Opening Address by Gerry Adams (SF), to the Sinn Féin Extraordinary Ard Fheis on Policing, RDS, Dublin, (28 January 2007)
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Opening Address by Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), to the Sinn Féin Extraordinary Ard Fheis on Policing, RDS, Dublin, (28 January 2007)
"A chairde .Ta scaifte mór anseo inniu. Poblachtanaigh le cheile. Laidir agus aontaithe. Dia daoibh agus fáilte mor romaibh uilig.
Go h'araithe ba maith liom bualadh bos mór a thabairt do clainne ar gcairde agus comradaithe a fuair bás ar son muintir na h'Éireann.
Tá fhios agam go bhfuil daoine anseo I bhfábhar an rún ón Ard Chomhairle.Tá daoine in aghaidh an rún agus daoine eile idir na dhá aiteanna. Tá muid anseo le chéile. Agus tá muid ag lorg díospóireacht oscailte.
Ag crioch den díospóireacht beidh muid le chéile fos. Is é sin an rud mór fúinn an rud iontach.
All over this island comrades have come together in debates and discussions about how to advance our struggle at this critical time in our history.
And comrades have argued out these issues in a frank and robust way. In a mature way which must be the envy of our detractors and our opponents. I want to thank everyone who has contributed to this debate.
I want to thank all the people in Ard Oifig and throughout the country who organised this extraordinary Ard Fheis. Volunteerism is alive and well in Sinn Féin.
Today's proceedings and the last few weeks of meetings in every part of Ireland is proof of that. Well done. I also want to thank all of you who are here in your thousands. Everyone is welcome.
I am also mindful that the families of the dead of Bloody Sunday are gathering in Derry this afternoon. Out thoughts are with the Bloody Sunday families and all other victims of British state terrorism.
Martina Anderson, one of our leaders, who is speaking here today will later represent us at the Bloody Sunday rally. I want a special bualadh bos mór for the families of our patriot dead many of whom are here today.
I know there are activists who are opposed to the Ard Chomhairle's motion. Your views are as valid as anyone else's and it is the character of our struggle that we can agree to differ on tactical matters. Why is this so? It is because we are in agreement about our primary objectives.
Sinn Féin is an Irish Republican Party. Our resolve is to end British rule on this island; to end partition; and to bring about a 32 county democratic socialist republic.
There are activists who are in favour of the Ard Chomhairle motion. And others perhaps who are between the two positions. Today's debate is about getting agreement on all of this.
We come into this Ard Fheis united, as unrepentant republicans. We know we can achieve our objectives. Whatever decision we reach, we will leave here united as unrepentant republicans who can achieve our objectives. Achieving our objectives - that is the big question facing us all. How do we do that? We need to build support for the republican position.
There are now more republicans on the island of Ireland than at any time in decades. There are now more people supporting Sinn Féin than at any time since the 1920s. Our party is organised throughout this island. But we have a lot more to do to build our capacity and our political strength.
There are republicans in most of the political parties in this state - the PDs of course are the dishonourable exception. There are many, many more people outside the political parties who want equality, who want citizens to be treated properly, who want an end to British rule and a united Ireland.
The vast, vast majority of citizens want a just and lasting peace on this island. I include the vast majority of unionists. So there are many people who are open to the republican message of equality, peace with justice and freedom.
What we have to do is to make our republicanism relevant to all these people. We have to plot a course from today's partitioned, divided Ireland into a new, agreed Ireland and from there into a national Republic.
How do we do that? We think big. We live and struggle in the present but we think in the future. We get ready for government. We build political strength. We make the battle for equality, for peoples' rights and entitlements, a 32 county battle.
That includes in this state a health service based on need and not on the ability to pay. It means decent housing. It means the wealth of the Celtic Tiger being used for the common good. It means building the peace. It means reaching out to unionism. It also means reaching out to republicans of all persuasions. We have to engage with all these people.
We have to find a space in our struggle for all those who want to bring about a united Ireland. And who are prepared to work with us in facing up to the British government.
Republicanism should never about elitism or dogma or militarism. Republicanism always has to be about citizenship and people's rights and equality. We are about making republicanism relevant to people in their daily lives. Citizens' rights include the right to a proper policing service.
We who live in the north have never had proper policing. The old RUC and all of its associated militia served the union, upheld the orange state and repressed everyone else.
At the beginning of this week the Ombudsman in the north confirmed that state agencies had colluded with unionist paramilitaries in killing citizens.Over the last two decades Sinn Féin has provided the Irish government with detailed evidence about British state terrorism and the involvement of its agencies, including the police, in atrocities against the people of this island. There was a campaign of British state terror aimed in the first instance at the republicans and the nationalist people of the north.
Sinn Féin was a primary target of this policy of collusion - our activists, our elected representatives and our families. But these sectarian death squads once unleashed by the British state also engaged in a murderous campaign against ordinary Catholics. People within their own communities also fell foul of there thugs.
At times the attacks killed people here in this state, like the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings or our own Eddie Fullerton, a Sinn Féin county councillor from Donegal.
The Ombudsman's report came about because a very brave man, a unionist, Raymond McCord senior had the courage and tenacity to demand the truth about the killing of his son by the UVF in north Belfast.
Irish society, north and south, Orange and Green and all the colours in between, owes a great debt to Raymond McCord Snr and his family.
The Ombudsman 's report gives us only a snapshot of the corruption of collusion in a very small area, over a short period of time. Any similar investigation, in any part of the six counties would have the same outcome.
Why? Because British state terrorism and collusion with death squads was an administrative practise and part of the British government's strategy to defeat the republican struggle.
And because it employed serial killers, drug pushers, and sectarian thugs, they killed anyone else who got in their way, including Raymond McCord junior and many others.
Why were the state agencies involved in this activity? In order to uphold British rule in our country. So, ordinary unionists have a big question to ask of themselves. Was this done in your name? Is the union worth all that hypocrisy and terror and grief and mayhem?
The people of Britain also need to know what their government does in our island. I put that point to Tony Blair in a phone call the day after the Ombudsman's report was issued. The very first time we met the British Prime Minister 10 years ago we gave him a file on collusion. It was a file on the activities of British agent Brian Nelson who was involved in numerous killings, including that of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane.
Another primary target of British Intelligence was Alex Maskey who Brian Nelson repeatedly tried to murder. I want to send solidarity to Alex and his brother Paul and their family on the death on Friday of their father, Alex Snr. The dedication of republicans during all this time makes clear our determination to prosecute the struggle to its final conclusion.
Mr. Blair was to go on to tell us years later that since his time in Downing Street he had not authorised any such activities in Ireland. Then who did authorise these killing or the cover ups, or the running of the drug pushers, or the payments of these killers? Who authorised their non-prosecution by the DPP? Who within the British establishment thinks they are more powerful than the British Prime Minister?
I told Mr. Blair last Tuesday and in another telephone call on Friday that the British state has to open up this can of worms and face up to its responsibilities.
It has to acknowledge the great hurt it has inflicted on almost a thousand citizens who were killed, and their families who have suffered directly, and all the thousands of others who had their rights undermined and subverted by a policy, which encouraged paramilitarism and violence and which in turn corrupted Protestant working class communities.
I also told Mr. Blair that British policy in Ireland has to change. It has to change to one which proactively works with the people of this island to end British jurisdiction in Ireland.
The Irish government has said it is shocked by the Ombudsman's report. Shocked? What are they shocked about? This city of Dublin was bombed and 26 people were killed. The same day the same gang killed 7 people in Monaghan. There wasn't even a proper Garda investigation into these atrocities.
Remember - in the aftermath of these attacks the British told the Fine Gael and Labour government that they had interned those they believed were responsible. And what did the government of the day do? Absolutely nothing! They didn't have these men questioned, they didn't seek their arrest. They did nothing. And every Irish government since then has failed these families and all those killed as a result of British state violence. This is unacceptable. It is a disgrace.
The Dublin Monaghan bombings were carried out by the Glenanne gang, based in Armagh and run by MI5. This gang was a mixture of UDR, RUC, and unionist paramilitaries. The government has known about this for a very long time. So why do they say they are shocked?
Eddie Fullerton was killed in May 1991. He was an elected representative of citizens of this state. Yet the Taoiseach never met his family until last November. Fifteen years later. Shocked? The Ombudsman's report was published a week ago. Now that they have had time to recover from their shock what is the Irish government going to do? Very little - if they can get away with it.
That's where Sinn Féin comes in. That's why we are dealing with this motion today. The Thatcher government paid, trained, directed and equipped the death squads. It authorised and covered up its policy of collusion and state terrorism. But some of the events covered by the Ombudsman's report occurred after the Good Friday Agreement. We have to ensure that these dreadful events never ever happen again. Or if there is even the slightest whisper of a reoccurrence that it is speedily exposed and dealt with.
We have to get the government here to face up to the British government as equals and to work with the more progressive elements within that government to protect, uphold and actively promote the rights of our people, including the right of the Irish people to freedom and independence.
The Office of the Ombudsman would not be in existence and would not have the powers that it does if Sinn Fein had not been tenacious and determined in our negotiating strategy.
There are now more accountability mechanisms in the north than there are in this state and there is resistance from the Department of Justice and the establishment here to have these mechanisms in place in this jurisdiction.
Sinn Féin stayed out of the policing structures in the north until now because that was the best way to bring about the necessary threshold. Instead we campaigned on the streets; brought the issue repeatedly to the negotiating table, and secured fundamental change when others had given up. We now want to enter into the policing structures to bring about further change and to deliver accountable, civic, non-partisan policing for our people - all our people.
And remember it was the Irish government, as well as the British and US government, the Catholic Hierarchy and all the establishment parties in this state who tried to force us into accepting something less than we have now achieved at this time. They all supported the SDLP.
This is the party that until recently claimed that collusion was a republican myth.
Before Patten - before the Good Friday Agreement the SDLP said they could 'work with' Ronnie Flanagan. And the Policing Board, which the SDLP are part of, extended Flanagan's contract. The Policing Board, which included the SDLP, purchased tens of thousands of plastic bullets.
The SDLP never demanded the disbandment of the RUC. They worked with the RUC. So it was hardly a shock when they joined the Policing Board in 2001. And when they did, instead of confronting collusion, MI5 and the human rights abusers, they became cheer leaders for the PSNI. They became part of the policing problem. They failed to hold the PSNI to account.
So, my friends we cannot leave policing to the unionist parties or the SDLP or the Irish government. We certainly cannot leave it to the British government. We cannot leave it to the securocrats.
So let's have our debate. And let's take our decisions. I myself only made my mind up on this a short time ago. About two months ago I brought together a small group of very senior republicans - very experienced activists - and asked them to bring forward to me as Party President recommendations on how I proceed at this point.
They made two recommendations. Firstly that the strategic advancement of the republican struggle at this time requires a deal on policing; and secondly that the deal on policing has to be acceptable to republicans. They then detailed issues which they thought needed to be resolved to do this. That is what has guided me since. We have resolved these issues.
So, the time is now right, and I am appealing to you comrades to support this motion. Gerry Kelly will give you a detailed account of the policing negotiations. Martin McGuinness and Mary Lou McDonald will formally move the Ard Chomhairle motion.
Some of you may disagree. That is perfectly acceptable. For example Ógrá disagrees with us on this issue. I wish they didn't but I respect their position and I especially commend their resolve to accept the outcome of this Ard Fheis debate.
That is the way all of us need to face into today's discussions. Irish republicanism is about people. It's about the future. It's about a new egalitarian society; it's about the new Irish and the indigenous Irish, it's about orange and green uniting on the basis of equality. It's about the Proclamation of 1916 becoming a reality.
So it's bigger than us; it's bigger than Sinn Féin; it's in the common good. This morning we came into this Ard Fheis united. At the end of our debate this evening let us go out of here with our heads held high and ready for the next phase of our struggle.
Let us go out united and marching forward. Bígí linn; bígí le chéile CRÍOCH".
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