Gerry Adams noted the irony that the first public speech he made since the Ard Comhairle meeting, was to commemorate an attack on the RUC barracks in Brookeborough on January 1st, 1957. The attack was one of the most significant of the 1950’s border campaign ‘Operation Harvest’ and saw Sean South and Feargal O’Hanlon killed in the battle. Today’s freezing weather was eerily reminiscent of that ‘dreary New Year’s Day’, but about 1500 hundred people came out to commemorate and listen to Adams.In his speech, he said that while he acknowledged the irony, he didn’t see a contradiction in honouring the sacrifices made in the raid against the RUC while at the same time recommending acceptance of the PSNI. He said that ‘ignoring policing is simply not an option’ and sees the acceptance of policing as a means of taking control away from London and into Irish hands. Adams argued that Republican ideals are more achievable in the framework of the GFA, and feels that huge political advances have been made. However, he cautioned that Sinn Fein does not have sufficient political strength at present to progress those ideals.
Interestingly, he placed great emphasis on the fact that ‘there are no short cuts and no easy way to independence and a United Ireland.’ He urged the audience to ‘mobilise, organise and strategise’ and ‘secure a peaceful accord with Unionists. A United Ireland cannot be achieved simply on our terms.’
Over the next few weeks, he said that a review of all of the issues will be undertaken, the achievements to date will be set out, what is needed will be identified and he urged that all activists start to engage in the strategic process that is unfolding. At this point in the speech, he emphasised that everyone would have to be included in these talks, including republican veterans, those affected by State violence and collusion, and everyone with a stake in republicanism. Once a decision is made, ‘we need to move into the structures as this is the only way forward.’