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27 October 2005 Edition

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Books - Redefining republicanism for the 21st Century - BY GERRY ADAMS

An important new book by the Sinn Féin President, launched in Belfast and Dublin this week, explores the republican vision of a new Irish society

This year marks Sinn Féin's 100th birthday. Co-incidently it is also the year in which the IRA formally called an end to its armed campaign and resolved the issue of arms. These events open up huge challenges for Irish republicans and others in the time ahead.

The New Ireland — A Vision for the Future is not a party political manifesto, more a personal statement about the nature of modern Irish republicanism and its vision for the future. It is a restatement of our political republican objectives.

The most important principle of Sinn Féin was and is self-reliance. Only the people of this island can secure our liberation and mould our society to suit our unique heritage, our character, our economic needs and our place in the wider world. That was the core value of the fledgling Sinn Féin. That is still true today. And from the beginning, while always asserting that the end of the union was in the interests of all the people of this island, Sinn Féin extended a hand of friendship to unionists.

The New Ireland — A Vision for the Future looks at the core values of Sinn Féin as reflected in the Proclamation of the Irish Republic in 1916, the founding document of modern Irish republicanism. In it, the republic guarantees religious and civil liberty; equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens; the Proclamation contains a commitment to cherish all the children of the nation equally. Its anti-sectarianism is evident in the words "oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past". And at a time when women in most countries did not have the vote, the government of this new republic was to be elected by the suffrages of all her men and women.

But those who established Sinn Féin 100 years ago, who fought in 1916 and later against the might of the British Empire and who raised the flag of resistance in each subsequent generation did so in circumstances that differed and changed as the years rolled past. This is not 1905. Nor is it 1916. It is 2005. It is the 21st Century.

If Irish republicanism is to be relevant in modern Ireland, it needs to be defined and redefined. Republicanism today, and our dream, our vision of the future, draws on our historic roots and the rights of the Irish people. It also reflects our contemporary experience and the inspiration provided by the heroes of this phase of struggle- people like Maire Drumm and Bobby Sands, Eddie Fullerton and Sheena Campbell, John Davey and many others.

Of course, our strategy to achieve a united, independent Ireland marks us out from other Irish political parties. And our primary political objectives are an end to partition, an end to the union, the construction of a new national democracy, a new republic on the island of Ireland and reconciliation between Orange and Green.

But we are not prepared to wait until we have achieved these goals for people to have their rights to a decent home, to a job and a decent wage, to decent public services like health and education, and a safer, cleaner environment.

And while we struggle for these other objectives we have to bring the Peace Process to completion. That has to be the priority of all responsible political parties. That is a difficult and challenging task. The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 was the biggest step forward in this process.

This book is a contribution to this effort to redefine Irish republicanism for the 21st Century. The New Ireland — A Vision for the Future explores the Irish republican vision of a new society, a new Ireland, that is democratic. It defines our republicanism as one which is about change — fundamental, deep-rooted change. Our republicanism has to be about creating the conditions whereby people are empowered to make that change. Equality is our watchword. And this theme runs throughout all aspects and elements of the book. Key to achieving this is building political strength. By building that strength, we will build the capacity to move both the British and the Irish Governments and the unionists and to influence the political agenda.

Sinn Féin is now politically and organisationally stronger than at any time since the 1920s. We have developed new approaches. We have taken difficult and risky decisions. We have demonstrated a preparedness to go on the political offensive, to take initiatives and go toe-to-toe with our political opponents in the battle of ideas, as well as in the hard job of building workable political partnerships.

The success of our party, and the test for all other parties, has to be about how much change they secure and how much progress they make in improving the life of citizens and in achieving national freedom. We also have a lot of work to do. We don't pretend to have all the answers.

This book, The New Ireland — A Vision for the Future seeks to map out the way ahead for Irish republicans in achieving this. It argues that republicans must use our growing political strength and mandate to build, a nationwide, mass Sinn Féin movement. Our goal is to have a Sinn Féin cumann in every electoral ward across this island. In reality what Sinn Féin is trying to do at this time is unprecedented. While dealing with the ongoing challenges of the Peace Process, we are continuing to build for Irish unity and independence, at the same time preparing to be in government in the future.

The book examines all of this and looks at the role of Irish republicanism and the nation; our relationship with unionism, the European Union and International matters; women; the Irish language; rural Ireland; and more. With the developing Peace Process, growing concern over globalisation and crisis in Europe, we are at a strategic crossroads in Ireland. We need to decide on the type of country we want and what we want its place in the world to be.

• Gerry Adams will hold two book signings in Dublin next Saturday 29 October at 11.30am in Hughes and Hughes, St Stephen's Green and at 4pm in Eason's, The Square, Tallaght.

An Phoblacht Magazine

AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:

  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.

Buy An Phoblacht magazine here

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