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11 November 2012

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‘Sinn Féin leading political fightback against austerity and for New Republic’ – Edentubber Commemoration

Gerry Kelly MLA at Edentubber Commemoration 2012

Gerry Kelly MLA

Sinn Féin is leading the political fightback against austerity, providing the credible, radical republican opposition to the gombeenism, corruption and lack of vision of a political establishment which has failed the Irish people

SPEAKING TODAY at the annual Edentubber Commemoration in County Louth, Sinn Féin Policing & Justice spokesperson Gerry Kelly MLA warned of the dangers posed by ex-RUC officers within the PSNI becoming “a force within a force”.

He said there is “a small cabal of ex-RUC officers in the PSNI structures or who have returned through the back door as civilian workers. Instead of being part of the new beginning to policing they are attempting to move back to a ‘force within a force’ in the PSNI.”

The north Belfast Assembly member appealed to the Orange Order and other loyal orders to talk to residents about contentious parades.

The former IRA activist criticised “wannabe groups” using the name of the IRA.

“Groups with no popular support, no public face and no strategy for the achievement of republican objectives are now merely killing people for the sake of killing,” he said.

“In the history of Irish republicanism, choosing armed struggle was always a decision of last resort and it was never acceptable for personal gain.

“They too have the dinosaur’s agenda of a return to a conflict that they seem to be more comfortable in.”

Sinn Féin is leading the political fightback, North and South, against austerity and for a New Republic, Gerry Kelly said, “providing the credible, radical republican opposition to the gombeenism, corruption and lack of vision of a political establishment which has failed the Irish people”.

The text of Gerry Kelly's speech is carried below.

Edentubber Martyrs

George Keegan, Patrick Parle, Paul Smith, Oliver Craven and Michael Watters

❝ In the early hours of November 11th 1957, five republicans were killed when a landmine exploded prematurely in a house here in Edentubber.

They were Paul Smith (19) from Bessbrook, Oliver Craven (19) from Newry, Michael Watters (55), in whose cottage the fatal explosion occurred, George Keegan (29) from Enniscorthy, and Paddy Parle (27) from Wexford Town.

I was 4 years old when these comrades died in such tragic circumstances. So why am I here today, why are we all here? Because the IRA Volunteers who died here and the hundreds of men and women Volunteers who have given their lives,  before and after that day, have helped pave the way for the achievement  of Irish unity and the end of Ireland’s centuries old conflict with British colonial rule.

Obviously I didn't know the Edentubber Martyrs but I can tell you this about them: they were ordinary people like any of us standing here. They had family and friends who they loved and who loved them. They came from North and South, and what bonded them together was a profound love of Ireland and its people.

What made these ordinary men extraordinary was that they had a vision and with that vision came a huge challenge. They rose to that challenge despite the fact that they might have to forfeit their own lives or liberty. They led from the front, prepared to sacrifice their all so that others could live in a free Ireland.

This phase of our struggle has gone through many stages. Irish republicans are highly respected around the world – especially in conflict zones – because of our versatility and ability to strategise and adopt to changing circumstances while keeping focused on our primary objective of uniting Ireland.

Throughout the past 40 years of struggle against British rule, we have also had to face up to counter-strategies and resistance to freedom by those wedded to partition and the failed politics of the past.

In policing, for instance, there is still a small cabal of ex-RUC officers in the PSNI structures or who have returned through the back door as civilian workers. Instead of being part of the new beginning to policing they are attempting to move back to a ‘force within a force’ in the PSNI.

One example of this was evident last week. Pádraic Wilson was arrested and held in prison on politically-motivated charges. Pádraic, as many of you will know, has been a central figure in this phase of our struggle, both inside and outside jail and especially concerning the Peace Process and the policing debate. 

The agenda behind Pádraic’s arrest – which has caused palpable anger across republican Ireland – is the same agenda that has reared its head at other significant times in the Peace Process.

Other examples are:

● The 'retire and rehire' scandal;

● The interference in the Police Ombudsman's Office by elements within the PSNI;

● The rejection by the PSNI Chief Constable, of the Ombudsman's findings on the McGurk’s Bar bombing;

● The Special Branch handling practices and criminal activities of police agents and their handlers in north Belfast and elsewhere;

● The activities of SOCA fed by those same elements that have pursued respected republican families as a matter of revenge or ‘payback’ relating to the conflict.

As republicans challenge that agenda from within policing structures we can witness the predictable response from this cabal.

PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott needs to get a grip on the very small number of people driving this negative agenda. If they cannot cope with the new political realities or with the significant changes which have transformed policing in recent years, then that is their problem. It should not be made the problem of those in policing who are up for change or indeed the entire community who will suffer, as they have in the past, from bad policing.

We will not be deterred from the challenge of totally transforming policing structures. We will not be deterred from the challenge of creating a fully accountable, non-partisan, civic policing service. We will not allow the progress we have made to be reversed.

Of course, that is not the only cabal trying to hinder and attack progress. There is another small minority in our community who are attempting to derail any progress in policing, in the Peace Process and the political process. They too have the dinosaur’s agenda of a return to a conflict that they seem to be more comfortable in.

I get angry when republicanism’s reputation is sullied by a plethora of small groups who have at best blurred the definition of revolutionary and criminal activity. Whether it’s in Dublin, Derry, Belfast or Tyrone, ordinary people are finding it more difficult to detect any semblance of political struggle when it comes to these small groups, no matter what grand titles they choose for themselves.

Let me say this loud and clear and proudly – there is only one IRA, one Irish Republican Army . . . ceann amhain Oglaigh na hÉireann!

These other wannabe groups trying to claim that title have no strategy to speak of, otherwise they would be presenting it to the world.

Extorting money from drug dealers is no better than drug dealing itself because it allows them to continue – of course, at a price.

Groups with no popular support, no public face and no strategy for the achievement of republican objectives are now merely killing people for the sake of killing.

In the history of Irish republicanism, choosing armed struggle was always a decision of last resort and it was never acceptable for personal gain.

As we remember our fallen comrades today it is the right time I believe to criticise those who would falsely or mistakenly claim their mantle but let me also appeal to them to take up the offer of dialogue made many times by Sinn Féin leaders.

Another group which appears to be anti-peace and reconciliation marched past St Patrick’s Catholic Chapel and Carrick Hill yesterday – yet again. Yet again a band attending this loyal order parade played the anti-Catholic, sectarian Famine Song.

The loyal orders have not stepped up to the mark in trying to move past conflict and into a new phase of reconciliation. Their intransigence is not just tolerated but is encouraged by unionist politicians.

Respect is not a huge demand in 2012. Respect isn’t even a concession. Many demands have been made by unionist politicians over the last few days. A small start for them if they are to be taken seriously might be to show a little leadership in showing a little respect. I appeal to the various loyal orders to get into meaningful dialogue with residents.

And let’s remember what this all about. Fundamentally this is about equality. Equality is a threat to no one. Civic, Representative impartial policing is a threat to no one and power sharing institutions are a threat to no one.

I want to see the DUP, as the biggest unionist party, embrace genuine power sharing, not on the basis of having to share power but on the basis of wanting to share power.

And if such an approach did come to pass, it is my view that the political institutions themselves would become a much more effective mechanism for delivery, be it on challenging the Tory welfare cuts agenda or dealing with the legacy of the past.

The united Ireland Sinn Féin seeks to build is inclusive, pluralist and where all the elements of the Irish nation are comfortable, secure and can find the fullest expression of their identity.

Irish unity makes political, economic and social sense. We believe that a new, agreed united Ireland is best achieved through a genuine process of national reconciliation. But let’s be clear – there is no miracle in a united Ireland. We have to prepare for the type of Ireland that we want, the type of Ireland as described in the 1916 Proclamation.

In the Good Friday negotiations, Sinn Féin secured the removal of the Government of Ireland Act under which the British Government claimed sovereignty over the North. There is now only a qualified, conditional claim that will change when a majority of citizens vote for an end to the Union.

The Good Friday Agreement provides for a poll on Irish unity. To secure this means building support so that the Irish and British governments are moved to fulfill their obligations to hold one.

All those who wish to see a united, independent Ireland must mobilise and campaign to persuade the people of Ireland to support unity and the creation of a New Republic.

Partition created two conservative states on this island. Both were the antithesis of the republican vision of Tone and of the 1916 leaders. Their vision – Sinn Féin’s vision – of a genuine republic governed in the interests of its citizens, is shared by a growing number of Irish people.

Today, people across this state are suffering. Hundreds of thousands are unemployed, struggling to survive, and young people are flooding out of the country to Australia, Canada and elsewhere. Indeed, it is reminiscent in some ways of the Ireland of the 1950s in which the Edentubber Martyrs lived.

This is the result of the policies of both Fianna Fáil and their successors in Fine Gael and Labour, implementing failed austerity policies written for them by their political masters in the EU and IMF.

But across Ireland, North and South, Sinn Féin is leading the political fightback against austerity and for a New Republic.

Sinn Féin is a party on the rise. In the North, we are the undisputed voice of nationalism and are transforming a society moving out of conflict and into a new shared future; in the South, we are providing the credible, radical republican opposition to the gombeenism, corruption and lack of vision of a political establishment which has failed the Irish people.

Republicanism on this island has never been so strong, so organised and so capable of achieving its objectives. This generation of republicans is laying the foundations for a New Republic – a 32-county republic with social justice and equality at its core.

Let me return to our fallen comrades before finishing.

I don't know what they might have said if they were here today but what I do know is that they left a legacy behind them. Their courage and their sacrifice inspired others who took up their mantle and continued their struggle.

What I do know is that they fought their part of our long struggle with dedication and commitment using the tools available to them in the 1950s. As did our comrades in 1916, in 1803, in 1798 and indeed in any of the many uprisings, large or small which has peppered our island’s history.

What I do know is that we who continue that struggle – and it is far from over – must use the tools available to us in 2012. We should not and cannot act as if it is 1916 or 1969 or 1980 or1996 or even 2006. We cannot live in our past. We must learn from our past to secure and improve our future.

James Connolly, one of the 1916 martyrs, speaking of Wolfe Tone, the father of modern republicanism, said:

“We who hold his principles believe that any movement which would successfully grapple with the problem of national freedom must draw its inspiration, not from the moulding records of the past, but from the glowing hopes of the living present, the vast possibilities of the mighty future.”

Ní Raibh Seamas Ó Conghaile ina phriosúnach don stair. A chomradaithí agus a chairde, inniú agus as seo amach tá muid ag deanamh ar stair féin agus ar dtodhchaí féin.

James Connolly was no prisoner of history. Comrades and friends, today and into the future we are shaping our own history and destiny.

This generation has the greatest opportunity since partition to finally achieve genuine national self-determination. We do not underestimate the challenges ahead. Indeed, as republicans we embrace challenge, we embrace struggle and we embrace the responsibility that comes with activism.

Five IRA Volunteers lost their lives at this place 55 years ago. They came here to advance the struggle for a united independent Ireland.

We come here all these years later with a live political project and the political commitment and determination to finish that historic task.

Ar aghaidh linn le chéile. ❞

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