3 July 2008 Edition
McGuinness slams micro-groups over Derry killing
COMMEMORATION : Derry City honours its republican dead
BY PEADAR WHELAN
MARTIN McGUINNESS has denounced the actions of so-called ‘dissident republicans’ as “a bogus, quasi-military campaign” after last week’s killing in Derry City of Emmett Shiels. McGuinness launched his stinging attack on ‘dissidents’ at the annual Derry IRA Volunteers commemoration last Sunday.
In a hard-hitting speech, McGuinness accused the killers of 22-year-old Emmett Shiels, gunned down on Tuesday, 24 June, of carrying out a deliberate, criminal act.
The Sinn Féin leader was clearly giving voice to the anger felt throughout the city at the killing of the young man who, McGuinness said, came from a family “steeped in Irish republicanism”.
And while no one has come forward to accept responsibility or explain why they killed the young man, it is widely believed in Derry that members of a micro-group carried out the shooting.
The Derry Volunteers Commemoration saw up to a thousand people march to the Republican Plot in the City Cemetery in honour of all those republicans from the city who have given their lives in pursuit of a united Ireland.
Led by a colour party, which was in turn followed by former POWs carrying portraits of the dead, the parade made its way from Central Drive to the Republican Plot.
When the commemoration ceremony was completed, chairperson Martina Anderson MLA called on Martin McGuinness to deliver the main oration.
Below is an edited version of McGuinness’s speech.
We have gathered here in great numbers today in the first instance to pay tribute to the fallen IRA Volunteers and Sinn Féin activists who paid the ultimate price in pursuit of freedom and to offer our ongoing support and solidarity to their families who have joined with us here today.
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the death of Volunteer Joe Walker and the 30th anniversaries of Volunteers Denis Heaney, Patsy Duffy and Pat Harkin. Along with the other Volunteers of the Derry Brigade of Óglaigh na hÉireann buried here, they paid the ultimate sacrifice so that the people of this city and the rest of Ireland could live in freedom, justice and peace.
Since the late 1960s, when the Civil Rights movement emerged onto these streets, the people of this city have been to the forefront in demanding our rights and entitlements.
At a time when it was needed, men and women across this city joined the republican struggle and changed the course of history forever.
When I joined the IRA it was an army of the people – sustained by the people, supported by the people, and answerable to the people.
That is why the IRA became the formidable guerrilla army that it did. The IRA was nothing without the support of the people.
It had within its ranks men and women who fought when this community had no other option. They are also the men and women who have the necessary courage to pursue a peaceful path to a united Ireland, now that one has emerged.
War is the option of last resort. You do not commit to a war for the sake of it. We are involved in a struggle for a united Ireland. It is about Irish freedom – not about positions, or egos, or personalities, or militarism.
Armed actions in the absence of a political strategy and popular support are pointless and do nothing to advance the cause of Irish freedom. Indeed, the opposite is the reality. But that is the space, unfortunately, which a small number of people have chosen to occupy on a wholly negative agenda with wholly negative consequences.
I have heard some within these groups argue that their motivation is to drag the IRA back onto the battlefield. That will not happen.
Myself and Gerry Adams have offered to meet with these groups to set out, in very clear terms, where we see the struggle sitting and where it is headed in the years ahead. These offers have been repeatedly spurned.
But no one should harbour the notion that the republican struggle can be advanced any further by a bogus, armed campaign. This leadership is firmly opposed to such a move. I appeal to the small number of young people who may have been influenced by these groups – do not get involved in these pointless activities.
Earlier this week, on the streets of this city, a much-loved member of our community was murdered. It was no accident. It was deliberate and it was calculated. It was also criminal. A young man from a family steeped in Irish republicanism was gunned down in our city.
It remains to be seen who carried out this killing. It also remains to be seen which organisation will claim responsibility for the murder of Emmett Shiels. But many local people are utterly convinced that Emmett’s killer came from one of those groups I have just referred to.
These groups should listen to the voice of the people and pack up and go away. These people now have choices to make. These small groups have reached a fork in the road. For them the choice is clear: choose the peaceful and democratic road to a united Ireland – which is open to them – or they can choose to go down some sort of quasi-military cul-de-sac. There is no room for grey areas any longer.
Last year, during the debate on policing, republicans faced those opposed to our strategy in public meetings across the Six Counties, including here in Derry. We did likewise in the Assembly election that followed. Republican communities spoke overwhelmingly in that poll. They did so again locally at Tuesday night’s vigil.
But the message going out from here today and from the people of this city all week is very clear to these micro-groups – accept the reality of a changed political landscape and listen to the people. Listen to the people of Derry, to the people of Ireland who are demanding that you halt your self-serving and destructive activities now.
Meanwhile, our task is to continue to drive forward. If republicans are to prevail, if the Peace Process is to be successfully concluded and Irish sovereignty and reunification secured, then we have to set the agenda. No one else is going to do that for us. So I would urge people to stay united, to stay focused on the prize and all of the time look ahead.
There is in place a strategy which can deliver a united Ireland. It is up to all of us here to play our part and make sure that it happens.