Speech by Gerry Adams to the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, 1984
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Text of a speech by Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin, to the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, 1984.
"Ar dtús, ba mhaith liom ón Ard-Fheis seo, a chur in iúl do chimí pholaitiúla ar fud an domhain go bhfuil muid ag seasamh leo. Ba mhaith liom, go mór mhór, ar dtacaíocht a chur in iúl do phríosúnaig pholaitiúla na hÉireann até i mbraighdeanas i Meiriceá agus ar fud na Breataine, a bhfuil ualach ar leith curtha ar a muintir sa bhaile.
To begin, comrades, brothers and sisters, I would like to express from this, the 80th Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, our solidarity to political prisoners in jails in America and in Britain, where the prisoners' families bear special hardships.
Tacaíonn muid leofa siud i bPortlaoise ata ag fulgaint gríosala agus na socraithe speisialta fa choinne cuairteanna: leofe siúd i bPríosún Luimní, i bPriosún Bhéal Feirste, i Magilligan agus i Blocanna agus cásanna na Céise Fada, ba chóir dúinn cuimhniú ar mhná Ard Mhacha thar dream ar bith eile.
We extend solidarity to prisoners in Portlaoise, where the beatings and special visiting arrangements cause particular hardship, to comrades in Belfast Prison, Limerick Jail, Magilligan and the H-Bloc and Cages of Long Kesh. Of them all, however, I would like to single out for special mention the courageous women prisoners in Armagh Women’s Prison.
Sé an rud atá coitianta i dtír ina bhfuil an lámh in uachtar ag na fir, go mbíonn na mná sa chúlra, faoi scath na bhfear. Agus sin mar a tharla ins na priosúin. Le blianta beaga anuas tugadh níos mo poiblíochte de dhrochbail na bhfear ins na priosúin ná do dhrochbhail na mban. Tharla seo in amanna de thairbhe gur iarr mná iad féin seo. Ós rud é gur fhulaigh na mná an oiread seo leis na blianta, go háirid o chleachtadh bruidiúil seo na "Nocht-Chuardaithe" is cóir duinn, chán amháin a chur in iúl go bhfuil muid ag seasamh leo, ach is cóir duinn fosta, áris an t-ainchleachtadh seo a nochtadh don phobal agus é a scrios nó is e rud atá ann ná cleachtadh rialtais lenár ndeirfuiracha in Ard Macha a dhidhaonnú agus lena spiorad a bhriseadh. Ar bhur son geallaim go seasóidh muid leo ar fad agus go dtabharfaidh muid ar dtacaíocht dóibh. Tá sé de dhualgas orainn uilig inár gceanntracha féin, tréan-iarracht a dhéanamh na nochtchuartaithe a stopadh.
In a male-dominated society like ours and even in a movement like ours, the women are usually eclipsed by the men. So too in the prisons. In recent years the plight of male prisoners has eclipsed the plight of women prisoners. At times this has been at the request and with the consent of the women prisoners themselves. However, the suffering endured by these women over the years, especially as a result of the brutal and degrading practice of strip-searching, warrants more than mere expressions of solidarity from us. It demands a renewed effort to expose and bring to an end an administrative practice which is geared to dehumanising and breaking the spirits of our sisters in Armagh.
Strip-searching of the Armagh women is now almost two years old. During this time nothing of a security nature has been found and yet women, young and old, regardless of their physical condition, are probed and examined after being stripped naked by prison warders. I listened recently to a former remand prisoner recount how she was strip-searched over two hundred and fifty-nine times, how sanitary towels were removed as she was stripped naked while having her period, how another prisoner was stripped naked and probed while pregnant, and how after she had given birth to a baby daughter, she and her child suffered the same humiliating treatment.
This, comrades, is the regime suffered by the remand prisoners, "innocent until proven guilty" – some of them victims of hired perjurers. These are the methods to which the British government stoops in order to subdue those it has imprisoned. The women in Armagh are our sisters in struggle and in pledging them our continued solidarity and support I remind you all again of the onus upon us, to make a renewed effort to have the process of strip-searching brought to an end. By doing so we will be making our solidarity meaningful not only to the Armagh women, but to all the political prisoners and their families.
Agus muid ag cur in iúl daofa siúd i bpríosún go bhfuil muid ag tacú leo cuimhníonn muid sa chúigiú bliain déag den streachailt stairiúl seo ar son na saoirse, cuimhníonn muid orthu siud ar fud an domhain a bhfuil a mhacasamhail de throid er bun acu. Leis an bpobal gorm san Afraic, ar ndeartháireacha agus ar ndeirfiúracha, go mórmhór an mhuintir atá ag fulaingt faoi apartheid san Afraic Theas. Cuireann muid ár dtacaíocht in iúl. Tecaíonn muid fosta leis an bpobal i Meiriceá-Láir atá fá dhaorsmacht ag rialtaisí ollsmachta. Leis na Palaistínig atá gan baile gan d’fhir. Leis na Bascaigh fosta, geallann muid ar dtacaíocht d'fhir agus do mhná ar baineadh a saoirse daofa agus do na daoine a bhfuil sé de mhion acu saoirse a bhaint amach daofa féin. Cuimhníonn muid gurb ionann deireadh cathréimeach a bheith ar throid s'againne agus buaidh a bheith agaibhse agus buaidh againne. Cáineann muid polasaí eachtrannac Mheiriceá, polasaí apartheid rialtas na h-Afraice Theas agus polasaí seoineach na nlosraelithe.
In expressing solidarity to those suffering in prisons we recall in the fifteenth year of this last phase of our historic struggle for independence, those throughout the world who are engaged in similar struggles. To our black brothers and sisters in Africa, and especially those who struggle under apartheid in South Africa, we express solidarity. To those in Central America, oppressed by totalitarian regimes, to the Palestinians, deprived of a homeland, to the Basques and to all men and women denied freedom and to people committed to gaining freedom, we pledge our solidarity, mindful that the successful conclusion of our struggle is a victory for you, just as a victory for you is a victory for us.
We make no apologies for condemning the American government's foreign policy, the apartheid policy of the South African regime, the Zionist policy of the Israeli government or the imperialistic and colonial attitude of the British government.
Recent television coverage of the famine in Ethiopia has illustrated starkly and tragically how capitalist governments govern in the interests of the 'haves' against the interests of the 'havenots'. Ethiopia was ruled for thirty years by a corrupt dictator Haile Selassie, a man supported and much loved by the Western powers. His regime and those who supported it in the West are mainly responsible for the plight of the starving millions whose fate is a result of a sevenyear- old drought in a period during which the West cut back its aid programmes and covered up the extent of the problem because it didn't like the politics of those who overthrew Selassie. The plight of the starving Ethiopian people was well known to those in power, yet they refused to tackle the problem. Indignant public opinion, now aware of the depth of the Ethiopian problem, has forced Western governments to do a little. They are not doing enough. The Dublin government in particular, which has the dubious privilege of presently holding the presidency of the EEC, is failing to tackle this issue-the way Irish people would like it tackled. The surplus of food in the West, stored at a great cost, and the miserable refusal of the EEC countries to give this surplus food to the starving millions, is an indictment of capitalism and those who claim to represent us at local and international level. Famine in Ireland was used to depopulate our country. Famine in Ethiopia is being used to undermine the government there. In the West and in the EEC the food surplus is massive, enough to feed and provide a basis for the development of countries whose underdevelopment is a result of the retarding colonial rule or neo-colonial rule which many of them suffered or suffer yet.
Garret FitzGerald, he of the great bleeding-heart liberalism and Peter Barry, the tea baron, have failed on this issue, as on so many others, to give the moral leadership which a country like Ireland should be giving in world affairs. They have the opportunity to use the presidency of the EEC and the EEC food surplus for the benefits of humanity.
Instead, in a world capable of feeding all its people, millions die of starvation, not because those of us lucky enough to have food wish it that way but because those who control the food have decided to use it as a weapon of war. FitzGerald and Barry would, of course, deny this. If they were to attempt to have the food surplus distributed, as the people they represent would like it distributed, and failed in those attempts, then they should resign the presidency of the EEC. In doing so, they would be sure, for the first time, of representing in a courageous way, the wishes of the Irish people and of using their power in a just and moral manner.
All-of this, of course, is asking too much. When they refuse to act in a just and moral manner in regard to the question of British colonialism in the North, or even within the parameters of their own state, we can hardly expect Dublin politicians to do the right thing in international matters. Ireland, even that part of it within Dublin's jurisdiction, needs a meaningful and positive policy of Irish neutrality, as the cornerstone of our foreign policy against world war and the arms race and for a world composed of free federations of free people.
If Dublin's submissiveness and willingness to assist in Reagan's controversial electoral visit to Ireland is any indication, then we can be sure that Dublin, despite lip-service to the principle of Irish neutrality, is content to make us pawns in Reagan's NATO chess board, a chess-board upon which that ageing geriatric whizz-kid seems intent on starting World War III. Irish republicans need to be active in campaigning for world peace, against nuclear weapons and for an Irish neutrality. And before our opponents point to our position on the legitimacy of armed struggle in pursuance of national independence and freedom, let me point out that there is no contradiction.
The suppression of small nations throughout the world and the arms race being pursued by the super-powers are but opposite sides of the one coin. To support national liberation is to be opposed to imperialism and Dublin's position on international issues is based on its position on the national question as surely as London government’s foreign policy is reflected in its attitude to Ireland.
Recently we suffered London's media response to the IRA's attempted execution of the British cabinet in Brighton. The London government's response to that Irish action was, dare I say it, much quicker and probably much more considered than its long-awaited response to the Dublin Forum is likely to be. Regardless of what one thinks of that operation, and we can be assured that Margaret Thatcher got little sympathy from nationalist Ireland, or indeed from an increasingly disaffected working class in her own country, it is obviously totally hypocritical for British apologists to describe the Brighton bombing as an attack on democracy.
The quality of democracy in Britain is, of course, a matter for the British people. It is their business, not ours. But the British connection, the partition of this country, and the resultant suffering and grief is far from democratic. On the contrary, it is un-democratic, unwanted, illegal and immoral. All casualties and fatalities in Ireland or Britain as a result of the war are sad symptoms of our British problem and the Brighton bombing was an inevitable result of the British presence in this country. Far from being a blow against democracy it was a blow for democracy. Having said that, I am mindful of the consequences of this action. I have no doubt that the British government will attempt reprisal action in vengeance for the Brighton operation. As always, we in Sinn Féin, in the public leadership of the republican struggle, are the most likely victims of British assassination plans.
Aware as always of the dangers of our position, but committed nonetheless to the struggle in which we are engaged, we will continue to campaign for the restoration of Irish democracy and to articulate the desire of our people for freedom and independence, regardless of Dublin smears or British violence.
Ireland geographically, historically and culturally is one nation. We as one people have the right to be free, and in that freedom the dividing sections of our people will find the will to unite, regardless of religious affiliations, in establishing a society which meets the needs of all our people.
The Dublin Forum report does not provide the basis on which such a society can be built. On the contrary, after all the pomp and ballyhoo at the formal launching of an 'agreed' Forum Report and the subsequent less-dignified but telling disagreement over the options outlined, the participants are still waiting... and waiting... and waiting for a British response. They are also, as emerged at the individual party press conferences, waiting for different answers. The reasons for this lie not so much in the superficial party political differences of the Forum parties, but more in the real reasons for the Forum being established in the first place. If it had been convened because the parties involved had decided that there had to be an end to British rule in Ireland and self-determination for the Irish people then we may have seen a different report. As it was, the Forum met only because the establishment parties realised, mostly through the promptings of John Hume, that by their failure to do anything about the national question they had, in fact, surrendered the high ground of Irish nationalism to Sinn Féin. As Dick Spring stated, "Constitutional politics is on trial".
What emerged thereafter was not a blueprint for a united, independent and peaceful Irish society but an Irish establishment alternative to the policies of Sinn Féin. Nowhere in the Forum report is the reality of Britain's claims to Irish sovereignty contested. Nowhere in the report is the right of the Irish nation to national self-determination asserted.
Indeed, it should be noted that Sinn Féin’s exclusion from the Forum effectively disenfranchised at least 102,000 nationalist and republican voters, the very people whose alienation the Forum report stressed. Sinn Féin’s view, as was stated then and since, is that the British government needs to be met with a firm, united and unambiguous demand from all Irish 'nationalist' parties, for an end to the unionist veto and for a declaration of a date for British withdrawal.
Within the new situation created by these measures, it is then a matter of business-like negotiations between representatives of all the Irish parties, and this includes those who represent today's loyalist voters, to set the constitutional, economic, social and political arrangements for a new Irish state.
We assert that the loyalist people must be given, in common with all other citizens, firm guarantees of their religious and civil liberties and we believe that, faced with British withdrawal and the removal of partition, a considerable body of loyalist opinion would accept the wisdom of negotiating for the type of society which would reflect their needs as well as the needs of all the other people In Ireland.
The establishment of a society free from British interference, with the union at an end, will see sectarianism shrivel and will see the emergence of class politics proper with a re-alignment of forces along left and right lines. Of course, these suggestions will be ridiculed at present by the same leaders. No wonder! They have no real reason for doing anything else.
The Forum report, far from tackling the question of loyalism and the veto, actually reinforces loyalist intransigence and institutionalises the veto. Indeed the Forum report does not permit Loyalists to examine any option other than the present arrangement guaranteed to them by the British connection and far from spelling out basic demands, the report merely spells out various options which permit the British, if they are so moved, to pick and choose from a 'dolly-mixture' selection of alternatives. They will obviously choose to do only that which suits their interests.
All of this, arises, as I have said before, because the Forum was not convened to deal with the real problem of British interference or its social, economic, political, sectarian and cultural sideeffects, but because those participating felt threatened by the rise of Sinn Féin. The Forum was not meant to tackle the root causes of violence and instability in Irish society. It was established merely to tackle the root causes of the swing to Sinn Féin in the six counties, or to quote the much-used cliché "the alienation of Northern Nationalists".
Thus have been worded the exhortations of senior Churchmen, politicians and other' establishment apologists: "Get involved in housing and prevent these men of violence from exploiting the housing crisis". "Get involved in helping the poor and prevent the terrorists exploiting their plight". "Get involved in cultural agitation and prevent the republican paramilitaries from monopolising this situation".
Thus too are Dublin now dealing with sixty years of neglect – a number of civil servants appointed to denounce British actions and pronouncements and an increased profile for Peter Barry. God help us.
Protests about Diplock courts or the odious hired-perjurer system on the one hand and the extradition of Irish people into the very same system on the other hand; protests over RUC behaviour, plastic bullets, shoot-to-kill actions on the one hand, and inviting James Prior to a farewell lunch a week after the slaying of John Downes on the other hand. And in the last few months we have seen the re-emergence of a pattern of beatings in the RUC's interrogation centre to elicit incriminating statements, whilst the recent scandalous revelations in the Kerry babies case, in the murder of Peter Matthews in Shercock Garda barracks and the frame-up of Nicky Kelly, are but a few examples of how this potato republic mimics its British imperialist masters.
No wonder Northern nationalists treat these carefully rehearsed outbursts from Free State politicians with increased cynicism, and no wonder Douglas Hurd last week said he was glad to be in Dublin.
Over sixty years of partition, of neo-colonial status, has so conditioned the Dublin establishment that it is not within their grasp to tackle the British government in the way that government understands. The Thatcher government has no respect for Dublin. Mrs. Thatcher accepts silver tea pots from Haughey and heaps praise on FitzGerald. For our part we are not surprised by any of this. Nothing has really changed – things are merely becoming clearer and the contradictions inherent in our two partitioned statelets are becoming more starkly exposed. As this process continues then real change will become possible. The Dublin Forum report fails to represent nationalist aspirations but again this is not surprising because, apart from what I have said here, there is really no such thing as constitutional nationalism.
Constitutional nationalism in the Irish context is a contradiction when the constitutionality involved is British constitutionality. And British constitutionality in Ireland means the maintenance of a six-county colony which is not, never has been and never will be a viable social, political or economic unit. Its existence represents in a very real way the denial to the Irish people of our right to national self-determination and places a national minority in a position where they must adopt a most reactionary stance in order to defend their own vested interest. Loyalism can only be tackled by removing the system of privilege which sustains sectarian divisions and by undermining its quasi-religious base by the creation of a just and pluralist society. Sine Fein offers to those presently tied to loyalism nothing but the equality denied to them for so long under the British connection. Irish independence means for Loyalists the opportunity to play, for the first time, a meaningful role, with the rest of us, in shaping a new Irish democracy.
Dublin has failed these people and left them to the mercy of the Paisleys of this world in much the same way as successive Dublin governments have failed Irish nationalists. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly clear that Dublin has failed to deal even with the problems experienced by citizens of its own statelet. A lot of attention is drawn by Dublin's politicians to the 'threat to democracy' in the twenty-six counties. Most of these 'dangers to democracy' are self-inflicted. Democracy within this statelet is diluted by Section 31, by extradition, by disenfranchising voters, by the denial of the true origins of this statelet and the facts of Irish history – particularly that part of our history dealing with physical force resistance to Britain's claims on Ireland – and by an impressive armoury of repressive legislation.
The smokescreen of nationalist rhetoric raised by Dublin fools no-one, no more than the verbal and intellectual gymnastic displays by establishment speakers at monuments through this statelet. We at least are consistent. We not only salute Roger Casement. We salute also the brave men aboard the Marita Anne.
Since last year's Ard-Fheis Sinn Féin has been involved in a number of elections – the Dublin Central by-election, by-elections to Belfast city and Dungannon councils, the EEC elections on a thirty-two-county basis and the Udaras na Gaeltachta election. The general secretary, in her report, has dealt with some aspects of these campaigns and there are many reorganisational lessons to he drawn from them all, especially the Udaras one.
For my part, I wish to concentrate on another election in the North this year – an election that we all missed. It was, however, based on that central principle of democracy, the secret ballot. So secret was this ballot that the names of the candidates were kept a secret, their election manifesto was kept a secret and even the date of the election itself was not disclosed. Even the voters were unaware, until afterwards, that it had taken place. The results, however, have been well publicised. Apparently Northern nationalists voted in a secret landslide for Garret FitzGerald, Peter Barry and Dick Spring to be their representatives. Not surprisingly the British government has accepted this election result. They were obviously in on the secret as well. Perhaps I could give them all a wee bit of advice. If Dublin wishes to represent nationalist opinion in the North then they are quite welcome – I'm sure the SDLP wouldn't object and the UDR, RUC, British army, UVF and UDA shouldn't put them off – to contest as many seats as they like. In the meantime, on behalf of those we represent in Derry, Tyrone, Armagh, Fermanagh, Antrim and County Down, Sinn Féin denies Dublin any right to speak or act on our behalf. We are quite capable of doing that ourselves.
While on this theme – it's called democracy – have you noticed the effects of just 2,304 votes cast for us in Dublin Central? As soon as the upholders of democracy discovered that over two thousand people voted for Sinn Féin they decided that all Sinn Féin Councillors elected in the twenty-six counties several years before, should suddenly stop representing those who elected them.
And so we have seen the ministerial campaign of refusing to meet Sinn Féin Councillors making representations on behalf of their constituents. We have even seen attempts to interfere in the internal elections of a trade union. All of this in the name of democracy. Yet according to the EEC election results, Sinn Féin represents just about the same number of voters as the Official Unionist Party; 52,500 more voters than the Labour Party; 90,000 more voters than the Workers Party – with or without their fund-raising wing – and 112,000 more than the Alliance Party. None of this counts, of course. And yet those in high places continue to pontificate about the threat to democracy.
In another equally important and related dimension of life in Ireland there is an absolutely hypocritical attitude on the right to family planning and contraception, the question of divorce and marital breakdown, the invidious social distinctions which surround the question of illegitimacy, one-parent families and so on. I have said this before and I repeat it now. These are questions which we as a people are mature enough to decide and settle for ourselves without fear of croziers or duplicity by salaried politicians and without the tragedy of an Anna Lovett to remind us that such problems exist in Ireland.
This is the quality of life on this little island of ours. Or what passes for the quality of life, because as well as all this, living standards here are being eroded by the application of Thatcherite monetarist policies which deprive an increasing number of people of their right to a meaningful existence.
According to official statistics, unemployment in Ireland, North and South, is now very close to 350,000. That is one in five of the workforce without job. The real jobless figure, however, must be well over half a million when we include all those artificially trimmed from the official figures – whether married women who want to work, older workers, school leavers, short-term job trainees, and so on.
In the most deprived areas of our major cities the jobless figures are much more staggering, with four out of five workers having no job, no prospect of a job and, in many cases, no experience even of a job.
The economic social hardship which accompanies this is evident in sub-standard overcrowded housing, insufficient health services, inferior educational opportunities, a total absence of recreational or cultural facilities; deprivation piled upon deprivation.
And what has been the response of those who follow the monetarist gospel, North and South? Where there are few jobs, more factories are allowed to close. Where workers have jobs, their wages, in real terms, are reduced. Where there is sub-standard or a total lack of housing, the house-building programmes are cut back. Where social welfare is already insufficient, it is restricted further and discretionary grants are withdrawn.
We have the situation where the entire revenue from the PAYE Taxation system is expended simply to service the interest charges on the accumulated borrowings from international banks and financiers. Essential public services are being either drastically cut back or paid for by the panic-imposition o' water-rates and such.
Where classrooms are over-crowded, and special educational needs exist, teachers are left on the dole and made to pay to travel to school. Where health services are needed more than ever, less medicine is available free, hospitals health centres are closed, health workers are made redundant. Where young people are left, through no fault of their own, with time on their hands, there are no facilities to occupy that time – and joy-riding, drugs, vandalism and petty-crime become aimless attractions further adding to the spiralling misery.
In response to this, the Coalition government offers the Irish people a plan; they call it a 'National Plan' and entitle it ‘Building on Reality’! It quite obviously is not a national plan because – for all the time spent in the Forum – it ignores the economic and social cost of partition and deliberately fails to recognise that Irish unity is a pre-requisite of the economic independence required for progress. It refuses to acknowledge the economic possibilities opened by the removal of partition. But does it even address itself to the reality it claims to be building upon? Does it offer any hope to the people of the twenty-six counties to which it is addressed? On the contrary, it actually promises an increase in unemployment, cuts in public spending, redundancies in the public service, the recruitment embargo extended to local authorities and health boards, wages kept below inflation rates, taxation of social welfare payments, the removal of the remaining food subsidies and increased education costs.
Those least able to afford it are going to be made to pay. Those with no responsibility for the recession in the capitalist economy are going to be forced to make all the sacrifices. Yet there will be no extra taxes on that tiny minority who own the vast majority of wealth. There will be no embargo on the profits which the multinationals are allowed to export. There will be no cuts when it comes to the millions spent on maintaining British borders. Like the pantomime dame in a sad, but ironic, parody of Marie Antoinette, Fitzgerald declares "Let them drink whiskey!"
A sobering reminder that the economic and social misery that these policies bring is as nothing to those in power. Double-jobbers, with their perks and their pensions, living in comfort, transported by limousine, eating subsidised meals, taking long holidays abroad, increasing their own salaries, only paying tax on half those salaries, placing their relatives and friends in well-paid positions
Their response to the misery they have created is to make the victims pay, to jail workers who have resisted redundancy, to imprison students who have objected to spending cuts and to denounce and insult those desperately concerned parents who have tried to free their communities from some of their policies' worst side-affects.
Their response to the problems they have created is typified by the Criminal Justice Bill which is now almost law: the extension of the methods of legalised political repression across the whole of society. This law does not address the problems of urban crime, as it pretends, but rather, quite coldly, deprives every person in the state of most basic civil liberties. A government concerned with the growing disillusionment of those it governs has deliberately set out to give the forces or the state extended powers of unrestricted repression. Sinn Féin has consistently presented an alternative to this. First of all we state that the Irishpeople themselves must have the power to take the decisions themselves and that this can only be done in a united, independent Irish Republic which is not fettered by the interests of other states.
We advocate a planned economy which is not concerned with the maximising of profits for multinationals and private enterprise, but is concerned with maximising the benefits to the Irish people themselves.
Sinn Féin urges that job creation should concentrate in the areas of the most obvious potential development: natural resources; processing food for the neglected home market and for export; expanding the fishing fleet and processing industry to the level of other similar-sized countries; diversifying from the current secure industries to manufacturing industry with export potential; developing agriculture through selective subsidies and land restructuring, particularly in its labour-intensive areas such as market-gardening; and providing the necessary social services through planned public spending programmes particularly in the construction industry, with its spin-off potential.
We reject the negative, misery-inducing policies of the establishment parties, directed, as they are, at the protection of the interests of capital.
We declare our concern to be people, not profits. We state our confidence in the ability of the Irish people, through the implementation of a radical socialist economic programme in a united Ireland, to solve their own problems and to end the years of joblessness and social misery. But Sinn Féin, in presenting an alternative – the only alternative – has a responsibility to be in a position, and this doesn't rest merely with those at national leadership level, to deliver the attainment of those objectives.
This means the development and expansion of our organisation through detailed and arduous work. Our policies must be well researched and kept up to date. They must be presented at every opportunity through en efficient publicity machine and we must win more and more people to work in support of them by recruitment throughout Ireland. The relevance of an antiimperialist political and economic programme to the jobs question and the worries of parents and young people North and South need to be spelt out. We need to expound not only the patriotic reason for unity and independence but the logical, social and economic reasons as well.
The E.E.C. elections were the major focus of Sinn Féin activity in the past year. In our manifesto we put forward a well-researched and detailed analysis of the failure of the EEC miracle which was promised on entry. We advocated withdrawal from the EEC, the negotiation of trading agreements with it and an alternative based on a radical socialist programme. We were the only party to do that.
In the election we won a total of 146,148 votes in the thirty-two counties. In the twenty-six counties we estimated that a vote of 5% of the poll would be a considerable achievement given lack of electoral experience, organisational weakness and the effects of Section 31. We achieved that target.
The vote in the North was 91,476, and although we maintained our percentage, our actual vote was down in the number of votes cast.
We have already publicly analysed this result in all aspects; the campaign of the churches, the tactical voting of Alliance supporters, the strength or the Hume campaign, the effects of some aspects of the armed struggle, and so or. We have also acknowledged our mistake in publicly allowing a confident campaign aimed at enthusing election workers, supporters and voters to run away from our private predictions.
However, we have shown that there is solid vote for Sinn Féin putting forward a definite political ideology and not attempting to follow the 'all-things-to-all-men' policies of the SDLP, or indeed, the other establishment parties.
The organisation benefited a lot from the EEC campaign, but unfortunately in the twenty-six counties we have neglected in many areas to expand on those benefits and the work done in the election campaign.
This is a task to which we must apply ourselves between now and the local government elections. Republican public representative should be tribunes of the people, not just in council chambers but outside these bodies as well, taking up issues which affect people and linking together representational and propaganda work with agitational and organisational work. We are 80 years old, as a political organisation, this year. Another great organisation, the GAA, is one hundred years old. We congratulate all Gaels, but especially those enthusiasts who give freely of their time to teach our youth the skills of hurling, camogie, handball and football and we wish them well and hope that in the future the GAA, as a national organisation, succeed once again in raising national pride and national consciousness. For ourselves, it's back to hard work in the year ahead.
Last year we set ourselves a number of internal targets for the development of Sinn Féin. Our success in achieving these targets has been mixed but nonetheless, against all the odds, we have made progress. Next year we must build and expand on the gains made. Last year we made no promises except the promise of hard work.
Last year I outlined the practical measures needed, at a working level, if our party's aims are to become the tough practical policies by which we can give leadership now and provide results, even in the present partitionist set-up. Sinn Féin has succeeded in the Six Counties in doing just this. There is absolutely no reason why the same thing cannot happen in the twenty-six counties. Where we have done the work we have had success and in all areas of that work our success has been directly related to our input.
Sinn Féin members throughout the twenty-six counties must get stuck in, whether through separate political campaigning, advice centre services or full involvement in existing trade unions, tenants groups, cultural bodies and social agitational associations, always promoting the republican viewpoint in the context of the particular aims.
We must be in there with the people, making it clear where the present system is wrong and what our alternative would mean in practice. We cannot afford to be elitist. We can only afford to win. And we can win, which is what terrifies the establishment, but we can only win if we work at it.
There are no shortcuts in the task of making revolution. There are no easy options or magic formulae. Only by painstakingly perfecting, educating and structuring our organisation so that it becomes relevant to our people and their needs will we be ready and capable of giving the leadership which will be demanded of us in the years ahead.
Inniu is paírtí sinn áta níos láidre, níos beomhaire ná mar a bhí muid anuraidh ná an bhliain roimhe sin. An bhlian seo chugainn beidh muid níos láidre arís. Is cuma caidé chomh minic a castar Gearoid Mac Gearailt agus Margaret Thatcher ar a chéile agus is cuma cá mhéad ollchruinnithe idir Bhaile Átha Cliath agus Londain a bhéas ann tá muidinne dóchasach – nó níl fuascladh na faidhbe ann amach á neamhspleachas iomlán. Agus de thairbhe go bhfuil rún daingean againn gan tabhairt isteach do bhrú ar bith dá mhéad, tá muid cinnte go mairfidh ar bpáirtí ag fás le go mbeidh sé rannpháirteach mar ghníomhaí nach beag ar son saoirse iomláine daonlathas agus cearta sóisialta dár muintir. Ní fhásfaidh sé uaidh féin, áfach, tá obair le déanamh. Déanaimis an obair sin.
Today we are a stronger and a more vibrant party than we were last year or the year before. Next year we will be stronger again. Regardless of how often Garret Fitzgerald meets Margaret Thatcher or how many Dublin/London summits are held, we are confident, because there is no solution short of full independence, and because we have the determination to withstand all pressures, we are confident that our party will continue to grow so that it can act in a major way as the catalyst for full freedom, democracy and social justice for our people.
It will not grow on' its own, however. There is work to be done. Let us do it."
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