1 April 2004 Edition
Implementing our All-Ireland agenda
With the suspension of political institutions in the Six Counties, there is no reason why our thinking as republicans must also be put on go-slow.
Over the last two decades, our innovative leadership-led initiatives have advanced our Peace Project to a level never envisaged by our opponents. The historic and unprecedented acts carried out by the Irish Republican Army cemented the path to peace. Electoral growth and continued support for Sinn Féin is central to achieving the reunified 32-County Socialist Republic that is well within our sight.
Potential sites of struggle emerge as our project unfolds. Electoral registration for the disenfranchised 211,000 Northern nationalists is one such campaign. To reiterate my local outgoing MLA and lifelong republican Mary Nelis, there is nothing more radical than knocking on someone's door and engaging, delivering, promoting the Sinn Féin message.
The current onslaught from our political adversaries is nothing new — for the British-Irish establishment the price of peace will mean removal of their right-wing, neo-conservative entitlements. British strategy aims to force the GFA into the doldrums - this must be resisted at all costs.
Our ability to bring about a unique set of circumstances in Irish history whereby conflict can be resolved has had seismic ramifications for the established political entities on both islands.
Among our biggest challenges is to fulfill the work of Sinn Féin's All-Ireland agenda. Virtually every aspect of social, political and economic life is covered by our policy to engage with the business community, voluntary and civic sectors. It is through such engagement that we will facilitate change and bring on board those who are beginning to see Sinn Féin as a party that can build the Ireland and inclusive society that successive British and Irish governments have failed to realise.
Attending my first Ard Fheis in February, I was amazed at the sheer volume and diversity of work that our team of talented, dedicated representatives, activists and supporters perform day in day out. Stepping outside my parochial box of Derry, the Ard Fheis was my first eye-opener to absorb and listen to people from across the island working endlessly towards achieving our goal - Saoirse, Ceart agus Siocháin.
On a final note I am indeed privileged to have worked alongside a sincere, humble, genuine and tireless Sinn Féiner - Mary Nelis. On behalf of the Pol Kinsella Cumann I extend the deepest thanks of the many people you, Mary, have helped and listened to over the years.
Saol fada chugat.
Runaí, Pol Kinsella Cumann,
So Mr McDowell claims that the Progressive Democrats are the real republicans and Sinn Féin are anti-republican. Why then is there no mention of a United Ireland on the PDs' website or in their 2002 party political manifesto? Is it now anti-republican to campaign for the reunification of our country as Pearse or Connolly did? Perhaps they were not republicans either?
The Minister for Justice boasts of the republican credentials of his own ancestors. As far as I am aware, his grandfather Eoin MacNeill was a member of the Free State Executive Council which signed the orders for the execution of 77 republican prisoners in 1922/'23. He went on, as a member of the discredited Boundary Commission, to acquiesce to the exclusion of the entire Six Counties from the Free State, even though two of those six counties had nationalist majorities, as did significant parts (Derry, Newry, South Armagh and West Belfast) of others. When the Boundary Commission report was leaked, MacNeill was forced to resign as Minister for Education and lost his Dáil seat in the next election.
McDowell says the PDs should claim the nationalist flag "back from Sinn Féin". As far as I am aware, Sinn Féin never claimed ownership of the Tricolour. On the contrary, they say it represents all people born on this island and back that up by organising in all of Ireland, North and South. The PDs have failed to represent anyone in the northern part of Ireland.
Their only political foray into the north was to join with Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour spin doctors to campaign against Sinn Féin in the recent Assembly elections. Perhaps because these are 26-County only parties, the nationalist electorate voted for the all-Ireland party, ie Sinn Féin, in greater numbers than ever before.
I write in relation to the two letters on the Ard Fheis cannabis motion (18 & 25 March). I agree with much of what Justin Moran says, but there are a couple of points I would like to make. I stated that decriminalisation would be a step in the right direction; I do not advocate it as the solution. It is true that drug dealers have devastated communities across the island. Justin argues that decriminalisation would benefit these dealers, but if the law were changed so that cultivation of a small number of plants for personal use were permitted, it would encourage cannabis users to grow their own and bypass the criminal gangs.
While a move to decriminalise cannabis isn't the entire answer, it might at least provoke some debate in this country, which is something that has been remarkably absent. The level of public debate and awareness about the drug is very low, and the attitudes of many Irish people, particularly older people, are entrenched in the 'legal drugs good, illegal drugs bad' mindset. This particular point of view is illustrated by Mark Fitzpatrick, who argues that I am doing the bidding of the dealers in supporting such a move.
The law of the market is supply and demand. Ten per cent of Irish people smoke cannabis. That 10% constitutes a market. If there is demand, there will always be suppliers, and if it were not one individual, it would be another. It is the law of the land that creates this problem, not the 'cannabis-taking minions'.
Mark says that I miss the point in comparing alcohol and cannabis, because the former is legal, while the latter funds organised crime. The reason cannabis is linked to crime is because it is illegal. I was not comparing the two substances in terms of their legal status, or where the profit goes. I was pointing up the fact that alcohol is a much more dangerous drug than cannabis, and that the users of alcohol do much more damage to society while under the influence of their recreational drug of choice than cannabis users under theirs. The legal status of both is an accident of history, not a fact of medicine.
Sinn Féin activists were involved in confronting the drug menace in the 1990s. However, this campaign also backfired on numerous occasions, and resulted in the targeting of drug addicts. The addicts are also an easy target for the Gardaí and it is much easier for a society to condemn them than to help them recover. These people aren't criminals. They might be mentally ill, but they aren't criminals. Why are heroin addicts given methadone when it's a totally different drug? Why are so-called addiction support services designed to kick addicts out of the programme at the first stumble?
Mark suggests that I should be "coming up with solutions and ideas to prevent people from taking drugs in the first place". Humans always have and always will take drugs. You can play your part in this campaign by coming up with solutions and ideas to empty your local pub on a Saturday night. At least that would be one drug den shut down.
My view towards drugs is guided by a simple principle. It is absolutely none of my business what other people choose to take into their own bodies, once they do not harm another human being. Our approach of implacable opposition did not solve the problem in the '90s and it won't today. The only way to tackle the problem is to take cannabis users out of the illegal drug market, and target drug addicts for treatment, not prison.
Same old guff
Over the past few weeks there has been a plethora of claims about the activities of republicans. All the usual stuff: involvement in drug pushing, prostitution, paedophilia, lap dancing, mafia, nazis, marxists and whatever your having yourself. This bilge is normally spewed out before any election where the indication is that voters may turn away from the establishment parties and vote for Sinn Féin.
Before the 2002 general election, as well as the usual well rehearsed allegations, some media reported that 'security sources' had said that republicans were suspected of involvement in the murder of two Lithuanians near Warrenpoint port. Once the election was over, however, two foreign nationals were charged with the killings. Nowhere was the record corrected, never mind an apology given.
Before the Assembly elections in the North, the PSNI, having briefed the media, staged a massive show of strength comprising over 20 heavily-armed officers raiding the Sinn Féin offices at Stormont. They retrieved two computer disks, a Windows 98 CD and a Dublin North West election register which was returned a few days later when the party threatened legal action. They briefed their favourite media contacts that there had been a massive spy ring in operation, which the more gullible of those journalists elevated to the level of the Watergate scandal. Anti-Agreement elements then used these wild 'Stormontgate' allegations to bring down the Northern Executive and undermine the Good Friday Agreement. Four people were arrested and charged with serious, well publicised spying offences. After several months in jail, all of the relevant charges were dropped and all were released on bail.
The common factor in all of these allegations is that there is not one iota of evidence except the ubiquitous 'security sources', which of course cannot be scrutinised. Ex-security operatives like Colin Wallace, Fred Holroyd and Martin Ingram etc, have revealed that part of their job, conducted North and South, was to conjure up black propaganda against republicans. It should be remembered that many of the lucrative positions held by these security sources shall become redundant if a just, and therefore lasting, peace is achieved in Ireland for the first time in many hundred years.
Dr Seán Marlow,