Monday, March 9, 2009

The only way to go is forward

March 9th 09

The only way to go is forward

On Saturday night I was in County Clare. The local government elections in the south are in 12 weeks time. That’s on June 5th. The elections to the European Parliament in both parts of Ireland are on the 4th and 5th.

12 weeks isn’t a long time and I travelled to Clare from Dublin after a hectic two days, including an Ard Chomhairle meeting, in the Capital. The Ard Chomhairle was meeting for the first time since the recent Ard Fheis and it was a positive and forward looking gathering which set out a programme of work for the next 12 months. We also discussed PSNI Chief Hugh Orde’s decision to deploy undercover British Army operatives against so-called dissident elements.

Understandably Republicans and democrats, including myself, have protested against and are strongly opposed to that decision. Apart from anything else it is a harking back to the old days when such units created havoc in our society by perpetuating conflict and destabilising communities.

There was also a brief discussion about the so-called dissidents and their failure to advance any coherent strategy – in fact any strategy at all.

Hugh Orde made a mistake. But none of us should be naive about this. Huge progress has been made in developing a new political dispensation here but the British jurisdiction remains, albeit in a conditional form and that jurisdiction involves British agencies, including their spooks and spies.

Republicans and democrats are clearly opposed to this.

Anyway we had a good discussion about all of this and then off to the Banner County.

The event there took the form of a public meeting in Ennis, the County town. When it was over, somewhere around 11pm, I got news of a shooting incident in Antrim Town. The next few hours were spent trying to catch up on what had happened.

Early next morning it was clear, and since then Ireland is once again in the news big time!

So what’s it all about?

It’s an attack on the peace process, that’s what it is about.

There can be no ambiguity or ambivalence about that. Back in the north on Monday the Assembly was clear on this issue.

But what of the popular mood?

In my view the vast majority of people are opposed to what happened.

In the days when there was no peaceful or democratic way forward for those who wanted basic rights – civil rights – or for those who wanted national rights as well – Sinn Féin spokespersons, including myself, defended the IRA’s armed struggle.

We didn’t accept everything that was done and in most instances the case we made was in defense of the legitimacy of IRA actions in the context of British Army occupation.

There is no such legitimacy today.

Our political position was based also on the absence of any alternative way to bring about positive change.

Today there is an alternative. As I told the Assembly: “I stand here today as an unrepentant, unapologetic Irish republican.

I want to see an end to British rule on this island and the unity of orange and green.

This can only be achieved by peaceful and democratic means and Sinn Féin is wedded to that.”

It’s also my conviction that these objectives can be achieved. Sinn Fein has a strategy to do just that and we are building the political support and structures to advance this.

The political institutions, the peace process and Sinn Féin are as much a target of the perpetrators of Saturday nights attack as those they killed or injured.

That is why they have to be resisted. Politically. Democratically. Peacefully. They want to destroy the hard won progress of recent times. They cannot be allowed to succeed.

The gains made for and by the people of this island cannot be surrendered.

So why don’t those who have set themselves as political spokespersons for the so called dissidents come forward to explain this attack? Why don’t they outline a rationale? Why don’t they defend the legitimacy of this action? In the absence of any other explanation I can only presume it is because there is no rationale other than that they could do what they did.

And let there be no ambiguity about this. That is not good enough.

There is also an onus on the British government and the PSNI to resist any temptation or any demands for a return to the bad practices of the past. This would be equally wrong. It would also sideline the peace process and political leaders.

That would be foolhardy and play into the hands of those who were responsible for the Antrim attack.

In particular, this means that the transparent and accountability arrangements around the PSNI must be adhered to and defended.

That’s what I told British Prime Minister Gordon Brown when we met on Monday morning.

For our part genuine republicans and democrats will work with the PSNI to ensure that those involved in this attack are apprehended and subjected to due process.

The popular will in Ireland is for peaceful and democratic change. I’m sure that’s shared by our neighbours in Britain and further afield.

So everyone has a responsibility to defend the peace. There can be no going back. The only way to go is forward.


Anonymous said...

These so-called dissidents do not represent Irish republicanism. The Irish peace process and the leadership provided by Sinn Fein and Gerry Adams has given us another way to achieve our objective of ending British involvement in Ireland.

Anonymous said...

spot on Gerry.
I'd go further and say the people who did the attack are lesser because of it, because they're unable or unwilling to relate to, or engage with, the politics of the present.


Anonymous said...


i am from a background which would be encouraged to oppose your every word but i have watched you over these years of peace, listened carefully, heard the reaction to Antrim etc etc
I believe you

In the 'fundamentalist' protestant communities & religious sects it will be said that you are 'up to something' and cannot be trusted, i believe they are deluded & there is as much threat potentially to peace in those groups as in dissident republicanism

I am a Christian, only a protestant by way of the church denomination i attend, so in many ways i cannot agree with much of your political viewpoint or indeed, your past relationship with the IRA etc but my firmly held belief is that you are no less capable of truth, honesty and a genuine desire for peace than any of the men/women in N.I politics who claim to be Christians.(you can't escape them in this land) It is a dark & horrible lie to suggest they are better than you though.
We are all bad guys, Jesus is the good guy (i won't preach!!)

In short, i want to encourage you in the continued effort for peace despite all that has happened over the last few days

& thanks for blogging, have you encourage the rest of your political colleagues to start blogging? that could be fun

Linda Coleman said...

As someone who works in peace activism, it never ceases to amaze me that most people don't really want peace--splinter groups and governments included. Very few people and organizations have the guts to stick to the hard work of peacemaking, and it is hard work, much more difficult than falling back on the same old war mentality of yesterday.

I can't imagine what Hugh Orde was thinking sending in Special Forces.

And if the "real IRA" thinks they're going to enjoy popular support from people in the States, they're mistaken.

The IRA was supported because every single time there was another way forward, they would try another ceasefire to create a space for negotiation. All they ever wanted was the same things we want in the States--good jobs, a safe place to raise the kids, and a free country.

Now, thanks to the work of all the politicians like you, Gerry, who stepped forward and took on the arduous task of peace making, there is a way forward, there is a good way forward to get all those things. The Agreement has even served as a model for other countries looking for a way forward.

You must feel discouraged sometimes, Gerry, though you never show it. Just remember, you're not in this by yourself, you've got many, many supporters over here in the States, ready to do whatever we can, writing letters and op-eds, serving as observers, contacting Congress, whatever you need.

Anonymous said...

I'm of protestant descent but a long term Irish nationalist. Hopefully the comments of the Sinn Fein leadership regarding the recent killings will finally show that Sinn Fein is a party that can unify our divided communities and ultimately unify our island.

Anonymous said...

Considering that I'm from the US and at least three or four generations removed from Ireland, it's difficult to make a reasonably objective judgement about the latest events in Northern Ireland. I grew up Catholic but I have a substantial number of Protestant relatives which offers up an automatic bias; also the fact that I hear a lot of ignorant assertions and sentiments from people who think they know what's going on in the North.

The truth is, none of us in the States have a clue for the simple fact we haven't lived through the Troubles firsthand, however, we can all attest to the importance of the Good Friday Agreement and the importance of keeping the peace process on track. The sad irony of these recent events is that I'm actually in a class that analyzes religion and political conflict specifically in Northern Ireland, and this has blatantly illustrated the importance in understanding why peace in the region is crucial at this very moment.

We're all holding our breath over here, hoping that yourself, other politicians, the PSNI, the British government, and the entire community of Northern Ireland work together to delegitimize these dissident IRA factions as well as avoid potential retaliation from opposing paramilitaries, "legitimate" and otherwise while also resisting the slippery slope you mentioned into dangerous old practices.

I was relieved and ecstatic to hear both Catholic and Protestant leaders and their congregations coming together to pray after the two British soliders were killed...I hope such things keep up.

I was young (12) when the Agreement was drafted, but I remember the significance of it and the fear (here in the US) of it failing after Omagh; it didn't then, and I don't believe it'll fail now.

Here's to keeping the peace, and you have our support out here in the States.

- Ash

Tim said...

I have just seen your Jon Snow interviews , I can not say that there is anything that I would disagree with concerning what was said.
As a conscious objector for over 40 years and a believer that people should be willing to make sacrifice for change by all means.
If there can be a give and take in the process than will you be successful, I hope the slow and steady road works.
You have only gotten where your at by more than one path, followed by the realization of that thought. The work moves on intentionally conceived or not.

Anonymous said...

All right minded persons desperately want the peace process to continue and indeed accelerate.
The current problem, your problem as I see it, is that rightly or wrongly many people will believe that through your republican contacts you could easily discover and name the individuals whose actions resulted in indiscriminate death and injury. How do you square this circle ?

Kate said...

thoughts and prayers are with you and all people of Ireland now and always.
We have come too far, thanks to you & Sinn Fein for dilligent efforts.
There is much to be done to restore continued peace....and to stay on the "Way forward" politically has proved to be the only way.
We can not and must not go backwards.

Ta ar la anois


Anonymous said...

Not one young person, indeed one person I have sppoke to have supported these incidents.

In fact the majority of republican and nationalist people have backed what Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness, have said. Going on the feed back I have received.

Gerry is 100% on everything he has said.

It's my view that these people are NOT and NEVER WILL BE the IRA.

Sinn Féin's strategy is delivering and will deliver.

- Poblachtach Óg

Paul Doran said...

Life is very sacred.But there is a lot of annoyance out there.among the younger generation, who do't remember the tough times and this does make it right what was done far from it.I condem it toally.This GFA is fragramented. No Irish Language Act.Still no local Police Control, Look what has happenned on the Education changes Ms Ruane has tried to bring in which I agree with. The DUP are doing the process no favours, the constant bickering among the parties doesn't help.The Ordinary Worker is suffering,(These latest muders won't help investment. )SF has for a long time not delivered its Socialist ideas.there is a element of change in the South .In Down where I am from originally SF are not a popular as they once were, they are not delivering.But as I say there is no reason for these murders.Language is very important and Martin''s tirade the other day while I understand where he is coming from was just not right,didn't fell right.

Anonymous said...

What is your strategy for achieving a united Ireland? Could you explain it to me, please?

Anonymous said...

I don't believe your party has a clue how to move things forward, or that you have any form of strategy to create a united Ireland. You are a bluffer. After the McCartney killing and Northern Bank robbery, both of which disasters happened on your watch, Sinn Fein capitulated. You were so desparate to do a deal and show that your strategy could bare fruit that you quite literally agreed to every DUP demand. We all know that the policing reforms were minimal, that your brit guarantee on the irish language act is meaningless, that your control over policing (which will come at the earliest in 2012) will be virtually meaningless and that your political performance in stormont has been stunningly bad. Your strategy in the south is a disaster, Sinn Fein's `economic policy' (if that isn't an oxymoron) is regarded as a joke and your image is of a single issue northern party with a dodgy past. Sinn Fein is a joke, you havbe nothing to offer anyone and your breathtaking hypocrisy is ridiculous. The dissidents have nothing to offer either. But please stop telling us that you are defending a `great political project' are not. You are defending a joke ofa deal and like the emporer's new clothes, nobody, not least the nodding dogs around you, will say so.

Paul Doran said...

NO point putting Anonymous posts on blog, If they have not the guts to put the name out there, then we should not read the crap they send in

Anonymous said...

So then Paul, by your logic the leigitimacy or relevance of a statement should be judged by whether or not a name is attached to it? Kinda like the unionist argument that the `men of violence' should take of their balaclavas? And especially irrelevant in the anonymous world of internet. Reply to the argument and stop coming up with silly excuses.

Anonymous said...

Who's this P.O'Neill fella then Paul? Any point listening to his crap? Hmmmm... said...

I'm not sure if there ever was a 'time and a place' for this sort of action, but if there was it most certainly has passed. I myself am a republican from a proud republican family, I have struggled for a long time with my conscience as to whether much of the IRA action through the troubles was acceptable, the only firm conclusion I have reached is that it has achieved nothing. We have lost good men and women of all political and religious persuasions through terrorist actions, and it has achieved nothing. We need to try and work together towards a lasting peace and these cowards are trying to drag us back into darkness again.

Should'nt these people take a step back and assess their situation, I cant see how their actions could ever lead to a united Ireland. At present, by my reading, our best hope of uniting the country is by improving the south to such an extent that the people of the north would willingly join us once again. Why would the people of the north, republican or unionist, currently want to unite with us, with our shattered economy and scandalous politics? said...

Ce go bhfuil tu aris a Gerry, best leave my email address off from my previous post, in hindsight it may not have been the brightest move to place it as my username! I had put it down maybe in the hope that you might email me your opinions on the comment, and sure as a good Clare man I couldnt ignore any post involving the banner county

sean cahill said...

Gerry what happened to that strong republican voice.while a lot of people dont agree that armed action is the way forward at the moment. We must look at what your party has achieved with your strategy EQUALITY?
still union flags on their own no tricolour beside it as promised.
you promised the brits were leaving 6000 still here +mi5 + sas.
Even the victims of the struggle dont have parity .
local accountable policing.
Orde is only answerable to westminster.
lasty a lot of brave people died opposing the brits Ulsterisation and normalisation policy of the 1970s ,it is sad to see that the comrades who once stood with these brave people are now admineristing british policy in Ireland.
I dont think Bobby ever dreamed that Sinn Fein would be THEY he wrote of.

Mike Corrigan said...

I suppose tis easy for me from afar to say, without benifit of having lived in Ireland, that if a United Country cannot be achieved Ireland may fall by the international wayside - viewed by many as Jewish and Palestinian states with no lasting peace. SF can keep the peace and promote the democratic vote with voice and strong support...but not over gunfire.
Having said the above and fearing the crush...perhaps a bang or two may remind people - let not down the resolve nor forget the past.

Anonymous said...

Gerry, I have always supported Sinn Féin and voted thus although I always felt uncomfortable with the dropping of articles 2 & 3 and two separate undemocratic referenda (one referendum will suffice)I continued my support but listening to Martin McGuinness standing under a British flag next to the head of the RUC/PSNI condemning fellow Irish republicans was the last straw. Does Orde have Irish Unity in mind? Befriending the enemy and making enemies of friends!! The people described as dissidents are being attacked for having no strategy for a united Ireland but that's exactly what was said about the Proviosionals for years.The border remains undemocratically in place, British rules remains no matter how it's rehashed or renamed and their troops are still here although confined to Ireland!I hope that at least some people in SF will see the light and what they have walked into. Hasn't one thing been learnt through out history with the British, that compromise is always seen as a weakness and a way to control Irish Republicanism and deny our freedom? The Unionist veto still holds. Shame on SF.