22 May 2003 Edition

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Unbowed and unbroken

Hundreds of people turned out for an evening of poetry, prose, and music last Thursday, 15 May, to commemorate the 1981 Hunger Strikes and celebrate the commitment and courage of republican prisoners.

The event, held at the Ulster Hall in Belfast, featured readings of poetry, personal reflections of ex-prisoners from the book, Nor Meekly Serve My Time, and music by local musicians.

The families of several H-Block Martyrs were among the special guests in attendance. They were warmly welcomed by Mayor Alex Maskey at a reception held in City Hall before the performances.

At the conclusion of the evening Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams was greeted with a standing ovation as he rose to address the crowd. He told the assembled audience the political process is in "deep trouble" and that "wreckers" are currently in control.

"The multiple suspensions of the Assembly by the British government; the rejection by the governments and the unionists of seismic initiatives by republicans; the failure to implement the Good Friday Agreement; and the cancellation of the elections have all created a political vacuum. This is being filled by those who letter-bombed the UUP office; by the continued activities of unionist paramilitaries; and by securocrats.

"There is a battle between those who want to maximise the change and those who want to minimise it. By creating a vacuum the British government has given an advantage to those who want to stop the change."

Citing the recent onslaught of 'briefings' by securocrats to a "largely compliant and unquestioning media", the Sinn Féin President asked what agenda was being served, if not one which would move the process forward.

"The conflict here requires a political solution - that is self-evident. But for years, attempts to bring about a political solution were prevented. And it is being opposed now by those within the British system who want to cover-up the practice of illegal and criminal behaviour, including the killing of citizens."

Adams called on the Blair government to come clean on the state's secret war of collusion, misinformation, and sanctioned violence.

"There should be full disclosure by this government of the strategies and activities of Britain's secret agencies in the north over the last 30 years," he said.

Adams also remarked on David Trimble's recent statement that he and his party would refuse to nominate a First or Deputy First Minister if the Assembly was up and running again.

"I was annoyed at the presumption of David Trimble in saying he would not nominate a First or Deputy First Minister," said Adams with a grin, "because I was going to do that."

In closing, Adams reflected on the sense of responsibility republicans carry with them in their efforts to bring about a peaceful, equal and united Ireland.

"I have always said that when we talk to unionists or the British, our side of the table is crowded. Bobby Sands is sitting with us. Republicans who gave their lives in the struggle are sitting with us. We are always conscious of that. When we talk to the British we say, remember who you are dealing with here."

"Just like 1981, they are trying to defeat us. We want our rights. We have business to do, confidence in our own strength. The only fitting tribute to the ten H-Block martyrs, to republicans throughout Irish history, is an Irish Republic."

"So don't get angry, get organised."

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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