Gerry Adams on the ‘current situation in Northern Ireland’

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Here’s the full text of Gerry Adams speech in the Dail this afternoon in a debate entitled Statements on the current situation in Northern Ireland. Mr Adams segues from a long justification of his party’s murky past to an imagined future.

However, there’s barely a reference to the actual ‘current situation in Northern Ireland’. Indeed the party press office has handily rethemed it, Dáil statements on the North:

I welcome the fact that we are having this debate. I have been asking the Taoiseach to facilitate such a discussion for some time.
But I do believe that we need to formalize this arrangement so that a structured discussion on the north can be held on a regular basis as part of the normal business of the Dail.
Unfortunately, present arrangements do not allow for sufficient time to deal with these important and complex issues.
What is equally unacceptable is the disgraceful manner in which some TDs and parties have tended to use the north and issues arising from the recent conflict, in a shallow, juvenile way usually to attack Sinn Fein.
Regrettably some of Teachta Martin’s remarks here today reflect this approach. Maybe Deputy Martin could take me into the North some time and introduce me to this “Sinn Féin/Provisional IRA community” to which he refers.
Almost 4,000 people died in the recent conflict on this island. Countless others died in other phases of conflict over the centuries.
Is as gach pobail a tháinig said.
The victims came from all walks of life and all sections of the community. They include members of the British state forces, Gardai and Defence Forces members, members of republican organisations, unionist paramilitaries, and civilians.
The focus of political leaders and of this Dáil must be to ensure that there are no more casualties of political conflict on this island; That there are no more victims; That there are no more deaths.
This means that we must understand the errors of past in order not to repeat them.
Ní raibh cogadh maith riamh ann, nó ní raibh síocháin dona riamh ann, ach an oiread.
The democratic position, to remind the Fianna Fáil Leader, is that conflict on this island arose from the British Government’s colonial policy and its immoral and illegitimate claim to jurisdiction in Ireland.
Following the Black and Tan War, the Partition of Ireland, as James Connolly predicted, triggered a ‘carnival of reaction’ and created two conservative states administered by two elites who entrenched their own power and privilege to the detriment of ordinary citizens.
In the north, a one-party unionist regime controlled a sectarian Orange state with the aid of the RUC and infamous B-Specials, and backed up by draconian legislation and the use of pogroms.

The denial of basic civil rights and other measures, including the introduction of internment without trial, were the order of the day in both states.
Discriminated against in employment, education, housing and voting rights, the nationalist minority were treated as second-class citizens.
The Protestant working class were only marginally better off but sectarianism was utilized by the British and Unionist establishment to separate citizens.
While a republican minority, abandoned by Dublin, maintained heroic resistance at periods during intervening years, it was not until the 1960s that nationalists demanded our basic civil rights in an effective way.
The campaign of the Civil Rights Association in the late 1960s for equality in housing, education, employment and at elections, was met with a violent response by the Stormont regime.
Savage attacks by the RUC and the B Specials, backed by loyalist mobs culminated in organised pogroms in August 1969 against Catholics in Belfast and Derry.
The violence saw the biggest population movement in western Europe since the Second World War
As the Orange state began to crumble under the weight of democratic demands, British troops were deployed.
Promised reforms from London turned out to be purely cosmetic and the British Army’s guns were turned against the nationalist population.

Following the introduction of internment without trial, many nationalists who had advocated reform within the Six County state, realised the state was not reformable.

The shooting dead by British troops of 14 nationalists in Derry on Bloody Sunday, in January 1972, and the international condemnation that followed this televised event, left the Stormont regime in ruins.
And last week Taoiseach, you met another group of victims of British terrorism, from Ballymurphy and I welcome your support for their campaign.
It was this violent British state response to the democratic demands of the nationalist population that created the conditions for republican armed struggle.
It is often forgotten that Sinn Féin was banned outright in the Six Counties between 1956 and 1974. Armed resistance or support for armed resistance, was the only path that many saw open to them after the Civil Rights Movement was beaten and shot off the streets. They included members of this government.
The IRA that emerged in these years was one built by ordinary people out of sheer necessity because of the conditions in which they found themselves. In nationalist areas of the north, the IRA was from the people, not some abstract idea.
However, the British and Irish Governments used repression and firstly believed they could militarily defeat the IRA and later hoped they could isolate and criminalise it.
The abject failure of successive Irish Governments to represent Irish national interests and specifically to stand by those Irish citizens under attack, also contributed to the political conditions in which armed struggle was waged.
From the ‘we shall not stand idly by’ moment, the relationship of Irish Governments with repressive British administrations grew more and more subservient.
Militarisation of society in the north and the corruption of policing, prisons, the judiciary and public life were obvious for decades.
What was less obvious was the extent to which this adversely affected people and institutions in this state.
From the early 1970s, many areas of public life here — the prevailing political culture, revisionism, broadcasting legislation, the courts, and the Garda — were gradually subsumed into supporting British counter-insurgency efforts.
Many people here who wished to stand by their fellow citizens in the north and to stand up for justice were hounded and harried by the forces of the state. Many had their careers ruined.
While Irish governments did not ban Sinn Féin outright, they attempted to close down the party and harassed our members continuously.
Surveillance of political radicals, the abuse of detainees in Garda custody and the activities of the notorious Garda ‘Heavy Gang’ became a feature of political policing here, which only a tiny minority of journalists were prepared to question and expose.
Juryless courts and extremely anti-republican Ministers for Justice gave the green light for such abuse and malpractice. The overall effect was extremely corrosive and included serious miscarriages of justice.
The Peace Process, the fruits of which we all now enjoy, was made possible only when this failed policy of repression, censorship and political exclusion was abandoned in favour of a more enlightened approach, in response initially to Hume/Adams and the sterling work by Fr Alec Reid and others.
The Good Friday Agreement marked a historic shift in politics on this island, establishing a firm foundation from which it is now possible to continue building a future based on equality.

For the first time since partition, almost 100 years ago, there is an international agreement involving the Irish and British governments, as well as nationalist, republican and unionist parties on a way forward.

Unlike the efforts that governments had concocted before – from Sunningdale in December 1973 through to the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985 – the Good Friday Agreement was comprehensive, inclusive and addressed the issues previously ignored.

The Agreement tackles constitutional issues, political and institutional matters, policing, weapons, justice and equality and more.
Citizens in this State expect the Government and the Oireachtas to have a proactive involvement in the peace process. Just as importantly, citizens in the North expect the same.

As I have said to the Taoiseach previously, I want issues relating to the past conflict to be dealt with in a rational, reasoned, considered and informed way.

But I also want to see the future discussed, planned for and created in a non-threatening and inclusive way.

I want to see this Dáil breaking out of a partitionist mindset.

An Irish government that truly wants a united Ireland would understand that this means the unity of the people of this island including those who see themselves as British.

It would therefore pursue every avenue to promote greater all-Ireland co-operation and seek to build relationships on the basis of equality between all the people on this island.

This must include genuine efforts to outreach to the unionists on the basis of equality.

It also means the undoing of any ingrained partitionist thinking by policy makers. There was never a better time to plan and deliver on an all-Ireland basis without infringing on perceived unionist sensitivities and I very much welcome the work that is being done. But more needs to be done and the failure of the Government to ensure that the Narrow water Bridge was built is an opportunity missed.

There is also an urgent need to face up to the British Government’s refusal to fulfil its obligations.

Not all aspects of the Good Friday and subsequent Agreements have been implemented.

The British Government has failed to act on its Weston Park commitment to hold an independent inquiry into the murder of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane as a result of collusion between British state forces and unionist paramilitaries.

Collusion, most recently detailed in a book, Lethal Allies, by Ann Cadwallader, should be a matter of concern to all TDs and every Irish Government. Many people in this state were killed as a result of this policy, including the victims of the greatest loss of life in any single incident during the conflict — the Dublin/Monaghan Bombings of 1974.

Outstanding issues like flags and emblems; the legacy of the past; parades; equality and the status of the Irish language, as well as culture and identity issues have continued to bedevil the necessary process of change.

The Government needs to continuously and forensically go through these matters with the British Government?

I have previously put it to the Taoiseach that this Government has a responsibility to educate the British Government on these issues and to get it to engage on the basis of agreements that have been made.

There is also an ongoing need to enlist the support for this necessary endeavour of our friends internationally, including and especially in the USA. It is no accident that Irish America and its representatives have often been more informed, involved and progressive that successive governments here.

I thank our friends for that and particularly welcome the ongoing interest of Bill Clinton. I thank President Obama and Vice President Biden for their work.

This time last year Belfast witnessed rioting as loyalists attacked the PSNI, the nationalist Short Strand area; and held illegal demonstrations demanding the right to fly the Union flag whenever and wherever they wanted.

This issue and the unacceptable, illegal violence over Orange parades allied to a lack of positive leadership, have placed a significant strain at times on relationships within the political institutions.

The recent negotiations chaired by Richard Haass and Meghan O’Sullivan with the main parties in the North provide a clear basis for progress.

Sinn Fein has endorsed them.

Issues such as a Bill of Rights, Acht Na Gaeilge and the Maze/Long Kesh site, while not advanced, are not going away and remain to be resolved in the time ahead.
Regrettably the unionist parties have not supported Haass. They are failing their constituents and ignoring the desire of the vast majority of citizens who want to see agreement.
If the British Government is not forthright in its support for the implementation of these proposals – and Mr Cameron and his Secretary of State have fudged this issue, then how can we expect unionist leaders to be positive.
The Irish and British Governments must always be clear and unambiguous in their support of the ongoing process of change. I commend the work of the Good Friday Agreement Committee of the Oireachtas.
Our country and our people have suffered hugely as a result of three decades of conflict. Huge progress has been made in recent years. There can be no going back.

Those tiny minorities who want to cling to the past must be rejected.

Sectarianism must be tackled and ended.

Many of the scandals that we have witnessed in this state are a product of the post-colonial condition. Building a real republic on this island is to the benefit of all our citizens.

The promise of the Good Friday Agreement for a new society in which all citizens are respected, and which is based on justice and equality must be advanced.

That needs to be the focus not just of political parties in the north, or even of both governments. It needs to be a major focus for every member of this Dáil.

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