Gerry Adams on 1916, Micheál, Enda, Marriage Equality and 2016 #sfaf16

Gerry Adams Saturday night speech to ard fheisA rumour persisted throughout the afternoon that Sinn Féin party president would use the end of his evening address to announce his retirement from the office. Instead the only mystery was the disappearance of a much heralded historic choir who were due to speak at the end of the early evening 1916 “celebration of the centenary” and never quite made it onto the beautifully constructed set.

An hour of motions around the environment and transport (as mentioned in an earlier post) in the morning preceded the traditional two hours of rapid fire speeches [audio] from voices across the party, broadcast live by RTE. After lunch sessions business returned to the motions in the clár before the Ceiliúradh Céad Bliain with music, drama and speech.

While northern voices and issues punctuated the business, southern politics dominated the motions and the debate on Saturday. Speakers argued for the creation of an all-Ireland soccer team, [Ed – timing’s everything – right at the moment we’ve got two good national teams on the island!] gender quotas for Dáil Éireann and Seanad and various party rules. Dissenting voices were heard, but there were no upsets.

Michelle Gildernew warmed up The Convention Centre Dublin audience, whose stalls and circle were finally packed in advance of the leader’s speech. Upper Bann candidate Catherine Seeley welcomed Gerry Adams onto the stage.

Gerry Adams Saturday night speech to ard fheisLike much of the weekend’s rhetoric, the hundred years since 1916 overshadowed his speech.

100 years ago tonight small groups of men and women were making their final preparations for the Rising. On Easter Monday April 24th they struck for freedom. They took on the largest Empire in human history. Years of training, organising and the procurement of arms had gone into their preparations.

He said “there has been an attempt by some to denigrate the heroes of 1916”.

The popular response to, and the genuine pride in the centenary events is a clear rejection of this shameful revisionism. There has also been a disgraceful effort to suggest that republican history ended in the GPO.

We are told John Redmond opposed violence. That he was right on Home Rule. That Connolly and Pearse and their comrades were wrong. That the British government would have granted independence anyway. Nonsense!

Returning to the Proclamation:

The Proclamation is a manifesto for change. In government, north and south, my commitment to you tonight is that Sinn Féin will deliver this change. We are committed to a vision of a new Ireland that will embrace everyone. A society in which the rights of every citizen will be guaranteed. A society in which every child will have equal rights and equal opportunities.

The historic section of his speech ended:

Sinn Féin is proud of Ireland’s long and distinguished struggle for freedom. We are not Fine Gael or Labour. We are proud of the men and women of 1916. We are not Fianna Fáil. We are equally proud of the men and women of the H Blocks and Armagh and of the 1981 hunger strikers and of the patriot dead from our time. We remember them all here tonight.

On the post-election negotiations:

After the election Sinn Féin said that in the interests of delivering change we were willing to talk to Fine Gael and Fianna Fail. They refused to talk to us.

In nasty little soundbites, which would make the DUP blush, the Fianna Fáil leader in particular, proclaimed that this party, that the people in this Convention Centre, and more importantly those citizens who vote for Sinn Féin, were not fit for government.

That’s the only explicit reference to an Assembly party in the whole speech.

He also said he would not put Enda Kenny back into government. But putting Fine Gael back into power is exactly what he is negotiating. That’s not in the national interest. Fianna Fáil voters did not vote to give Fine Gael another term.

Micheál Martin knows that Enda Kenny will not resolve the homelessness crisis, the health crisis or the crisis in living which many families are enduring. He knows the Fine Gael leadership have little interest in Irish unity. But he would prefer to put them back in government as part of his effort to counter the growth of Sinn Féin.

So, I have a message for Teachta Martin. You promised in your manifesto to abolish Irish Water and to scrap water charges. So, water charges must go. Irish water must go.

Many citizens thought they were voting for an alternative when they voted independent. Some of those TDs now stand with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. How independent is that?

Gerry Adams Saturday night speech to ard fheisAdams highlighted one Sinn Féin commitment for the new Dáil:

Before the Volunteers left the GPO Pearse told the women that when the history of that week would be written the highest honour and credit would go to them. Seasaimid lenár gcairde ban. There can be no Saoirse na h’Éireann gan Saoirse na mBan.

So a genuine republic would repeal the eighth amendment of the constitution. And Sinn Féin will campaign for this.

These are our commitments at the start of the 32nd Dáil – however long it lasts – a strong progressive Sinn Féin team, working in co-operation with others of like mind, standing up for citizens and against the elites. Sin an gealltananas a thug muid do na daoine a thug vótai dúinn.

And let me be very clear, unlike the establishment parties, this party – Sinn Féin – will stick to our promises and to our commitments!

On the election result and Sinn Féin promises and record of delivery:

Despite a tsunami of negative campaigning by our opponents and from sections of the media Sinn Fein achieved a historic result in the general election. We now have 23 TDs. I thank all our candidates, their families and our voters. We also have an excellent team of candidates going forward for Monday’s Seanad election.

On May 5th the anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands, there will be an election in the North. I want to applaud our Assembly candidates, and their families.

Last September Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil called for the suspension or the adjournment of the political institutions of the Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Féin and others refused to accept this. We successfully negotiated the Fresh Start Agreement. I want to commend the huge commitment and leadership of my friend and comrade Martin McGuinness in building the peace.

Sinn Féin have stood against the British Tory austerity policies. We stopped the introduction of water charges and we guaranteed free hospital care, free GP care and free prescriptions. However, this is not enough.

Marriage equality is still banned in the north. And we are committed to changing that. We are also committed to Acht na Gaeilge and to Irish language rights, including the right to Irish medium education.

No other party will stand up for these rights in the face of unionist bluster; British government opposition, and the Irish governments indifference.

On legacy issues and Brexit:

The British government must be made to honour their commitments on legacy issues including disclosure, legacy inquests and the resourcing of investigations.

That is why we need the biggest number of Sinn Féin MLAs to lead change in the Assembly, and to join all our elected representatives, and you the activists, in delivering change across Ireland.

In June there will be a referendum in June about so-called Brexit. While Sinn Féin believes in a different European Union – a social EU based on equality and citizens’ rights – we will be campaigning for a strong vote against Brexit. The imposition of border controls and economic barriers are not in the interest of the people of this island. Our goal is to break them down and end partition.

A United Ireland for all. The purpose of partition was to prevent the emergence of a united 32 county Irish state. To this day partition prevents the development of communities and is holding back, as Connolly put it: ‘the wheels of progress.’

Yet much has changed. The orange state, established by the Government of Ireland Act, is gone. The Government of Ireland Act is gone also. Yes, the northern state is still in place; and yes the majority of people there are unionists but the union is no longer unconditionally upheld in British law.

The British government is now obliged to legislate for Irish unity if a majority wants that. The duty of the Irish government is to achieve this. That means promoting all-Ireland co-operation and building relationships between our people.

It means an end of partitionist thinking by policy makers; and yes – in the media also. It means enlisting international support for all these objectives. Of course, from a republican and democratic perspective the British government has no right to be in any part of Ireland.

But from a unionist perspective all has changed, changed utterly from the days of a one party state where nationalists were excluded from power; denied equality in housing, employment and voting rights; and where expressions of Irish national identity were criminalised.

Now a peaceful and democratic route to Irish unity exists. Tá go leor obair le déanamh againn go fóill. A United Ireland means the unity of the people of this island, including those who identify themselves as British. A United Ireland means economic and political benefits for all our people. A United Ireland means an end to duplication and waste. A United Ireland must be inclusive, agreed and welcoming for all the people of this island. That includes our unionist neighbours. This is their homeland also.

He added:

We love Ireland. We value this small island. But it is the people – orange, green, and all other colours also, who are at the core of our values of equality, liberty and fraternity. We want this to be the best place to grow up in, to grow old in and to enjoy life in. So our resolve must be to end all divisions and to unite our people.

Gerry Adams Saturday night speech to ard fheisAdams reminded delegates about the events tomorrow on the date of the rising.

These events will celebrate the vision, bravery and sacrifice of that time. In our own time 35 years ago Bobby Sands was 55 days on hunger strike. Like the men and women of 1916 he and his comrades were all about the future. In his prison diary Bobby wrote:

“If they aren’t able to destroy the desire for freedom, they wont break you. They won’t break me because the desire for freedom and the freedom of the Irish people, is in my heart. The day will dawn when all the people of Ireland will have the desire for freedom to show. It is then we’ll see the rising of the moon.”

The people of Ireland are no mean people. We have great resilience and great potential. We know whose side we’re on. We stand by and for the Republic. It’s time we saw the rising of the moon. Bígí linn. Join the new Rising. Up the Republic – An Phoblacht abú.

  • Paul91

    You were born in Ireland, that makes you Irish. The English carve up of our country dosnt change that.

  • Paul91

    The north only has a unionist majority by virtue of the more numerous population of counties Antrim and Down. Take one or the other out of the equation and you lose your majority.
    As for your never never never, well you’ll have to ask the British what they think of that and since we already know, your chest thumping will simply be in vain.

  • Thomas Barber

    Why stop at the Irish people in any future agreement lets ask all the people of Ireland and Britain do they want to abolish the monarchy, lets have a new beginning where evreyone is born equal and everyone can vote whether we want a monarchy or not.

  • NotNowJohnny

    You don’t think it was Ulster unionism who insisted on getting rid of articles 2 & 3?

  • Paul91

    Sinn Fein have held their vote overall in the face of declining turnout and an increase in unionist.
    As the fenians get closer in the numbers game its not surprising theyve been throwing the kitchen sink at it.
    Deep down in unionism is the great fear of becoming the religous and political minority.

  • Paul91

    If theres any doubt as to the wishes of the majority of people in Ireland regarding partition we can have a binding border poll north south east and west to clear up the confusion.

  • Paul91

    Why? Well let me guess. it may have something to do with the wish to remove British hands of our counrty and have a free Irish united nation with norniron consigned to the histroy books.

  • Paul91

    Why as an irish person would you even consider wishing well the football team that represents the carve up of our country, everything from a denial of civil rights to mass murder?
    The NI football team should be viewed in the same light as apartheid South Africa. Time UEFA shut it down.

  • Paul91

    They still call themselves the ROI tho which pleases unionists.

  • Oggins

    The simple fact is your statement offers no solution or movement forward for an Ireland team. Such statements only encourages more hatred and barriers. Is what is your solution to get NI fans to back an UI team? I can tell you statements like above only drive a wedge.

  • Paul91

    Boycotting apartheid South Africa sports was the right thing to do and helped bring the rotten regime to an end.
    Partition is rotten and upholds the hatred and barriers you speak of.
    Scrap the NI version and we’re left with one Irish sports team for all.

  • Oggins

    So you force a large population into supporting a UI team? To compare S.A to our troubles is not a like for like comparison. Fortunately the G.F.A has seen to readdress a lot of these issues. Ultimately the biggest lesson in Irish history is you cannot force people into something they do not want. If you want to get people on side it’s about building bridges and breaking down the barriers. Not telling people to lump it.

  • Paul91

    A small minority across Ireland actually and yes if I had the means to ‘force’ them to live in UI tomorrow I would.
    And if they didnt like it well they can do what NI was set up to achieve, forcing the fenians out.
    In Scotland there are many who wouldnt support Scotland if it became indepedent, do we stop the world for them and bend over until they’re satisfied?

  • cu chulainn

    A United Ireland will be Republic. It may join the Commonwealth, but royalty will have no role in Ireland, no more than in other members of the Commonwealth like Sri Lanka.

  • Oggins

    Small-minded bigotry. So do to them what themums did t us, that will sort it.

  • Reader

    Your negotiators sold the pass on that one. The deal we have now accepts that partition exists, and that there will only be a united Ireland if the people of Northern Ireland consent. (see my comment on “regional disparity” above)
    Given that there are clearly two main distinct national identities on this island, I regard your preferred grouping – “majority of the people in Ireland” – as a false electorate. Even more so now than it was 100 years ago in the election Skibo was cherry-picking.

  • Croiteir

    Again I repeat they only negotiated when dragged to the table by the British

  • NotNowJohnny

    I don’t know how you can be so certain. The Irish people voted for a role for the monarchy in Ireland in 1922, 1937 and 1998. What makes you so convinced they won’t do so again?

  • Lee

    I don’t know what your on about. I’m Lee. You replied 2nd time round to ‘the keep’, different person.

  • cu chulainn

    There was no vote In 1937 referencing monarchy. In 1922 and 1998 settlements were achieved against a background of coercion by military forces commanded by that monarch. If that coercion is absent then Irish people will chose democracy and monarchy.

  • NotNowJohnny

    There was no coercion of Irish voters by military forces in 1998. As regards 1937, the constitution was voted upon. Note the references to the King in the following extract provided by wiki.

    In 1937 a new Constitution was adopted establishing the contemporary Irish state named simply ‘Ireland’ and entrenching the monarch’s diminished role, transferring many of the functions performed by the King until 1936 to a new office of President of Ireland, who was declared to “take precedence over all other persons in the State”. However, the 1937 constitution did not explicitly declare that the state was a republic, nor that the President was head of state, and it allowed for the King to have a role in the state’s external affairs. The state’s ambiguous status ended in 1949, when the Republic of Ireland Act ended the King’s remaining role in external affairs and declared that the state was a republic.

    The status of the Head of the Irish State from 1936 to 1949 was largely a matter of symbolism and had little practical significance. This was because the roles of both the King and the President of Ireland were merely ceremonial, being exercisable only “on the advice” of the Government (Cabinet). However, one practical implication of explicitly declaring the state to be a republic in 1949 was that it automatically led to the state’s expulsion from membership of the then Commonwealth, in accordance with the rules in operation at the time.

  • cu chulainn

    In 1922 and 1998 the British forces were occupying the 6 counties, now you may think that a good thing, but it is pointless to deny that it was happening.
    The 1937 Constitution contain no reference to Kings or the like so voting on it was not voting for monarchy. Although you could say that voting for it had the indirect effect of reducing the role of foreign monarchs to essentially zilch.

  • NotNowJohnny

    What is not in dispute is that in 1998 the Irish people overwhelmingly voted for NI to remain part of the U.K. Of course there are still those who struggle with the Irish people democratically expressing a view on the constitutional arrangements for the island that differ from theirs. As de Valera is said to have said, the Irish people have no right to do wrong. Which is, of course, an absurd thing to say.