28 July 2005 Edition
The task ahead - push forward to freedom
The momentous announcement from the IRA represents a truly historic moment for Irish republicanism. The word 'historic' has been much misused during the Peace Process but this week's development surely is historic indeed. It needs to be seen not just in the context of the current state of the Irish Peace Process but should be regarded with a longer view, encompassing the long-term strategy of Irish republicans to bring about Irish re-unification and a democratic socialist republic.
For many republicans this will be an extremely difficult departure to come to terms with. It represents a further decisive step away from that phase of the struggle which was dominated by the armed conflict in the Six Counties and by the armed struggle of the IRA. As the features in this week's An Phoblacht make clear, the IRA during that phase of conflict was a people's army, the militant expression of the desire for freedom. But it was Britain that created the conditions for conflict, making it necessary in 1969 for another generation of Irish people to take up arms. For years the armed conflict seemed intractable. The British could not crush the IRA or the will of the nationalist population to be free.
It was Irish republicans and nationalists who charted the way out of armed conflict. The catalyst was the Sinn Féin peace strategy and that was made possible by the IRA cessation of military operations of 1994. The British Government and unionism initially doggedly refused to embrace the Peace Process. It took until 1997 for real negotiations to begin. The result was the Good Friday Agreement, a document that fell short of republican objectives. But as Gerry Adams stated when the short-lived Executive was established, republicans see the Good Friday Agreement as a means of moving towards our objective of Irish unity and independence.
Our focus now must be on the task ahead and that means accelerating the push towards our republican objectives. We must:
o Demand the immediate restoration of the institutions established by the Good Friday Agreement, including the inclusive Executive and the All-Ireland structures, and the fulfilment by the British Government, the unionists and the Irish Government of all their obligations under the Agreement.
o Build Sinn Féin in every community in Ireland, continuing and accelerating the growth which has seen the party increase its political strength, which includes electoral strength, massively since 1994.
o Continue to weaken the union with Britain, maximise broad-based national and international support for Irish re-unification and implement practical steps towards All-Ireland integration.
o Campaign effectively on the Peace Process and on the range of social and economic issues, providing radical and relevant political leadership to the Irish people.
o Renew our determination to complete the struggle for Irish freedom and to build a 32-County democratic socialist republic.