Gerry Adams says loyalists have much in common with republican neighbours and calls for dialogue

Gerry Adams closed the Sinn Fein ard fheis with his presidential speech. It was live on RTE (and the website) and will be repeated on BBC Two NI on Sunday at 6pm. The full text is available; below are some excerpts.

On a border poll …

There would be no peace process and no Agreement without the commitment, initiatives and political risks taken by Irish republicans. Or, without the great work of individuals like Des Wilson, Harold Good, Inez McCormack and especially Fr. Alex Reid.

It isn’t a perfect agreement. But Sinn Féin secured the removal of the Government of Ireland Act, under which the British government claimed sovereignty over the North.

The Agreement provides for a border poll on Irish unity. It’s no surprise that the two governments are saying No. But Sinn Féin is saying Yes. And more importantly nationalist and republican Ireland says Yes. And we now need to work together for a Yes vote. It’s time to let the people have their say on the future of Ireland. It’s time for a referendum on Irish unity.

On the Irish government …

This government, like the one before it, has failed the people. Its core values are those of austerity. It has refused to negotiate a write-down on the Promissory Note. It gave away our natural resources. It tore up the Croke Park Agreement and is now targeting frontline workers on low and average pay …

Over the last five years, Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil have taken €28 billion out of the economy in taxes and cuts. Cuts to hospitals. To schools. To garda stations. Taxes on pensions. On savings. And on homes.

Oddly Sinn Fein are happy to be imposing cuts as part of the NI Executive …

In October the Government will take another €3 billion. Next year, they will take €2.5 billion more. They have little thought for the social consequences of their actions, of the divided, polarised, unequal society they are creating. Of impoverished communities and families hurting from the scourge of drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide.

But the bankers, developers and politicians who created the mess have been untouched. Despite all the election rhetoric from Labour and Fine Gael this is still the best small country in the world for big bankers, crooked developers or corrupt politicians …

The only way to restore our economy and rebuild society is to break with the self-serving politics of Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil. They refused to share the wealth during the boom years. But they socialise the debt afterwards. They are taking from those who have least to benefit those who have most …

Fairness is at the core of Sinn Féin’s approach. Of course the deficit must be tackled. But those with the broadest shoulders must bear the heaviest load.

In a fair Ireland the weak, the vulnerable and the least well-off would be protected. If this was a real republic working people would not be punished for the greed and corruption of others …

Sinn Féin is offering a realistic alternative. We are committed to investing €13 billion in job creation and retention. And we have presented realistic and costed, alternative budget proposals to reduce the deficit, create growth, and protect families under financial pressure.

Is seo cloch coirnéal ár bpolasaí. [The cornerstone of our policy.] The mortgage crisis is a direct result of Fianna Fáil policy and this government’s failure to help struggling families.

Sinn Féin proposes the establishment of an independent mortgage distress body to adjudicate and enforce agreements on mortgages between banks and mortgage holders.

Gerry Adams agreed that “Mary Lou spoke for everyone on the day that the Magdalene report was published when she said it was time for a full apology to these brave women” and went on say that they needed justice along with “the victims of Bethany Home” and “the victims of symphysiotomy”.

People across Ireland have been moved this week by the reports from the inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar and by the grace and great dignity of her husband. I want to extend solidarity to Praveen and his family and friends. Savita’s death brought into sharp and tragic focus the failure of successive governments to legislate in the X case.

The people have spoken and firmly placed the responsibility upon their Oireachtas representatives to legislate on this issue. It is time doctors had legal clarity. It’s time for protection for pregnant women whose lives are at risk.

You could have fooled me but …

Sinn Féin opposes austerity across this island.

Despite £4bn pounds of cuts by the British government, Sinn Féin’s Ministerial and Assembly team under Martin McGuinness’s leadership, has prioritised finding money to maintain frontline services, protect those on lowest incomes and assist disadvantaged communities.

The so-called Welfare Reform Bill is another example of the English Tory Agenda. Sinn Féin is opposed to these cuts in exactly the same way that we are opposed to the cuts being introduced by our own Tories in Dublin.

We are also working for the transfer of fiscal power to the Assembly and Executive and a harmonisation of the Corporation Tax rate across Ireland.

Gerry Adams called for dialogue between Sinn Féin and loyalist communities.

The Orange marching season has begun. This year sees the added vexation about the flying of flags on public buildings. Playing party politics with these issues is dangerous and counter-productive.

There are many genuine loyalists and unionists, including former combatants, working in disadvantaged communities who realise the dangers and risks involved. They also know that it is citizens from these disadvantaged communities who will bear the brunt of any violent or disruptive actions.

These communities have more in common with their republican neighbours than they may realise. Dialogue between them and Sinn Féin is essential and there is an imperative on republicans, challenging though it may be, to build alliances on social and economic issues with working class loyalists and unionists.

The Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist people are not going away. And Sinn Féin doesn’t want them to go away. They are part of what we are and we have to get to know each other better, to listen and take heed of what is being said.

I commit our party, without preconditions, to be part of such discussions as we face into the Orange marching season, and to find solutions to contentious issues and to tackle economic disadvantage.

This is the only way to build a fair society. It is what the vast majority of citizens want.

The tiny minorities who espouse violence have been rejected. Tá siad greamaithe san am atá caite [They are stuck in the past] agus thart orthu tá Éirinn Thuaidh agus Theas ag athrú.

He echoed comments made a lot more forcibly in an earlier speech by Gerry Kelly

And there is still work to be done to ensure that policing is non-partisan and civic. Recent decisions by the PSNI have failed this test. And clearly there are elements in the NIO who are uncomfortable with the new dispensation.

A truth process is needed for events both north and south …

So, much work still needs to be done including the creation of a victim centred truth and reconciliation process. Dubhshlán mór a bheidh anseo. Almost 100 years ago the Tan War against British forces was deadly and vicious. But the civil war left a bitterness and a legacy that still shapes politics to this day.

77 republicans were executed during those terrible years by the Free State – among them six young men from the west who were executed in Tuam 90 years ago this week. Members of the Free State Army, of the Garda and civilians died too.

There was never any process of truth recovery or reconciliation after these events. Ba chóir dúinn foghlaim ón meancog sin. [We should learn from that mistake.]

During the recent conflict, Gardaí and other members of the state’s forces were killed by republicans. Republicans were killed also … the era of the Heavy Gang many citizens were brutally assaulted. Innocents were imprisoned. There was collusion between elements of the Irish establishment and the British system … All this needs to be faced up to.

Sinn Féin has argued for the establishment of an Independent International Truth Commission. The two governments; former combatants, and those in leadership across Ireland and Britain need to be part of such a process. There can be no hierarchy of victims.

I and others in the Sinn Féin leadership have met many victims and victim’s families in the north. I am prepared to meet with victims’ families in this state if they believe this will be helpful and I intend to do this in the near future.

He had advice for Labour …

Our history is replete with challenges, adversity and great injustice. This is such a time. A time for real leadership.

A real Labour Party with a principled leadership should not be in government with Fine Gael. If Fine Gael is set on implementing Fianna Fáil policy then let them do that with the support of Fianna Fáil.

Whatever the case for entry into coalition after the last election, there is now only one principled position for Labour. Fágaigí an bealach ag sloite na bhFiann. Stand by working people as Connolly and Larkin did. Leave this government and leave it now!

The speech finished …

In Ireland today parents defending children with disabilities, frontline workers defending each other and vital public services, carers, teachers, health workers, citizens who are standing up for themselves and their communities, are showing the way.

Sinn Féin believes in the people of Ireland. Join with us in building a New Republic. Sin é. Ar aghaidh linn le chéile

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  • son of sam

    From the excerpts above it appears that John Hume had no role to play in the Peace Process!It seems that generosity of spirit does not extend to the S D L P.

  • aquifer

    And if the IRA did discuss shooting him, it was not to be personal.

  • iluvni

    Do Republicans even listen to Adams these days?
    I’ve long ago grown tired of even bothering to listen, never mind take issue, with anything he has to say.

  • OneNI

    The sooner this lotget in government in the Republic the better!
    Then the inconsistency of arguing aganst austerity, for a (unfunded/unfundable?) 13 billion euro spending package, cutting Corproation tax (and hence £300m+ off services) would become clear.
    We would all be saved this drivel as the hard realities of govt force tough decisions which untimately lead to unpopularity!
    In the meantime I reckon they can play their populist cards and become well established as the Third Force of Irish politics (after the demise of Labour)
    There would be an irony in that as essentially they will then have fully suplanted the descendants of the Officials!
    3,000 deaths to late many would say.
    But on a brighter note the British tactic of bidding time, grinding down their paramilitay wing and sucking the Republicans into politics will be complete and their agents can enjoy a happy retirement whereever they are – in Donegal or Stormont.
    The Republicans thought they were the ones playing a long game LOL.

  • seamusot

    Once Scotland ditches the baggage of Thatcher’s little Engurlanger mindset new vistas will appear. Big Ian, Le Pen, Enoch Powell, Pinochet, Ceaucescu and all the other Thatcherite monsters will fade into sepia. Educated Irish people will address the baggage of partition, its inherent slavery, discrimination and pure sectarianism in a balanced and fair respectful manner.

  • sonofstrongbow

    ………and pigs will fly.

  • Rory Carr

    Since Alan in Belfast has only two comments to make on the content of Adams’s speech I shall limit my response to those comments:

    Oddly Sinn Fein are happy to be imposing cuts as part of the NI Executive …

    And how have you learned of such happiness ? And how have you measured it ?

    By any chance are they happy in the same way that you are happy to pay income tax and tv licence and national insurance and VAT and council tax and water rates and increases on essentials and all that ? Or is it, perhaps, that there really is no choice in the matter (short of taking up arms I suppose, but then I don’t reckon you’re very big on that idea.)

    You could have fooled me but …

    ‘Sinn Féin opposes austerity across this island.’ ”

    But surely if they say they do then this is policy. How have you been fooled ? Care to elaborate?

  • Granni Trixie

    I always find it difficult to be greatful and say thank you for making peace to people who were blowing people up!

  • Los Lobos

    Its a pity Gerry Adams didn’t call for the “sniper at work” badges on sale at the conference to be binned! If he had have done so (and thats a big if), perhaps some people could take seriously his comments on loyalists having something in common with the likes of himself. But he didn’t, he preferred to rewrite history to suit his narrow sectarian agenda that gives the Provos the high moral ground and makes the rest of society feel like second class citizens, Statesman he is not!

  • ArdoyneUnionist

    Los lobos, I done a tin hat an anticipation of all rabid republicans coming on here to defend the pious one.

    Strange that he had that much in common with those from the Loyalist Shankill community, Adams carried the coffin of IRA mass murder and Shankill bomber Thomas Beggely.

    Is Gerry trying to pull to wool over peoples eyes???

  • Comrade Stalin


    And how have you learned of such happiness ? And how have you measured it ?

    There are a few ways to measure it. For example, SF’s strong criticism of the British government for failing to implement devolution of corporation tax powers.

    The current prevailing wisdom, which is actively promoted by SF, is that giving money back to rich capitalists by cutting corporation tax (and correspondingly, either cutting public spending or moving the tax burden elsewhere) creates jobs and wealth. This is Thatcherism 101. It is the only economic policy I have so far heard Sinn Féin advocate. It is not unreasonable, therefore, to conclude that they are concerned with implenmenting a cuts agenda in NI.

  • Comrade Stalin


    One way or another – in this place we’re going to have to start talking to each other and doing more to understand each other. I am not sure how genuine Gerry is, but at least he acknowledges this in public in front of his supporters and the world’s media.

  • What happened Gerry’s (Gerrys’) dialogue in North Belfast? Sinn Fein still to get back with date of next meeting… been a while.

  • Rory Carr

    Comrade Stalin,

    The thinking is that the inflow of business resultant upon corporation tax reduction would also mean an increase in tax revenues which would take up the shortfall and allow for even more revenues available to meet social welfare spending.

    I am agnostic on the mechanism myself but, if anything, Sinn Féin’s clamouring for its implementation is surely a sign that they are unhappy with the current arrangement.

  • Actually Adams is quite correct about republicans having much in common with loyalists.

    1) Both believe that it is okay to kill on behalf of their political creed without a democratic mandate.

    2) Both believe that criminal activities carried out in the name of the cause are perfectly justifiable.

    3) Both believe that killing off their criminal competition in the name of society is perfectly acceptable.

    4) Both seem to think that kneecapping and other paramilitary punishments are fairer than dealing with the court system.

    5) Both have carried out rather opaque decommissioning exercises after vowing that they would never carry out any decommissioing.

    6) Both believe in murals glorifying terrorists to be a great form of popular art.

    Now if they could only agree about the flegs they might even consider merging one day.

  • ………and pigs will fly. …. sonofstrongbow 14 April 2013 at 2:29 pm

    …… And pigs will fly is somewhat dependent on what you be feeding them for heavenly flight, sonofstrongbow……

    Goodness knows what tomorrow reveals with its myriad mad tales to follow into an Oblivious Reality, which now you might like to know you can change at will into a Better Beta whenever able and/or enabled by Future Mentors and AIMonitors …… Veritable Venerable Guardian Angels, no less.:-)

    That all suggests that future tall tales from the divisions in Stormont Executive Administration Ranks can be considerably improved beyond the current recognition of present incumbent apathy and lethargy/lack of real passion for new action/status quo blues in elite no show go-gos, with AI Help Government Provided and Private Pirate Third Party Supplied for Public Outing ……. Active Positive Testing of Advanced Persistent Threat Munitions/Missions/Missives.

    Or would that be a spooky intelligence led operation from that which you know really nothing about, even though there may be a conveniently local head office with global communications head quarters virtually within shouting distance of First and Deputy First Ministries going through the motions of power but without control for the benefit of Stormont.

    No matter what, either private and pirate or public and spooky, now you know what is out there and available to smarter players leading following events nowadays, or if you prefer, following leading events.

  • newgal

    I sometimes wonder if Adams has actually realized how utterly ridiculous he is.

    This most recent example of North Korea-like – Pythonesque sheer silliness combined with hypocrisy is surely so far removed from any reality that even he must know it.

    He says:

    “The Orange marching season has begun. This year sees the added vexation about the flying of flags on public buildings. Playing party politics with these issues is dangerous and counter-productive.”

    So Sinn Fein have NEVER, NEVER EVER, NEVER EVER EVER, played party politics with either flying of flags or parading?

    Can this really be the same Gerry Adams who said:

    “Ask any activist in the north, ‘did Drumcree happen by accident?’, and he will tell you, ‘no’. Three years of work on the lower Ormeau Road, Portadown and parts of Fermanagh and Newry, Armagh and in Bellaghy and up in Derry. Three years of work went into creating that situation and fair play to those people who put the work in. They are the type of scene changes that we have to focus on and develop and exploit.”

    Surely not – say it ain’t so Gerry.

  • Comrade Stalin


    The thinking is that the inflow of business resultant upon corporation tax reduction would also mean an increase in tax revenues which would take up the shortfall and allow for even more revenues available to meet social welfare spending.

    Yes, I know. Reaganomics. Which is precisely the point.

  • Comrade Stalin


    It’s very easy to talk about what people said in the past. Can we deal with the present, and can we all possibly accept that people might change ?

    I could spend all day listing things that Peter Robinson said and did in the past. But I’d much rather understand what he believes and does today. No ?

  • Loyalist and Republicans certainly have one thing in Common and it is probably the the most important one of all – they have been used/misused, for a generation or more, by self-serving individuals who mostly are definitely sociopaths with a few of them being raving psychopaths.
    You can figure out which ones for yourself.

  • Rory Carr

    NO, Comrade, Reaganomics (or any other form) is precisely not the point. Or certainly not the point you were making which was related to whether or not Sinn Féin were (as Alan slyly interjected) “happily” carrying out Tory cuts.

    You argued that their demand to set a separate rate of Corporation Tax indicated that they were indeed happy, while it is plainly the case that it indicates the very opposite. Whatever economic strategy is argued by SF is entirely irrelevant. If it indicates difference with that enforced by Whitehall then it indicates unhappiness with that policy.

  • newgal

    Comrade Stalin

    You say:

    “It’s very easy to talk about what people said in the past. Can we deal with the present, and can we all possibly accept that people might change ?

    I could spend all day listing things that Peter Robinson said and did in the past. But I’d much rather understand what he believes and does today. No ?”

    So that being so – you feel free as a bird to talk about whatever Robinson or anyone else said in the past and I will feel free to talk about what Adams etc said (and did).

    I am not convinced that even Adams knows what he actually believes anymore.

    For SF, what were once fundamental positions are abandoned as if they were never held and when they are reminded of them we are told not be so negative or that we are anti-peace or that we are misrepresenting their previous position or that we are opposed to change or a host of other garbage that allows them to not account for their own words and deeds.

    Since what Adams professes to believe to day could be ditched and replaced by the exact opposite tomorrow with neither explanation or apology, but only the demand that people cease from asking about it or mentioning it – why on earth would something so transient and weightless be of any interest?

  • BarneyT

    I applaud any notion of dialog between SF and the loyalist community. Someone equivalent in stature to Adams, Kelly and McGuiness needs to emerge from the loyalist community, and its hard to see where they will come from. Bryson and Frazer hardly fit the bill, so whilst its great that SF appear to be reaching out, who do they hope to engage?

    If SF is pitching themselves as potential political and social presentatives of this community, thats ambitious to say the least, but strange things do happen 🙂

  • Sir Ike Broflovski

    Hello Barney

    “If SF is pitching themselves as potential political and social representatives of this community that’s ambitious to say the least, but strange things do happen”

    I see that separately Sinn Fein have called for Labour to leave the Irish government coalition so as to force a more natural Lib-Con pact between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael – and perhaps to make possible a future SF/Labour partnership.

    Another phrase which caught my attention was something like;

    “we don’t need a Sinn Fein trade union movement, or a Labour Party trade union movement – we need a fighting trade union movement”.

    Do you think there might also be a body of thought, within Sinn Fein, which looks to all-Ireland Labour Party organisation (perhaps with an East-West dimension similar to the Green Party’s) as the bridge to real partnership with traditionally unionist communities.

  • BarneyT

    Certainly think its a way forward Sir Ike. SF and Labour perhaps have more in common in terms of positioning and social policy and both share an historical connection with the once Official Republican movement.

    I cant help feeling that a FF\FG pact would be a recipe for disaster, even considering their simular positioning on the right- to-left swingometer.

    If SF are going to be marketable in the north on a cross-community basis, they may need to consider rebadging as the Irish Labour Party.

  • Greenflag

    @ Rory & CS

    ‘The thinking is that the inflow of business resultant upon corporation tax reduction would also mean an increase in tax revenues which would take up the shortfall and allow for even more revenues available to meet social welfare spending.’

    Perhaps the thinking was – . There is some small truth in Reaganomics which in itself was the American Global version of Sean Lemass’s Ireland 1960’s slogan
    ‘A rising tide lifts all boats ‘ big and small .

    Lemass nor Reagan could never foresee a situation whereby the biggest boats (the financial sector in the west) would rise so high that millions of smaller boats would be inundated in the swell of the financial Titanics as they have this past decade .

    The above fact of the current global financial situation is way beyond any putative attempt by SF much less any NI Loyalist political party to come to grips with . It’s beyond the capacity and capabilities of FF, FG, DUP, SDLP and even the main British and American political parties .
    The simple harsh fact for those who still cling to the belief that a reduced corporation tax will do the job that several generations of local and national government failed to do is that by itself it can only do so much and probably only for a limited period and it may in the end -impoverish national governmetns and provincial assemblies to the point as it has in some USA States whereby schools and basic education and health care services have to be ‘culled ‘ to meet the avaricious demands of banksters -credit reporting agencies and the corporatist lobbies who essentially own Congress -lock , stock and barrel.

    The founding fathers of the USA developed a system of checks and balances to try to prevent any single power /party/interest /association or religion from becoming too powerful in their own right such that they would be able to threaten democracy and usurp it for their own private interest .

    Yet this is exactly what Thatcherism and the US neo conservatives have bequeathed to the world .

    And in that world SF are just as powerless as any of the other political parties to effect constitutionally the necessary reforms which will have to be made before the current continuing trend of the emisseration of the middle and working classes can be reversed .

    In the meantime the new ‘Corporate financial sector nazis ‘ rule with the approval of gutless and self serving politicians from the right and the left. They may not wear the swastika armband or the brown or black shirt but they are no less a threat to democracy than the corporate fascists of the 1930’s and their then totalitarian stalinist friends in the east .

  • seamusot

    Ach now yer average Jaffa cares far more about the half crown than the crown. I propose that every Jaffa be given a free fishing rod and vouchers to sail with a gillie with bait to allow them observe the different species of fish in lakes, oceans and rivers. Pikes, Pollan, Char, Salmon, Trout, Bream, Brill, Eels, Sardines, Dolphins, Porpoises, Sharks and so on. So putting up with with republicans, nationalists, Fenians, Taidhghs, Tims and tossers will become a methadone replacement therapy to wean Jaffas off supremacism, racism and sectarianism. It just might work.

  • Sir Ike Broflovski

    I thought that perhaps some in Sinn Fein are looking for an all-Ireland partner rather than a re-brand Barney. It seems to me that only Labour (or perhaps an almost unimaginably elevated Green Party) could be both a partner in the south and, potentially, part of a cross-community coalition in the North.

    The important thing for “unionist” acceptance of the Labour Party, at least for now, might be the prospect of a UK-wide organisation – something which would be of little use to Sinn Fein.

  • tacapall

    “I applaud any notion of dialog between SF and the loyalist community.”

    This has already been happening for a number of years in fact Sinn Fein and the UDA have tactical agreement in most interface areas, UVF and UDA members have been invited and attended numerous lectures in various venues on the Falls road and have even been drinking in the Felons club. Those cross community jobs are not all about community work, they are a bridge to building up relationships, dialogue and personal friendships within loyalism and hopefully vise versa. Im not a supporter of Sinn Fein but I do respect the work and effort of those cross community workers in attempting to build an understanding between both communities.

  • Reader

    tacapall: This has already been happening for a number of years in fact Sinn Fein and the UDA have tactical agreement in most interface areas, UVF and UDA members have been invited and attended numerous lectures in various venues on the Falls road and have even been drinking in the Felons club.
    But that’s going over the heads of the community to talk to the paramilitaries. I think that says a lot about the nature of Sinn Fein, but I don’t expect it’s going to be productive in terms of the United Ireland project. Instead, it just looks like a plan to calm the interfaces – worthy but unambitious.

  • tacapall

    Reader Adams announcing his visions to the rank and file publicly is just dipping peoples toes in the water to the reality of whats already happening, numerous loyalist prisoners have attended workshops and used the facilities of tar anall for years, its nothing to do with interface areas. While I agknowledge that that might not be productive in Sinn Fein’s united Ireland project but it does nonetheless open doors to the possibility of further agreement in other areas.