11 December 2003 Edition
A fitting tribute - Adams challenges the DUP after attacks
This past Sunday, 7 December, thousands of republicans gathered in bright sunshine to observe the re-dedication of the republican plot in Belfast's Milltown Cemetery.
The new monument that now marks the site is the culmination of several years of hard work by the National Graves Association. The NGA was determined to see a fitting memorial erected in honour of fallen Belfast republicans and the final result of their efforts is stunning.
Hosting the event, NGA Spokesperson Liam Shannon paid tribute to all who had assisted in the creation, fundraising and construction of the memorial, making special mention of the contribution of the late Tony Curry, who died only a few weeks ago.
NGA committee members Willie John McCorry and Bridget Hannon then unveiled the newly completed Wall of Remembrance, as families and comrades of the deceased laid wreaths.
The oration was delivered by Sinn Féin Presimmunity support. That support saw ordinary families run enormous risk to clothe, feed and house IRA Volunteers.
"But," he added, "no guerrilla army can survive on the assistance of its friends and allies alone. The strength of any guerrilla army is to be found in the calibre of the men and women who make it up. And the calibre of IRA Volunteers is extraordinary.
"IRA Volunteers have demonstrated again and again, extraordinary tenacity, determination and commitment. Not least in helping to create the space to enhance the Peace Process and to save it when the actions of others threatened to bring it down. The reality is that there would be no Peace Process if it were not for the IRA."
The Sinn Féin leader challenged the DUP to consider its political direction carefully and reflect upon its implications, and he referred to a spate of loyalist attacks on the homes of several prominent republicans this past weekend.
"As republicans well know, with an increased mandate comes an increased responsibility to use it wisely. The DUP need to reflect upon this.
"The DUP, who are now in the political leadership of unionism, and who are refusing to engage with our party, also have to reflect upon the message they are sending to the violent wing of unionism. They need to reflect upon the wave of attacks on republicans homes this past Friday night.
"If unionist political leaders constantly send out the message that they will not engage with Sinn Féin or respect the mandate of our party, then they have to expect that those within the paramilitary section of unionism will respond in the manner we witnessed on Friday night."
The Sinn Féin President called on the two governments to make it clear to the DUP that the Good Friday Agreement cannot be renegotiated.
"This message also needs to be made clear to them when they meet with the Irish Government in the time ahead — and they will meet with the Irish government. The fact that the Good Friday Agreement is not up for barter, nor for renegotiation.
"Republicans can look back over the last few years, and in particular the last few weeks, 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. This increased electoral support has been matched by an unprecedented development of the party's organisational capabilities. But we still have a long way to go.
"If we are truly to establish an alternative 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.
"What has been won and what will be won in the time ahead will be because of the sacrifice of those we remember here today, as well as our collective fortitude, determination and commitment to struggle. It will be because of our inner strength."