25 June 2009 Edition
Bodenstown 2009: ADDRESS BY JOINT FIRST MINISTER MARTIN McGUINNESS MP
Sinn Féin stands with the ‘people of no property’, not the bankers and the speculators
FROM the four corners of Ireland republicans made their way last Sunday to the village of Sallins, County Kildare, on Sunday for the annual Wolfe Tone Commemoration.
Warm weather greeted the marching bands and the parade to Bodenstown Churchyard as onlookers applauded an array of colourful Sinn Féin cumainn banners and historical re-enactments from Ireland’s ongoing struggle to achieve Tone’s vision: “to unite the whole people of Ireland, to abolish the memory of all past dissentions, and to substitute the common name of Irishman, in the place of the denominations of Protestant, Catholic, and Dissenter”.
Ceremonies at the graveside of Theobald Wole Tone were chaired by Sinn Féin Kilkenny Councillor and Ireland East EU candidate Kathleen Funchion.
The main address was delivered by Sinn Féin MP and Joint First Minister Martin McGuinness. Here is what Martin said.
"BA mhaith liom fáilte mhór a chur romhaibh uilig chuigh Bodenstown inniu. Ba é Theobald Wolf Tone Athair an Phoblachtachais in Éirinn, agus dá bhrí sin is mór an ónóir é domh a bheith i láthair anseo ag an uaige ag labhairt libh inniu.
Two hundred years ago, the United Irish Society, led by Northern Presbyterians and members of the Church of Ireland, and seeking to end the inequality that was the legacy of British rule, rose up in arms in the cause of an Irish Republic.
Today, by the grave of their leader, Wolfe Tone, as we honour the men and women of 1798, let us also remember those republicans who in this and previous generations gave their lives for Irish freedom.
This year, republicans have also been commemorating the 90th anniversary of An Chéad Dáil Éireann.
A united Ireland built on equality outlined in the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil is the live political project for republicans in 2009.
It is worth remembering that the United Irishmen did not choose armed revolt as their option of first resort. The 1798 rebellion resulted from the fact that all other avenues for the redress of grievances suffered by the Irish people were exhausted.
‘Thinking’ republicans have always sought alternatives to armed revolt to achieve freedom. And so it is today.
Sinn Féin’s strategy involves building the necessary political strength to achieve our objectives.
Republicanism is growing in strength throughout Ireland and ever-greater numbers of people agree with the political and economic logic of unity.
Sinn Féin is seeking to maximise popular opinion in active support of Irish unity.
Last week, in New York, almost 1,000 people, representing dozens of Irish-American organisations, gathered. Next weekend, many more will gather in San Francisco. The Irish Diaspora is putting their full weight behind the campaign for Irish reunification.
But Sinn Féin has no monopoly on the cause of Irish unity. That is the business of all who desire freedom and I would encourage the widest range of opinion to become active in advancing this objective.
The struggle for Irish freedom is in a new phase where a peaceful and democratic path to a united Ireland exists. But there is still a significant way to go.
British jurisdiction in Ireland will end through the combined will and efforts of Irish people.
Activity by small militarist factions will not advance the cause of Irish freedom.
Whatever their motivation, they offer no realistic alternative to the strategy pursued by Sinn Féin.
That strategy is clearly backed by a majority of nationalists in the North as witnessed by the endorsement given to Bairbre de Brún in the EU elections.
Bairbre presented voters with a clear choice – that of continuing to move forward politically or moving backwards to the divisions of the past.
Bairbre’s success in topping the poll was an historic development. For the first time since partition, our party, Sinn Féin, Ireland’s foremost republican party, topped the poll.
Significantly, the vast majority of voters in the North backed parties in favour of the Peace Process and the all-Ireland and power-sharing institutions.
However, some within political unionism continue to oppose equality and refuse to confront sectarianism.
Sectarianism is a direct consequence of historic British colonialism and modern-day partition.
Sectarianism is the belief that one type of person is unequal, and therefore undeserving of dignity, respect and opportunity. Like racism – which shamefully raised its ugly head in South Belfast last week – sectarianism is an ideology of inequality.
Sectarianism was the foundation stone of the six-county state. A section of the unionist political class remains wedded to that ideology. We see it in council chambers in places such as Banbridge, Lisburn, Antrim, Larne and Coleraine.
Just four weeks ago, in Coleraine, a small district where nationalists live was invaded by a unionist mob intent on murder. Kevin McDaid was beaten to death outside his home. All that was missing in Coleraine that night were the white hoods and a burning cross because - make no mistake about it - these unionist heartlands are the Alabamas of the North.
While there are serious questions about the actions of the PSNI on the night, just as serious is the political cover given to such activity by unionist politicians. Many of them still reject equality or partnership – whether at political, cultural, social, economic or religious level. It is their attitudes which continue to create the conditions for murders like that of Kevin McDaid.
Unionist leaders must confront these realities
And specifically let me address the Orange Order. Orange rule in the North has ended. It is gone and it will never return. With the strength of the Sinn Féin vote the political landscape of the North has changed forever. That change will continue into the future.
In the course of the past 15 years there have been many important contributions to the Peace Process. The IRA made significant contributions. So too the loyalists. So have many political parties and governments - however, the Orange Order - the cement which for decades held the unionist regime together - has refused to make a contribution. That has to end. The leadership of the Orange Order can no longer abdicate its responsibilities.
Now is the time for the Orange Order to step forward. There are hundreds of Orange parades each year. Only a few cause controversy. It is these I want to focus on. The days of republicans stretching ourselves and our communities to maintain calm in the face of sectarian provocation cannot last forever.
It is now time for the issue of contested parades to be dealt with once and for all. That means the Orange Order making its contribution to peace. It means a declaration from the Orange Order that in future they will no longer seek to force parades through Catholic areas and risk bringing violence onto our streets.
Anything less from the Orange Order is an abdication of their responsibility and will have to be viewed as such by both governments – and in such a scenario that requires a clear statement from both that nationalist communities will no longer be subjected to these sorts of triumphalist parades and measures taken to ensure that this happens.
In 1798, enlightened Ulster Presbyterians recognised that their future lay in the achievement of national freedom for Ireland and equality between Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter.
Today, unionist leaders are again faced with choosing between the progressive, democratic and anti-sectarian vision of many of their forbears or clinging to outdated notions of sectarian domination and supremacy.
Unionism’s political leadership must now confront its own ideology of inequality.
The message to unionism and to the British and Irish governments from this republican leadership is clear and unequivocal.
We have taken our risks.
We have crossed our rubicons.
We have made our quantum leaps.
Either we all face the future together on the basis of equality or we face into sustained stasis and political deadlock.
The transfer of powers over policing and justice from Britain to the North of Ireland must proceed urgently. There is no reason why the enabling legislation cannot pass the Assembly before the recess.
The civil and national rights of Irish citizens in the North must be reflected in the political structures of the state as a prelude to national unity.
Economic development in the Six Counties must begin righting the wrongs of the past by ensuring those areas that suffered most during the conflict will benefit most from the peace.
I note that the Irish Government minister Martin Mansergh has claimed that parties in the South are now less inclined to pursue a united Ireland because economic difficulties created by Mr Mansergh’s party means they ‘can’t afford it’.
Well, I have a message for Fianna Fáil. It is the same message that voters delivered on 5 June – the Irish people cannot afford this Fianna Fáil-led government. They cannot afford to have the next generation pay for this government’s mismangement.
The recent elections in the 26 Counties saw a resounding rejection of the Government parties. I want to commend all those who stood for our party and congratulate those who got elected.
Sinn Féin made key gains in several constituencies across the state – in areas like Kilkenny, Wicklow, Limerick, Cork, Mayo and Offaly. Across five EU constituencies throughout the island of Ireland, Sinn Féin took a massive 331,797 votes and 14.34% of the all-Ireland vote.
Retaining Mary Lou’s European seat was always going to be very difficult once the constituency had been reduced to a three-seater but a tremendous effort was made by activists in Dublin.
Toiréasa Ferris’s performance in the South constituency was particularly impressive and she came very close to taking the last seat there.
The party also polled strongly in North West with Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, and in Ireland East with Kathleen Funchion and Tomás Sharkey.
The intervention in the election of an array of Establishment figures to attack Sinn Féin and the anti-Sinn Féin campaign of certain media outlets demonstrate the desperation of the Establishment to stymie our advance in this state.
Republicans have witnessed all of this before. We take our responsibilities too seriously to allow our project to be derailed by nay-sayers and those who wish to maintain a failed political status quo.
Of course, Sinn Féin could have done better in this election and we are already addressing the organisational and political issues that have come to light during the campaign and since.
Our party in the 26 Counties has been undergoing a major process of reorganisation in recent times we have regained considerable ground from the setbacks of 2007.
Much still needs to be done. Across this state, Sinn Féin needs to build, to attract new members, to involve more women, to become more relevant and to ensure that the party is active in local communities.
Building increased popular support for Sinn Féin in the 26 Counties is a long-term project. There are no quick-fixes. There is no short-cut to the ‘Ireland of Equals’. Achieving our primary objective will mean a continued commitment to long-term political and democratic struggle, North and South, whilst we continue to build the politics of modern republicanism in the Six Counties.
Sinn Féin was warning of the flaws in the economy, the over-reliance on the construction sector and consumption taxes, and the impending crisis in public finances when all the other main parties were pretending the good times would never end.
What makes the Irish recession much worse than any other in Europe is that we have a 26-County Government which is bereft of ideas, incapable of fresh thinking and which has no commitment to social and economic justice.
To turn around the current crisis, politics in Ireland needs to change.
Sinn Féin stands with the real, everyday patriots in Ireland: those carrying out the vital jobs and frontline services that keeps our society together – the teachers, the nurses, the carers, the community workers and the small-business people who provide the bulk of employment in this state.
These are Ireland’s real patriots, not the corrupt bankers, dodgy developers, speculators, overpaid ministers and tax exile billionaires. These elements, aided by this government, have worked against the national interest and damaged our international reputation.
Sinn Féin wants to build a patriotism that puts the people and the national interest first. We have a vision and policies which point to a better, fairer way forward.
Sinn Féin alone do not have a monopoly on solutions to our country’s economic woes. It will take a broadly-based popular movement to lead this country in a new direction.
The recent election witnessed a swing to the Left, vindicating Sinn Féin’s call for political unity among those seeking to build a more equal society. The election result can, if the political will exists, bring closer the prospect of a realignment in Irish politics.
It is deeply disappointing that the government has failed to address the genuine concerns of the Irish people when they voted ‘No’ to the Lisbon Treaty last year.
The government have neither sought nor secured any changes to the text of the treaty itself. So, this autumn the Irish people will be asked to vote again on the very same treaty they have already rejected. This government have once again failed the people and squandered the opportunity to negotiate a new treaty for a new time.
The Fianna Fáil/Green coalition has lost the moral authority to govern. A new political alliance for change must now be built.
The Government has been sent a strong and clear message from the people that it needs to go. Together, those of us who want to build on that momentum can start to turn this country around.
Sinn Féin will continue to stand up for ordinary people and to speak out for those who this government would seek to ignore – not the bankers and property speculators being bailed out with the people’s money but those who Wolfe Tone referred to as ‘the people of no property’.
Our work in continuing to build national reconciliation, in seeking to bring about harmony between Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter on this island will also continue.
And we will continue to pursue the unity and freedom of our country.
These were the aims of Wolfe Tone. They are our aims. And that is the message each of us must carry into our homes, our workplaces, and our communities in the time ahead."
MARCHING ON TOGETHER: The Roddy McCorley Society leads the way