26 March 1998 Edition
Are we being sold?
Ireland as a national expression is not confined to its people; it includes its land, its resources - the whole complex of interdependency that assures a people a sustained life within its network.
My late mentor and friend, Ken Saro Wiwa, died because this notion of ethnic nation was being attacked; its resources were being `stolen' by the state, of which the Ogoni nation is one of several.
A nation is much more than its people; this living unit of people, culture, land, air, food, resources is a whole and it insults the whole nation to split it into pieces for political expediency. Without our land, our resources, our territory, we are orphans: children without a mother.
That this notion is being tampered with at all should alert us to ask questions about the standing of our nation at this moment. Is it being bartered for trade and profit? Is Ireland, its land and people up for grabs; a convenient haggle over its status may provide a useful veneer for less obvious bartering. Are we being sold?
I refer to the article in your paper on 5 March. I wish to make it clear that I, Kevin Gallagher, had no connection with the recruitment attempt on the South Armagh businessman. I have never ever been employed by Smith Kline Beecham, the manufacturers of Lucozade and have no connection directly or indirectly with that company. Consent for the use of my name by any person or persons was never asked nor was it ever given.
Take ownership of the process
Nationalists and all those interested in establishing a true national democracy in Ireland, including republican activists and supporters, can and should take ownership of this peace process and ensure that it contains the necessary dynamic to realise such a democracy.
What do we mean by taking ownership? It means that we must resist the temptation to leave it solely up to political representatives at Castle Buildings. It also means asking yourself what you can do to become pro-active in shaping the outcome of this phase of the negotiations. If the people of this island are to be asked, in referendum, to decide on the shape of an agreement that will inevitably affect all our lives then we all need to be very sure that any such agreement addresses the concerns and aspirations that all of us want.
The people are ahead of many of the politicians in recognising that any possible settlement must address certain core issues. It is clear that majority opinion in Ireland wishes to see a unified country. They recognise that partition has failed and that the administrative, legislative and security structures in the Six Counties are unacceptable to the nationalist community there. Any proposed agreement that does not satisfactorily address these issues would have failed to reflect what the majority want.
Whilst Sinn Fein have articulated these concerns, both at the current negotiations and publicly, it is necessary that the people of Ireland continue to make their feelings known to political representatives, church leaders, union and business organisations, print and news media. We should continue to protest and agitate publicly on the streets and assert our rights.
An example of politicians lagging behind public opinion is on possible constitutional change, which has been flagged-up as a central tenet of any settlement. While the Irish government is expressing willingness to dilute Articles 2 and 3, nationalist opinion is demanding the strengthening of national rights, such as extending voting rights to Irish citizens in the Six Counties. We all need to continue to highlight the gap between what is being suggested as a settlement and what is required to create an end to conflict in Ireland. The potential exists and can only benefit from the expression of the Irish public will.
We would urge the people of Ireland, and beyond, to assert what they believe should be included in any peace settlement and to engage in and shape any transitional process emanating from it.