1 February 2007 Edition
Extraordinary Ard Fheis: Closing address
‘The higher they build their barriers the stronger we become’
In his closing address Party President Gerry Adams said it had been one of the most important debates in the recent history of Ireland and of Irish republicanism and that the decision was truly historic.
He went on:“Its significance will be in how we use this decision to move our struggle forward. We have created the potential to change the political landscape of this island for ever. We have created the opportunity to significantly advance our primary objective of a United Ireland through the building of greater political strength. Now it is up to each of us at this Ard Fheis, and to the thousands of other republicans watching our deliberations today, to build on today’s positive outcome.
“Of course, building political strength won’t happen by chance. It will require hard work and dedication. As I listened to today’s debate, listened to the scores of contributions, and as I look around this hall now I am confirmed in my confidence that Sinn Féin has the commitment, the talent and ability, the determination and vision to build a New Ireland”, he said.
Adams again offered to meet with the leadership of other republican organisations opposed to Sinn Féin’s peace strategy. “I want to meet with them and to listen to any alternative strategy that they want to put forward. I would also expect them to listen to our analysis and the rationale behind our strategy”, he said.
“I also want to appeal to unionists to encourage their political leaders to engage in open debate with Sinn Féin, and to unionist political leaders to take up that challenge.
“Republicanism and unionism have to reach an historic compromise if the promise and hope of the peace process is to deliver stability and progress for all our people. That means beginning a real dialogue, an anti-sectarian dialogue, between nationalism and republicanism and unionism. A dialogue which can move us all beyond the current impasse into a living, hopeful future that will cherish all our people equally. To achieve that, we must begin to co-operate in managing the process of change.
“It is also up to us who are working for a united Ireland to do everything possible to reach out to others and especially to reassure unionists that their culture and identity is not threatened by Irish unity.
“On the contrary Irish unity can liberate and protect and advance the rights and entitlements of every citizen, nationalist and unionist and republican and all the new Irish on this island.
Accepting the responsibility of leadership means rising above our history of division, hostility and conflict. I would appeal to those unionist political leaders to grasp the challenge that now exists – to demonstrate the leadership that is required in reaching beyond traditional positions.
“The reality is that there has been significant change in recent years and that process of change will continue.
The decision we have taken today is not the end of the issue of policing and justice. There is much more work to be done to ensure that the accountability mechanisms that are in place are used to their fullest potential.
“We have a lot of work to do in co-operating with the families of those who continue to seek the truth on collusion, and state terrorism or who campaign for an end to plastic bullets. Those campaigns have not ended. They, like our struggle, have entered a new phase of activity. This applies to Policing and Justice just as it does to other areas of state structures.
“There is no going back, only forward to a new beginning and a just society. If we are to make progress republicans and nationalist and unionists will have to set the terms of our relationship. Republicans believe that the best way to achieve this is to take control of our destiny. That means persuading the British government to face up to its responsibilities.
“It means the British government leaving Ireland. That is the democratic right of the people of our island. But why, we must ask ourselves, would a British government accept this democratic right, if the Irish government or other parties in this state are asking for less?
“Sinn Féin is the only nationally organised party on this island. We face into the future filled with hope, confident in our own ability and growing stronger day by day.
“Today we acted in the national interest. We look to others to do the same in the time ahead.
Today’s Ard Fheis is about building our political strength. It is about putting backbone into Irish national politics. It is about building equality – not just in the North – but everywhere in cities and towns all across this state and throughout rural Ireland.
“Seamus Breslin from Doire said what the establishment feared was the wee man from the Bogside or the Falls Road going on to the Policing Boards. Seamus is right but what the establishment fears even more than the wee man are the wee women, not just from the Bogside or the Falls but from Dublin Central, from Cavan/Monaghan from the Cobh of Cork, from the west and the sunny south east – not just on policing boards but on decision making structures throughout Ireland.
Ní bheidh saoirse gan saoirse na mban agus ni bhrich SF abalta e a fhail gan mna na hEireann anseo linn mar gceonnairi.
Our duty is to develop politics which empower people. My friends we are very capable of doing that.
We are with Connolly – Ireland without her people means nothing to us. We are about the re-conquest of Ireland by the people of Ireland.
The last month of consultation – internally, then with the wider republican base, and finally with everyone else is an example of a new culture of politics – the politics of change. Sinn Féin is the engine of that change.
“As we go from here, united, we also need to give space to everyone who has concerns or reservations about today’s huge decision.
“The debate does not finish here. It continues – as our struggle continues. And the debate needs to include not just the issue of policing but all other aspects of contemporary Irish society and the republican vision for a better Ireland, a new Ireland – an Ireland of Equals.
“We are back here for our regular Ard Fheis in a month’s time and the year after that and the next year – bigger, stronger, bolder building political strength and building the new Republic.
“In the meantime let’s take the next wee phase nice and calmly. Let’s not be upset by how others respond to today’s decision. Remember the higher they build their barriers the stronger we become. Let’s keep our strategic and primary objectives as our compass in the time ahead.
Leanagí ar aghaigh le chéile, láidir, aontaithe agus ag fás is ag tógáil cumhacht.
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.