20 October 2005 Edition

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South African Minister to attend Céad Bliain rallies

Ronnie Kasrils, freedom fighter, ANC leader and Government Minister visits the Six Counties next week

South African Government Minister Ronnie Kasrils, who is in Ireland next week, will be the guest speaker at a number of Sinn Féin Céad Bliain rallies in Belfast, Derry and South Armagh.

Kasrils is the former Director of Intelligence of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the revolutionary military organisation which fought an armed struggle against the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Kasrils will speak at public meetings in Belfast, Derry, Tyrone and South Armagh during his visit on 24, 25 and 26 October.

In Belfast on 24 October Kasrils will address the Strategies for Freedom rally at the Hilton Hotel, Belfast where he will share the platform with Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness.

On Tuesday 25th the he will be the guest of honour at a Civic reception in the Tí Chulainn Centre in Mullaghbawn, South Armagh. The Sinn Féin Mayor of Newry and Mourne Council, Pat McGinn, is hosting the reception which will also be attended by the Newry/Armagh MP Conor Murphy.

Then on 26 October, Kasrils will officially open the new Sinn Féin Six-County Cuige Offices at 535e Falls Road, Belfast, before travelling to Derry where, at 3pm he launches Blocks to the Future, a report compiled by the Cúnamh Centre. Based on the experiences of 21 former Derry Blanketmen, it is an assessment of the psychological impact of the No-Wash and Blanket protest in the H-Blocks. The launch will be held in the Tower Hotel. The Minister will then meet Sinn Féin Mayor of Derry Lynn Fleming in the City's Guildhall before his last official engagement at a Hunger Strike commemoration event in Derry's Tower Hotel at 7.30pm. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams will also attend.

Ronnie Kasrils is the South African Minister of Intelligence. He has been Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry and Deputy Minister of Defence. He is a member of the ANC National Executive and the South African Communist Party. He joined Umkhonto we Sizwe in July 1961 going on to become Head of Military Intelligence. He returned to South Africa after 27 years in exile prior to negotiations with De Klerk's Apartheid Government. In July 1990 Kasrils joined the leadership of the ANC as it prepared to announce the historic decision to suspend the armed struggle. He was elected in the first ever democratic South African elections in 1994.

Speaking ahead of the visit Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP said that Sinn Féin is delighted that someone of Ronnie Kasrils experience in struggle, negotiations, in government and in the politics of transformation will share his experience with people here. "There are valuable insights that we can draw from the South African experience as we try and rebuild the momentum in the Irish Peace Process but conflict resolution and the process of political transformation require that we all come to the table to work out a way forward."

McGuinness added that there are people who are opposed to change and they have nothing to offer the future. "They are still transfixed with the failed politics of the past and the politics of domination and conflict. As South Africa has shown conflict can be transformed and stability built but only upon the basis of equality, inclusion and co-operation."

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