27 November 1997 Edition
People power needed
Gerry Adams told a packed audience in the Europa Hotel ballroom in Belfast on Sunday night ``not to allow under any circumstances this struggle to be reduced to a room at Stormont.''
It was a point repeated throughout the historic meeting and it is a point which goes to the heart of republican politics. ``Don't be duped or hypnotised into spectatorism. Don't sit back and leave it to the negotiators, the future of this island is too important to be left to politicans,'' Adams said to the thousand people present.
The slow pace of the talks process is frustrating for an activist party but it is clear that there is much that can be done outside the negotiating chamber. In particular, during Prisoners' Month in December street demonstrations and mobilisations have been organised for all parts of the country. It is imperative that they are fully supported.
The peace process is another phase of struggle and must be grasped with every bit of energy and determination which republicans possess.
Europa rocked by republican applause
By Mick Naughton.
Once called the most bombed hotel in the world, last Sunday evening the Europa hotel in Belfast's city centre witnessed another explosion, this time of the political kind.
One thousand republicans gathered to hear the party's leadership give an update on the present state of the snail-like peace process at Stormont.
The main theme of Gerry Adams's address was that `the people of no property' need to take ownership of the process.
``You people are absolutely undefeatable,'' he told the packed ballroom. ``I want to appeal to you not to allow under any circumstances this struggle to be reduced to a room at Stormont. Don't be duped or hypnotised into spectatorism. Don't sit back and leave it to the negotiators, the future of this island is too important to be left to politicans. We, my friends, are first class citizens and we are going to have a first class future.''
He said that the peace process was just another phase of struggle and was not an end in itself. Peace had not been achieved, only a process and the opportunity for peace.
``Republicans will not rest until we have achieved Irish unity. Part of the balancing act is bringing new people into the struggle who are being educated, while at the same time keeping our older republicans, our more experienced activists focused on the prize. No-one knows how it's going to work out, but what we do know is the tide of history is going towards an Irish republic.''
Thunderous applause followed this reaffirmation.
Further applause greeted South Armagh Ard Chomhairle representative Des Murphy from Camlough who threw the weight of that area into the ferment when he declared from among those standing, unable to get a seat in the 900 seater room:
``On behalf of South Armagh, and I have some authority there, we are 100%, 110% behind the leadership of Sinn Fein. If there was - which there wasn't - 35 people who left the republican movement in south Armagh, there would be 350 people to take their place tomorrow morning.''
During the following question and answer session, when Adams joked about handing over the ``hard questions'' to Martin McGuinness, concern about the pace of the peace process surfaced rom several relatives of POWs, among others. No substantial criticism of the movements direction emerged apart from a former member of People's Democracy, John McNulty, who spoke about Sinn Féin being ``in bed with the wrong people''. That his question was heard politely after Adams had insisted he be heard, was a testimony to the fairness and time made available for any dissenters.
As the historic evening drew to a close Martin McGuinness sent out warnings to the unionists and British government.
``It's make your mind up time,'' he said before admonishing unionist leader David Trimble not to try to set up an alternative talks process, excluding Sinn Fein.