Presidential Address to Ard-Fheis 2007
A Chathaoirligh, a Theachtaí is a cháirde ar fad.
Fearaim Céad Míle Fáilte romhaibh go léir ag an Ard-Fheis seo, an dara ceann is céad de chuid Shinn Féin. You are most welcome to this, the 103rd Ard-Fheis of Sinn Féin. We have just completed another busy year in upholding and promoting the right of the people of Ireland to national independence in the face of a steady campaign to have us accept and normalise British rule in this country.
We began the year with highly successful 50th anniversary commemorations in Limerick and in Monaghan of the deaths for Ireland of Sean Sabhat and Fearghal Ó h-Anluain. We had the spectacle of former comrades pretending that they did not die for Irish freedom, that they gave their lives for what is euphemistically called “equality”, that is civil rights under English rule in Ireland.
We ended the year with fitting ceremonies for the Edentubber Martyrs in Wexford and at the place of their deaths for Ireland 50 years ago. At New Year, our members in Limerick produced and sold a booklet in memory of Sabhat and Ó h-Anluain, while at year’s end, with help from our members, the staff at Ard-Oifig, brought out a very appropriate Story of the Edentubber Martyrs. The production of such publications is very necessary at this time because of the amount of mis-representation of the high ideals for which our martyrs sacrificed their all. But such is not confined to the case of Republicans of the 1950s.
In September last, a County Secretary of the GAA stood at Liam Lynch’s grave and told us that “he believed Lynch would have accepted the (so-called) Good Friday Agreement”. This came 85 years subsequent to Liam Lynch being killed in action fighting against the Treaty of Surrender, which sought to maintain Partition and English rule here, and shortly after he stated: “We have declared for an Irish Republic and will not live under any other law”.
In keeping with this insidious campaign of mis-representation of the patriot dead, another series of efforts is being made by stealth and fraud to take over Republican Memorials throughout the country. The purpose here is to further the misleading interpretation of the cause for which they died.
This latter offensive may be furthered by offers to refurbish memorials, or provide funds to do so, or even to place flagpoles beside them. Such advances can only be exposed and countered at local level and it behoves our members to do so without hesitation. These activities are designed to strike at the very roots of the historic Republican Movement and to overturn its ideology. We need to be on the alert.
Similarly, in the early days of the calendar New Year, British State papers for 1976 were released to the media. These contained falsifications of the positions adopted by the Republican leadership during talks with British representatives in 1974/1976.
Once more and for the record: (1) We never met any British agents other than at the meetings chronicled in the documentation deposited in the Archives at the NUI Galway in June 2005. (These have been available to researchers since December 2005.); (2) A “private” Declaration of Intent by the British Government to disengage from Ireland was never sought. At all times, this Declaration was required to be PUBLIC; (3) At no time was “a future loyalist government in a six-county Ulster” contemplated. A nine-county Ulster within a four-province All-Ireland federation was never departed from. For the British Establishment to keep false records is to provide an untrue and inaccurate analysis from which a final settlement of the historic “Irish Question” cannot be constructed.
During January also and in the run-up to his Ard-Fheis, Gerry Adams sought, publicly this time, a meeting or meetings with “dissident republican leaders”. We replied publicly “who is Mr. Adams addressing? Is it the people who have resigned recently from his party ? For our part we are not dissidents”.
We continued: “Mr. Adams knows well our core values. He knows that no reconciliation is possible. Republican Sinn Féin’s values were once his own, before he and the Provos decided to accept the institutions of British rule in Ireland. The discussions he proposes do not refer to us”.
We went on to picket the Provo Ard-Fheis at the end of the month. This was to highlight the fact that the real issue was the acceptance by the Provos of British police, British law and British courts in Ireland. The theme of the picket was the never-changing role of the RIC/RUC/PSNI in Ireland, which is to uphold British rule. Indeed, the latest report at that time from the British Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan on collusion between RUC/PSNI and loyalist death squads served only to reinforce this point.
The Ard-Chomhairle’s New Year statement 2007 called for clear thinking, leadership and a programme of action. This would provide a focal point of resistance to that section of the Irish people who would never accept English rule in Ireland. Republican Sinn Féin represented the only political alternative capable of providing this, coming as it does from a position of solid and unequivocal Irish Republicanism. Other groups and organisations, it said, may attempt to hold this ground but Republican Sinn Féin is the only political organisation to uphold the right of Irish people acting as a unit, to determine their own destiny subsequent to British disengagement from Ireland. We rejected both partitionist states and their respective assemblies.
The task facing us was to present the true Republican alternative to the Irish people, opposing all efforts to normalise British rule here. Thus, participation in the puppet assembly at Stormont, visits by English royal family members and especially their Queen, visits by British airforce, naval or military personnel to the 26-County state, or other events which have the purpose of normalising the British presence in Ireland had to be opposed.
For the past year, we are happy to say, this programme was largely implemented, although hampered greatly by a denial of publicity in the media. On February 24th, for the first time ever, Croke Park, the GAA’s national stadium, was handed over for an Ireland-England rugby match. The English national anthem “God Save the Queen” was played and the British flag, the Union Jack, was flown at the grounds where 14 innocent Irish civilians, including a Tipperary football player were shot dead and many others wounded and injured by British Forces.
Republican Sinn Féin held a protest outside the grounds during the match. The leaflet distributed on that occasion said: “We protest at the presence of the English rugby team in Croke Park because they represent a country which continues to occupy the North-Eastern part of Ireland; the events of Bloody Sunday cannot be dismissed as history while England holds six Irish counties; our protest is making a political point and is not anti-rugby”
For a whole week beforehand we were stretched to the limit providing press interviews, radio participation and television appearances. Des Dalton, Josephine Hayden and Ruairí Óg Ó Brádaigh were engaged almost on a full-time basis in this regard. John Horan was very active with the media in Dublin. Des Long was similarly engaged in Limerick and Clare. We were seen to be the body making the stand on this issue.
At the same time, we were rushed into a Stormont Election north of the Border when we found that an oath was no longer required at the nomination of candidates. Six candidates were put forward; in East Derry, West Tyrone, Mid-Ulster, Fermanagh-South Tyone, Upper Bann and West Belfast. A quarter of a million copies of our election manifesto were delivered through the post to every household in the six constituencies and our opening press conference in Belfast was covered by the media.
Following that, there was almost total media blackout of Republican Sinn Féin throughout the election. Even our name was suppressed by the Stormont regime’s electoral body and a compliant media followed suit. Our candidates were styled as “Independents” taking away our coherent strategy and sense of direction. Although not registered as a “party” at Leinster House for 40 years, the media in the 26-Counties do not class Republican Sinn Féin candidates as “Independents”, but treat them as an organised body.
Indeed, on the TG4 television programme Seacht Lá on polling day, March 7th, a commentator (Joe Tiernan) stated that there was a complete block on publicity for Republican Sinn Féin and that there appeared to have been an agreement between the various channels to this effect. The result was, that denied publicity and even their organisation’s name, our six candidates were consigned to a welter of 25 Independents, without the distinction of the Republican Sinn Féin title and direction. Of course the harassment by the RUC/PSNI of our election workers continued during the campaign.
Given these circumstances, the outcome was as expected. Expenses were heavy, of course, especially the printing of posters and manifestos together with advertising in local newspapers. In this regard, our own members rallied in style and with another positive development, we are happy to announce that all debts have been cleared. We, at this Ard-Fheis, applaud all of our candidates, their agents and supporters, who fought a first-rate campaign against very great odds.
As the Easter Statement read at all Commemorations, commented: “Supporters should remember that the struggle for Irish National Liberation has never been measured by the number of votes which our movement has been afforded, but by the commitment of the small numbers who have remained steadfast and loyal to the Irish Republic”. Incidentally, we did not contest where there was an abstentionist candidate already in the field, and in our Eve of Poll message, we called for support for all abstentionist candidates, that is, for our own six and two others.
The creeping Anglicisation of Ireland continued throughout the year. British warships paid formal visits to Cork and Waterford, but in both cases they were met publicly by Republican Sinn Féin pickets to show they were not welcome. The reception from both passers-by and passing motorists indicated clearly that they too agreed with the picket.
Then in July Gerry Adams sponsored a formal visit to the former No-Go area of Ballymurphy by the head of the British Police in Ireland, Hugh Orde. They shook hands publicly and toured the area, indicating that Ballymurphy, once famous for its resistance to British occupation, was now a place where British forces were in control and were welcome. What an abject political and military surrender !
Next month, August saw what was once the “jewel in the crown” for Republicans – Crossmaglen in South Armagh – ceremonially handed over to the Brits when leading Provo, Conor Murphy, publicly welcomed Hugh Orde there. For decades “the Boys from Crossmaglen” prevented British occupation forces from travelling there except by helicopter. Yet, on an August evening, the name that was honoured around the world for resistance to imperialism and colonialism was brought low in the most slavish and shameful manner. The Brits reign supreme in Crossmaglen ! The Newry Democrat quoted Republican Sinn Féin in South Armagh as calling for the rejection of the Provisionals.