13 April 2006 Edition
The challenge of 1916
As Irish republicans commemorate the 90th anniversay of the 1916 Rising it is important to read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic and assess its relevance to the Ireland of 2006. We must acquaint ourselves with the principles of the Proclamation and work to achieve the free, united and equal Ireland envisaged by the republican revolutionaries of 1916.
At the core of the Proclamation is the principle of Irish independence and sovereignty. In 2006 the Six Counties remain under British jurisdiction. So long as partition remains, the Irish people cannot fulfil our full potential. Lasting peace and justice in Ireland requires national unity and sovereignty.
The British Government must live up to its responsibilities and implement the Good Friday Agreement. This is a minimum requirement. Irish republicans of course wish to go much further. Republicans have carved out a peaceful way forward after decades of armed conflict. Our objective remains clear- a free, united Ireland. Our commitment to achieving it remains undiminished.
After an almost 30-year gap the Irish Government has rediscovered 1916. As this development coincides with Sinn Féin's rise as a political force North and South it is hard not to see the move as cynical and opportunist.
Successive Irish governments have failed the challenge of the 1916 Proclamation. The Proclamation enunciated the principles of sovereignty, independence and equality. But Irish Governments have sold off our natural resources to multinational corporations with no benefit to the Irish people. They have ceded democratic accountability to unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. They have allowed Irish territory to be used as a staging post in a war by a foreign superpower. Despite record budget surpluses, the opportunity to move towards an equal and inclusive society has been rejected. The 26 County state comes third last in a league of 18 OECD states in terms of economic inequality.
A key line in the Proclamation refers to "the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past". This refers to the British Government's policy which seperated Irish people by using sectarianism to maintain its rule in Ireland. Like the men and women of 1916 Sinn Féin today rejects sectarianism and bigotry. We are committed to a process of national reconciliation and have entered a long-term dialogue with representatives of unionism.
In the spirit of the Proclamation people who have recently arrived in Ireland from around the world to work, to study or who have made their home here, should be made welcome.
The best memorial to the men and women of 1916 will be an Ireland in which the principles of the Proclamation are implemented. That will be an Irish Republic worthy of the name.