Saturday, January 2, 2016

2016 a year for National Renewal

Next Thursday – January 7th 2016 – Sinn Féin will begin our commemorative year of events to mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising. The first of these will take place in the Mansion House where the first democratically elected Irish parliament, Dáil Éireann, met and pledged it’s allegiance to the Republic proclaimed in Easter 1916.

The Mansion House event will be a celebration of the lives and dedication and struggle of the men and women of 1916 and of subsequent generations. It will encompass music and theatre and speeches and will set the context for that historic period and its implications for today.

We are on the eve of a momentous year. This time a hundred years ago, republican men and women in all parts of this island and beyond were planning the overthrow of the British Empire in Ireland. It was a huge undertaking. The British Empire was at the height of its political and economic power. It was the biggest empire the world had ever seen. It’s colonies stretched across every inhabited continent and held hundreds of millions of people in subjection. They were the object of exploitation and repression.

Ireland was Britain’s first colony. But despite hundreds of years of occupation, of brutality and famine there remained a deeply held desire for freedom. This yearning was given shape by the republican philosophy of the late 18th century and the rebellion of 1798. At its core was and is a belief that all people are sovereign and equal. That people are citizens, not subjects. And that people have certain rights for living, including the right to food, to water, to a home and work and to health and education, and a decent environment.

Society must reflect the entirety of its people, not part of them. Why should gender or race or class or skin colour or creed give one group of human beings the ability to deny others of their full rights as citizens.

The men and women who participated in the 1916 Rising envisaged a Republic, where people had fundamental rights, not arbitrary privileges; where there was equality, not elitism; where there was unity, not partition and division. These beliefs were given expression in the Proclamation. That historic document is a clear statement of intent for an all-Ireland republic built on foundations of civil and religious liberty, social justice and equality for all citizens. It remains the guiding template for modern republicanism.

In April 1916
the Rising and the Proclamation of the Republic at the GPO rocked British imperialism to its core. It inspired liberation movements across the globe and over subsequent decades it successfully rolled back colonialism leading to the freedom of many nations and hundreds of millions of people.

Regrettably there was a counter revolution which succeeded in partitioning the island and witnessed the creation of two conservative states. The freedom won by those who gave their lives in 1916 and in other periods has been squandered by those who attained political power on their backs. Consequently, we still don’t have that Republic; we still lack equality, fundamental rights, unity and sovereignty.

But as Padraic Pearse said to those who sentenced him to death at his court martial on the eve of his execution; “You cannot conquer Ireland. You cannot extinguish the Irish passion for freedom. If our deed has not been sufficient to win freedom, then our children will win it by a better deed.”

The Centenary year is a unique opportunity for a step change in the struggle to achieve Irish freedom and positively transform Irish politics and society.
2016 is also an election year North and South and Sinn Féin will stand candidates on a progressive republican and anti-austerity platform across this island.

In the South, citizens will have an important opportunity to get rid of this bad Fine Gael/Labour Government whose tenure has been marked by destructive austerity policies which have deepened social inequality.

Sinn Féin is committed to delivering a fair recovery by working towards a progressive, republican government.

In the North we will continue to stand up for working families, vulnerable citizens and the development of the economy and public services.

The recent Fresh Start Agreement allows the political process and institutions to proceed on a new and stable basis.

Sinn Féin is committed to resolving the issues of the past, supporting victims of the conflict and promoting reconciliation and healing.

We will continue to campaign for the return of more political powers and economic levers from London to the island of Ireland.

But the greatest safeguard against Tory misrule in the north and the austerity politics of the conservative parties in the south is the peaceful ending of partition and the building of an agreed, united Ireland a real republic.

In this important year, working together, the people of Ireland can make important steps towards a genuine republic and a citizen-centred, rights based society.

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