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Speech by Martin McGuinness, then Vice-President of Sinn Féin, at the Easter Rising Commemoration, Dublin, (27 March 2005)

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Text: Martin McGuinness... Page compiled: Brendan Lynn

Speech by Martin McGuinness, then Vice-President of Sinn Féin, at the Easter Rising Commemoration, Dublin, (27 March 2005)


"I am extremely proud and honoured to stand here today and address you at the GPO, the Headquarters of the 1916 Rising. Dublin City was the cradle of the Irish revolution in the early years of the 20th Century.

The city of the Great Lockout and, three years later, the Easter Rising.

The City of Larkin, Connolly, Pearse and Markievicz.

During those years Dublin was a cauldron of revolutionary thought and revolutionary action. During Easter Week 1916 Dublin was witness to a momentous chapter in Irish and world history when Ireland through her Freedom Fighters struck for her freedom.

Padraig Pearse, James Connolly, Tom Clarke, Joseph Mary Plunkett, Sean Mac Diarmada, Thomas McDonough, Eamon Ceannt and many others were executed by the British for leading the Rising. They will always be remembered as heroes by all of us who cherish their memory and the freedom they died to achieve. The British thought that by killing them they would extinguish their memory and with it Ireland's Freedom Spirit. Again the British got it wrong.

In the words of South African poet Don Matera writing after the release of Nelson Mandela:

    Covered in the dust of defeat
    Or so the conquerors believed
    But there is nothing can be hidden
    from the mind, nothing the memory
    cannot reach, touch or call back

The Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army also struck an important and telling blow for democracy everywhere and signalled the beginning of the end for colonialism the world over.

The Irish revolutionary example inspired oppressed peoples across the globe and gave hope to many millions who sought freedom and national independence in their own countries.

Dublin republicans have played their part in the national struggle in every decade since. Indeed it was young Dubliners who helped to re-invigorate republicanism in many ways during the 1950s and who helped to redirect and focus its energies on removing partition.

I pay tribute to all those Dublin republicans who, down through the lean years for this struggle kept alive the flame of freedom.

As we stand here today republicanism in Dublin is stronger than at any time in recent history. Throughout the 1970s and for much of the 1980s Sinn Féin did not have any elected representatives in Dublin whatsoever.

That is until Christy Burke was elected to the City Council in 1985 and in a few short years Sinn Féin in this city made remarkable progress.

As we stand here today, 14 Councillors, two TD’s and an MEP represent Sinn Féin in Dublin. We represent over 60,000 Dubliners and we are using this mandate to build a radical alternative in this city and country and to bring about real change.

I also note that in this historic year for our party a young Dublin woman - Mary Lou McDonald - your MEP - has been honoured with being elected as Sinn Féin National Chairperson.

Again in this, Sinn Féin's 100th anniversary year, Dublin is playing its part in the national struggle and in the coming weeks we will look to you once again, as across Ireland republicans prepare for three election campaigns: Udaras na Gaeltachta elections in the 26 counties and Local Government and Westminster elections in the Six Counties. Last year we saw what could be achieved when we worked as an all-Ireland party in the Local Government and European elections.

And here in Dublin today I want to send a message to our political opponents in Ireland and the British government.

Be prepared to do business with a stronger and more determined Sinn Féin following these elections. Because more and more of the Irish people are coming to accept, as we have always believed, that real peace and true Freedom will only come when we finally rid ourselves of the malaise of partitionism, which undermines our ability as a nation to reach our full potential.

Sinn Féin's all-Ireland Agenda and the Good Friday Agreement when implemented with its all-Ireland and power-sharing institutions provides a powerful antidote to a crippling illness which has damaged all of us - unionist and republican for far too long.

Sinn Féin expects the highest standards from all those in our party

We must always be vigilant and cognisant of the fact that the stronger we get politically, the more we threaten the cosy cartel that has abused its grip on the levers of power in this state since partition. And those that have grown fat on the culture of cute hoorism‚ and brown envelopes that permeated this state for decades do not appreciate their position being threatened.

Therefore they will grasp every opportunity to undermine and discredit our struggle. But this is nothing new; many of those in power today have learned well the tactics of their former colonial masters when it comes to the use of black propaganda.

In every generation of struggle against British occupation the policy of criminalisation was introduced in an attempt to break the spirit and sap the energy of Irish republicans.

Character assassination was used by the British against those Irish patriots, who chose peaceful means of resistance, just as effectively as physical assassination was used against those who used armed struggle.

The men and women of 1916 were called criminals and terrorists in their day. The Irish Independent referred to the Rising as a 'criminal madness'. Today Sir Anthony O' Reilly's ( as he prefers to be called) Independent Group carries on that pro-British view of Irish Republicanism with relish. He didn't get his British Knighthood or nothing.

Sadly, today the opponents of Irish republicanism who are attempting to brand republicans, as criminals are not British oppressors.

It is establishment parties in this state who enjoy limited independence brought about by previous generations of Irish republicans.

The British did not succeed in criminalising the patriots of 1916 nor did they succeed in criminalising the men in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh and the Women in Armagh in 1981.

And we are not about to allow the Soldiers of Destiny or the PD's to succeed in criminalising this generation of Irish Republicans.

But it is not good enough to get indignant when our political opponents point the finger of accusation at us if some within our ranks give them the opportunity to do so.

Each and every person within our ranks must realise that we are not 9 to 5 republicans. We are republicans 24 hours a day and everything we do reflects on this party.

As republicans we expect the highest standards of conduct from all within our ranks. That has always been the case and we reject anyone who, by his or her actions would bring the good name of the republican cause into disrepute.

Tragically that is exactly what has happened in recent times.

The brutal murder of Robert McCartney by republicans was a most grave injustice inflicted on Robert himself, his partner Bridgeen, their children and his sisters. Those responsible should do the honourable thing and face up to their responsibilities. Anyone without exception with information about this murder should also do the honourable thing. There can be no place within Irish republicanism for those who perpetrated this terrible deed. Nor can there be any place within Irish republicanism for anyone who by his or her silence would attempt to cover it up.

Primarily they should do so because the murder of Robert McCartney was a crime. But not to do so is not only cowardly but also equally despicable as they are allowing their own community to be vilified and demonised.

Making Irish unity a reality

This weekend Republicans all over Ireland and from the Irish Diaspora throughout the world will participate in commemorations honouring generations of Irelands fallen heroes. On this the 89th anniversary of the Easter Rising we applaud and pay tribute to all of the Volunteers of the Irish Republican Army and members of Sinn Féin in every generation who gave their lives for Irish freedom.

We are a proud people. We are proud of our history; we make no apologies for our struggle against British occupation, oppression, murder and discrimination in our country.

We are proud of our role in the peace process and our work in bringing about Irish re-unification.

Only a fool would believe that the Irish people are not equipped to govern themselves better than the British have done in the last 800 years.

It's a bigger fool that believes that we will not succeed in achieving a sovereign independent Ireland. And we will achieve it through building our political strength throughout the four Provinces of this island.

In this the centenary year of Sinn Féin, we launched a campaign to get the Irish government to bring forward a Green Paper on Irish unity. Already it is making an impact with parties outdoing each other proclaiming to be the true inheritors of the legacy of 1916.

Can anyone remember any of the establishment parties in Leinster House or the SDLP in the North proclaim their united Ireland credentials prior to the growing support for Sinn Féin and our agenda for change.

No! I don't think so.

We also had Dermot Ahern cynically using the debate to attack Sinn Féin but the most telling thing about his comments was how far some in the leadership of the so-called largest Irish Republican party have moved from their traditional roots.

Dermot Ahern’s claims that a Green Paper on Irish Unity is 'irrelevant', is very reminiscent of the SDLP's claim to be a 'post-nationalist' party. A policy platform that was very quickly abandoned by the SDLP after the last elections, when it failed miserably.

But whatever about the SDLP and their ill-advised attempts to position themselves politically it is absolutely unforgivable for any Irish minister, but especially a border TD, to be so hostile to the need for all of us in nationalist Ireland to properly plan for Irish reunification.

In almost 90 years of limited independence no Irish government has ever produced a strategy for unification and all four establishment parties who proclaim aspirations to a united Ireland have been in power during that period.

Besides paying lip service at Easter Commemorations, at Bodenstown and various commemorations up and down the country they have done absolutely zilch to promote Irish unity.

If we are to wait for Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour or the PD's to deliver unity we will be sorely disappointed. Republicans have to be the engine that drives the united-Ireland train. We need to be innovative, adventurous and persuasive in our approach as well as our thinking.

It is not an issue to grandstand on - it is an imperative if we are to successfully bring about unity in a planned and structured way.

Republicans will continue to set the agenda

The current onslaught against Sinn Féin is about trying to weaken our negotiating position and the wider nationalist position in future talks.

Those who oppose the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement and who oppose equality and human rights do not want to do business with a strong, effective and determined Sinn Féin.

Our opponents never contemplated a future where Sinn Féin would be the largest nationalist party in the north, the third largest party on the island where the status quo would be threatened and where the prospect of Irish unity would be ever closer.

Following these elections I believe that we will enter into what will be some of the most difficult negotiations that we have ever faced. If these are to be successful republicans must be honest in our analysis of the crisis in the peace process. But we also have to look to the future and set out clearly our solutions and our vision.

As we look back across a century of struggle we see that each phase on the journey has been different. Each has required different strategies and tactics. Republicans required courage to survive, resourcefulness to find new ways forward and determination to persist with their course of action.

We need all of those qualities in abundance if we are to continue to advance our peace project for Irish independence.

But if republicans have challenges to face there are also many challenges for the Irish government. All too often at critical junctures in the peace process they have allowed themselves to be treated as junior partners and have failed to act with the same determination in representing nationalists as the British government do when representing unionist interests.

Their approach has been clouded by a belief that unionists must be pandered to, even when this short-sighted approach has seen talks collapse twice in the last two years.

When all others had agreed a way forward it was unionists who could not make the final move, it was unionists who walked away and it was the Irish and British governments who supported them.

It is time for the governments to be honest about all of this. It is time that we deal with all of the outstanding issues: armed groups, demilitarisation, equality, human rights and the difficult issue of policing.

We want to see the peace process succeed. We want to see the Agreement implemented and all-Ireland power-sharing institutions restored. I believe that this can be achieved.

I don't underestimate the challenges that lie ahead but I am confident that republicanism will continue to grow and that we will succeed. We will go away from here confident of the success of our peace strategy to date and in the knowledge that there is much work still to be done to bring the peace process to a successful conclusion and to build towards
    a different Ireland;
    a new Ireland;
    a united, free and independent Ireland.


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