“To compare us with the Stickies is an obscenity.”

“The great and most recent example of the corrupting nature of ‘politics’ which is often quoted by some of our membership is the Sticks. Indeed, in the past few weeks some republicans who should know better have actually referred to some people on this platform as Stickies. Oh ye of little faith! Of course, it is easy to hurl abuse – sticks and stone may break our bones – it makes headlines in the media but it also makes this problem more difficult to resolve. To compare us with the Stickies is an obscenity. To talk of ‘only the personalities being changed’ and of ‘some people believing that the British can be talked out of Ireland’ is contemptible.

It is a sign of the maturity of this leadership that we have refrained from publicly answering these remarks and it is a sign of our comradeship that we forgive those who made such remarks.

For anyone who has eyes to see, it is clear that the Sticky leadership had abandoned armed struggle as a form of resistance to British rule as part of their historic new departure into British and Free State constitutionality.

For our part, this leadership has been actively involved in the longest phase ever of resistance to the British presence. Our record speaks for itself.”Gerry Adams, speaking in 1986. He then goes on to outline how the Provisional Republican Movement, under his leadership, will end up where they are today:

“We have learned that to be victorious a struggle for freedom must be a struggle of the people. We have said many times that even the most successful armed struggle in the 6 Counties – and the struggle there is not merely an armed one – cannot achieve the Republic.

We must develop a 32-County-wide political struggle. This is the most important task facing us at present. While consolidating our base in the 6 Counties, we must develop a popular struggle here in the 26 Counties to complement the struggle in the 6-County area. […] You may not do this tomorrow but one thing is certain: as Sinn Fein continues to develop its understanding of the needs of this struggle, you are going to do it, sooner rather than later and your leadership is going to be back here year after year until it has convinced you of this necessity.

We all must share the daunting and massive task of interpreting and applying republicanism to changing and changed political conditions. […]

We have to develop a coherent social and political philosophy which provides a rationale for consistent political as well as armed action. Such a process is one of continual reinterpretation and refinement in response to constantly changing social and political reality. […]

Many republicans wandered, many still do, in the political wilderness, isolated from the daily life and concerns of the people and unable to challenge or offer a viable alternative to the partitionist regimes in Ireland. This in turn has weakened the appeal and credibility of this struggle and limited our ability to think or act outside, and thus complementary to, the armed struggle, and it prevented us from mobilising the broad masses of our people, not least in regards to the armed struggle.

We have at all times been more committed to rebellion than to revolution. The cement which held us together was physical force and since 1918 until recent times, physical force was applied in isolation, unsupported by organised political sentiment in the country. I have spoken and written on this theme many times and I have preached the gospel of republican politics – the need for republican politics, that is the need for republican involvement with people – up and down this island.

The only feasible way to break out of our isolation, to make political gains, to win support for our policies, to develop our organisation and our struggle is by approaching people at the level they understand. This is the sad and unfortunate reality of the dilemma facing us. It cannot be dodged by highly moral rhetoric. It is an issue which we must face up to. This means Sinn Fein getting among people in the basic ways which the people accept. This means new approaches and difficult – and perhaps risky – political positions have to be faced up to by us.

It will mean the difference between another glorious defeat or the development of strategies which can succeed.

We have to cease being spectators of a struggle in the 6 Counties and become pioneers of republicanism in the 26 Counties, putting our policies before the people, confident of the logic of the alternative which Irish republicanism offers.

I say this means risky political positions. This should not be under estimated. […]

[At] this time, our entry in a serious way into electoral politics in this state should be seen in terms of broad political gains as opposed to immediate gains in terms of a seat or seats. […]

What will make an organisation like ours revolutionary is not whether it is committed to any particular means of achieving revolution – such as street agitation, electoralism or physical force – but whether all the means it uses – political work, publicity, mass education, electoralism and armed struggle (which should play no part in the struggle in this state) or projects of economic, social or cultural resistance are conductive to achieving the revolutionary reconquest of Ireland.”

20 years, 1986 until 2006, has Adams achieved his broad political gains? Is it all rhetoric for the time the speech was given, or a roadmap for the “turning of the Titanic in the bathtub”, the peace process Adams steered the Republican Movement onto? Can any republican, who paid attention to what Adams has been saying all these years, be really surprised at where the IRA has gone? Can any unionist?