

It is our belief that, given the basically common experience of the people of Ireland, reunification would over time lead to the full emergence of the kind of Irish nation that has been hoped for since the time of the United Irishmen.

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