I though it worthwhile to put on the record Gerry Adams’ Easter Centenary address, part unreconstructed old republicanism, part election address, a classic of its kind in style and content, without further comment.
On Sunday 27th March, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD addressed the Easter Rising commemoration in Belfast’s Milltown Cemetery. Mr Adams stated that hurts and divisions must be healed if we are to realise the vision of the 1916 Proclamation.
HIs speech in full:
Address by Úachtarán Shinn Féin, Gerry Adams TD:
A chairde agus a chomráidithe,
I want to welcome you all here today to this holy place on this historic date. I want to especially welcome the families and friends of our patriot dead.
Tá muid fior buioch daoibhse go leir. Your loved ones died not for the past but for the future. Like the men and women of 1916 they went out to undo the centuries of colonisation and injustice by building a new future; a better future.
It was one hundred years ago, on Easter Monday 1916, in the centre of Dublin, when a small band of revolutionaries proclaimed an independent Irish republic. This group of poorly equipped Irish men and women took on the might of the largest empire the world had ever seen. It was an empire built on conquest, exploitation, brute force, and repression. Following six days of heroic resistance the centre of Dublin lay in ruins.
The leaders of the Provisional Government met for the last time in 16 Moore Street and ordered a surrender. They were court martialled by the British. 14 were executed in the stone-breakers yards in Kilmainham. Tomas Ceannt was executed in Cork. And Roger Casement was hanged in London. Bhí an Sasanaigh ag iarraidh splanc na saoirse in Éirinn a mhúchadh le méid agus luas na mbásanna.
Ach ní raibh an ceart acu. Thug an Éirí Amach agus an cogadh a thainig ina dhiaidh sampla a leanadh le ar fud an domhain sna tíortha eile a raibh an Bhreatain i gcumhacht ann. Ag croílár Éirí Amach Naoi Déag is a Sé Déag náPoblacht neamhspleách na hÉireanna bhunú.
But the Civil War and counter-revolution ushered in the partition of Ireland and the creation of two conservative states in place of the 32 County Republic which was the aim of the Rising.
The North became a one-party, Orange State where Irish nationalists were excluded from power and denied opportunity.
As we all know, that power and privilege was imposed and protected by British guns. Republican resistance was offered at various stages over the decades.
In the late 1960s, the violent state response to the democratic demands of the civil rights campaign developed into full scale armed conflict. Today we also pay tribute to all of those who, in every decade since 1916, stood by Ireland and stood by the Republic. Our country and our people suffered hugely as a result of conflict in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s. Huge progress has been made in recent years. The Peace Process and the Good Friday Agreement marked a historic shift in politics on this island. For the first time, the roots of conflict were addressed and a democratic route to Irish unity opened up. But there is much yet to be done. Hurts must be healed. Divisions ended.
The scourge of sectarianism must be tackled and ended. The effects of Partition on the South must also be addressed. By executing the signatories and other leaders the British removed the revolutionary leadership and the most advanced and progressive thinkers and activists.
They paved the way for the counter revolution that was to follow the revolutionary period and the establishment of two mean spirited -narrow minded states. In the Civil War, the forces of conservatism – the Church hierarchy, the media and big business – all supported the Free State regime and opposed those who held out for the Republic proclaimed in Easter Week 1916. The people of the north were abandoned.
The Free State was harsh on the poor, on women and on republicans or radicals of any kind. Our native language was devalued and subverted. Most, if not all of our renowned writers were banned. Censorship was rife. A false morality was imposed on our people. The scandals we witnessed recently emerged from this post-colonial condition.
Seo an rud a fágadh linn ar deireadh in áit na Poblachta. Is chun leasa na ndaoine in Éirinn sa lá atá inniu ann an fíor-Phoblacht sin a chruthú. While there have been improvements since it was first established the southern state is not the Republic proclaimed in 1916.
Current efforts by the Dublin establishment to pretend that it is are an insult to the men and women of 1916. There are those who say that honouring the 1916 leaders might retrospectively justify violence. They refuse to attend commemorations. But they say nothing critical of John Redmond and Edward Carson’s role in sending tens of thousands of young men, from the Shankill and the Falls and villages throughout the north and the rest of the island to fight Germans, Austrians and Turks – with whom they and Ireland had no quarrel.
38 million people were killed in that imperial adventure. Were John Redmond and Edward Carson not ‘men of violence’? Carson certainly was an imperialist – a big house unionist with little concern for the social or economic needs of working class unionists or the rest of us.
For our part the 1916 Proclamation remains the mission statement for Irish republicans today. It is a freedom charter for all the people of this island which guarantees religious and civil liberty and promotes equal rights and opportunities for all citizens. The Proclamation is also a declaration of social and economic intent for a rights-based society in which the people are sovereign. Agus Bliain an Chéid linn, déanann fórmhór na ndaoine in Éirinn agus thar lear, comóradh go bródúil ar Éirí Amch Naoi Déag a Sé Déag agus ar Fhorógra na Poblachta. These are the principles on which Sinn Féin stands today.
When the centenary has come and gone there should be more left behind that a memory of a good day out. The year ahead is a time for renewal and planning, a year for promoting the republican ideals of democracy and equality.
Last month Sinn Féin took further strides forward. As a result of the general election there are now 23 Sinn Fein TDs in Leinster House. We expect to double our representation in the Seanad next month. We hope they will include Niall Ó Donnghaile, a good East Belfast republican. And in May there will be Assembly elections.
With each election the Sinn Féin vote grows and the number of elected representatives increases. But it’s what we do with this political strength that is really important. Sinn Féin is now the main opposition party in the Dáil.
In the Assembly Sinn Fein has been the driving force behind the progressive measures that have blocked water charges, protected free prescriptions and defended welfare payments and promoted the Irish language.
Despite the Irish and British government’s negativity Sinn Féin has delivered the Fresh Start deal which protects core public services, particularly in health and education and the most vulnerable in our society. The Assembly elections will be on May 5th – the anniversary of Bobby Sands death after 66 days on hunger strike.
We remember Bobby and his comrades and the blanket men and the women in Armagh. After the Assembly election we want to emerge with a stronger mandate. A mandate that will allow us to continue with our work. A mandate to tackle sectarianism, racism, and homophobia. A mandate to deliver marriage equality. A mandate to deliver a future of equals, in a society of equals for all our citizens. That means fighting for every seat and every vote.
In June Sinn Féin will oppose Brexit. While we are correctly critical of the EU nonetheless the imposition of land borders and economic barriers is not in the interest of the people of this island.
Our centenary celebrations would be incomplete without due recognition being paid to the American connection. The Rising was funded by Irish Americans –the children of An Gorta Mór/The Great Hunger. I want to welcome our Irish American friends and our friends from Canada who are with us today.
A united Ireland means the unity of the people of this island, including those who see themselves as British. That is why Irish governments must pursue every avenue to promote all-Ireland co-operation and to build relationships between all our people. This must include genuine efforts to outreach to the unionists on the basis of equality. There was never a better time to plan and deliver on an all-Ireland basis.
Thinking unionists know this makes sense for the economy, agriculture, healthcare, energy, the environment and many other sectors. Elements of the Good Friday and subsequent Agreements remain to be implemented. There is an urgent need for the Irish Government to face up to the British Government’s refusal to fulfil its obligations. There is also an ongoing need to enlist the support for this necessary endeavour of our friends internationally, including and especially in the USA.
I want to commend the families of the 1916 leaders who took the Irish government to court to prevent the demolition of Moore St, the last meeting place of the 1916 leaders. It is a metaphor for our times that the families were forced to do this because the state was about protecting a developer who planned to replace the laneways of history into a shopping mall. But the government lost.So did the developer. Well done to the 1916 relatives. It is clear that had Pearse and Connolly and their comrades gone on to form a working government Ireland today would be a better place, and a fairer and more equal society.
So that is the challenge facing us. We must give our children the best possible chance to fulfil their potential and to live happy, full and contented lives. An Ireland which is the best place to grow up in, to grow old in and to enjoy life in. We love Ireland. We value this small island.
But it is the people who are at the centre of our core values of equality, liberty and fraternity. So our resolve must be to end all divisions and to unite our people, especially in this city of Belfast. I also want to thank the republican people of this great city for remaining true to the cause of Irish independence. Without your support, your loyalty, your resilience and generosity we would not be where we are today.
In conclusion, I want to single out the contribution of women in our struggle. Both Connolly and Pearse praised the women of 1916. Before the Volunteers left the GPO Padraig Pearse told the women that the fight would not have lasted so long without them and when the history of that week would be written the highest honour and credit should go to the women. So we salute all our sisters in struggle. There can be no Saoirse na h’Éireann gan Saoirse na mBan.
As we stand by the graves of our friends and comrades let us be clear. The reactionaries and revisionists, the naysayers and begrudgers, the modern day Redmonites pontificate and waffle about how wrong 1916 was. Sinn Féin is crystal clear on this. 1916 was right. The men and women of that rising were right. It was Republic against Empire. Republicanism versus Imperialism. We know what side we are on. in We stand by and for the Republic.
Pearse put it well. He told his court martial; “You cannot conquer Ireland. You cannot extinguish the Irish passion for freedom.” Connolly also faced his court martial unbowed and unbroken. He told them: “We went out to break the connection between this country and the British Empire and to establish an Irish Republic.”
That is our resolve also. So, join the Rising.
Bígí linn. Ar aghaidh linn le chéile. Up the Republic – An Phoblacht abú.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London