The Journal of History     Winter 2004    TABLE OF CONTENTS

Gerry Adams Address to Party Conference

This is the full text of the keynote speech by Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams at a party conference held at the Davenport Hotel in Dublin today. The conference of Dublin party members is being held in place of the party's Ard Fheis, postponed because of Foot and Mouth disease.

Margaret Thatcher was wrong. Bobby, Francis, Patsy, Raymond, Joe, Kieran, Kevin, Martin, Tom and Mickey were right. And Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg before them were right.

20 years ago the British government failed to defeat the prisoners and the people. Why? Because we stood resolute. Because we stood as one.

And today, not only have they failed to defeat the republican struggle but as each day passes more people become republicans, more people join the struggle for freedom, our political strength grows, and our ability to advance our political objectives grows.

20 years ago, the prisoners and the people stood together.

Today we stand as one in pursuit of our goals of independence, unity, peace and justice. Unshakable in our pursuit of equality.

The prisoners were perceived to be the soft underbelly of the republican struggle. In jail the British thought they could be isolated, beaten, intimidated, and coerced into accepting the label of criminal.

But republican prisoners are political prisoners, men and women of conviction, commitment and determination.

The H-Block and Armagh prisoners resisted. They endured horrendous conditions and bore great physical cruelty with fortitude and courage. And at the end, when no other course of action was open to them, they went on hunger strike in defence of their integrity as republican political prisoners, in defence of this republican struggle, in defence of their comrades in the prison, and to assert their humanity.

None of this was part of any clever republican plan or strategy. It was at its core a very individual response by prisoners in Armagh Women's Prison and in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh.

They were responding to a British strategy, devised by the securocrats and authorised at the highest level of the British Establishment.

One leg of that strategy was about "Ulsterising" the situation, drawing British troops back from the front line, where possible, and reorganising, resourcing and training the RUC, a sectarian and paramilitary force, into the cutting edge and the front line killing machine of British counter-insurgency, while at the same time using loyalist death squads to assassinate and terrorise.

The legacy of that policy can be seen today in the refusal by the British Government to implement the recommendations of its own Policing Commission, and create an acceptable form of civic policing.

Another leg of this strategy was to criminalise the struggle, to make the struggle out to be a criminal conspiracy. It was about attempting to portray the conflict as arising from the greed of a small, unrepresentative bunch of gangsters intent on making money and exploiting our people.

Ending political status was part of that lie. And let us not forget that despite knowing the truth the Irish government of that day and every major political party on this island colluded in that lie. And used censorship 'Section 31' to block out the truth.

Here in the South of Ireland the hunger strike had a particular impact. It raised a fundamental moral question about the role of the South in Britain's war in Ireland and it made a political impact that shook the system to its foundations.

It was not just the fact that Kieran Doherty was elected TD for Cavan/Monaghan. Or that Paddy Agnew was elected TD for Louth and other prisoners, including Joe McDonnell and Mairead Farrell, attracted substantial electoral support. And remember this was at a time when for almost a decade this state had promoted and policed censorship.

It was the fact that the hunger strike unmasked the unwillingness of the South's political establishment to do anything for the hunger strikers, or indeed anything to challenge British rule in a part of Ireland. But while the Dublin Establishment vacillated and tried to ignore events in the North, the people were sound. The people had stripped away the propaganda and lies. They saw beyond censorship and they were willing to stand up for right against wrong.

We must remember that lesson every day. We must remember that when 10 Irishmen stood against the British, ten of thousands of their fellow citizens from the 26 Counties stood with them.

We must remember over the years of the peace process, when Irish governments have not been as strong as they should have been, ordinary people have stood firm and governments have been moved. We must not forget that the shape of British policy in Ireland and its aims and objectives is dependent on how prepared an Irish government is to uphold Irish national interests and to influence British policy in this direction.

The stories of the hunger strikes have to be told. For those of us who were part of that period it is hard to imagine that it was 20 years ago. It is as if it was yesterday. All of us have a story to tell and in telling the story we should not neglect to tell of the small things that many of us took for granted. Today those small things will shock and educate.

It is important to know where we have come from if we are to know where we are going.

How do you explain the hunger strikes? You can't.

How do you come to terms with what happened? It is impossible. It can be understood only if we appreciate the incorruptibility, and unselfishness and generosity of the human spirit when that spirit is motivated by an ideal or an objective which is greater than itself.

People are not born as heroes. The hunger strikers were ordinary men who in extraordinary circumstances brought the struggle to a moral platform which became a battle between them and the entire might of the British state.

In the course of their protest the hunger strikers smashed British policy. Their legacy is still unfolding and their idealism remains as an example to the rest of us.

I extend to all of their families, on your behalf, our continued solidarity and support in this painful year of remembrances.

We Stand as One

Sinn Féin is the only all-Ireland political party.

Today we stand as one in pursuit of our goals of independence, unity, peace and justice.

We are the only real united Ireland party.

We are for a united, free and independent Ireland. This is our goal.

We reject partition. We reject British rule over any part of this island.

We want, and I believe the vast majority of the people of Ireland want, a united Ireland. And I believe this generation of Irish republicans -- not the next -- this generation, will make it happen.

Look at how far we have come in recent years.

It has been the political initiatives taken by Irish republicans that have been the dynamic forcing the pace of change, creating a culture of change, acting as agents of change.

Our task is to build equality and partnership and justice into Irish society. It is to change minds and attitudes.

Sinn Fein is for a new beginning between the people of Ireland, as equals, inclusively and in mutual respect, mapping out our own destiny free of foreign domination or interference.

The Voice of an Idea

Caoimhghin O Caolain, a few years ago, described Sinn Finn as "the voice of an idea." It is an idea, an idealism that is both republican and labour, the idea of a free Ireland and a sovereign people.

And in the last few years and for the first time in over two decades, people right across this country are hearing of that idea and supporting that idealism.

Ta polaitiocht na hEireann ag athru agus ta poblachtanaigh o gach cuid den tir chun tosaigh san athru sin.

Saoirse, fuascailt agus ag tabhairt cumacht don pobal priomh teamai Shinn Fein.

Ta muid ag lorg nios mo na saoirse polaitiul ar dtir. Ta muid ag lorg saoirse soisialta agus eacnamaiochta na saoranaigh ar fad ata in Eirinn..

Ciallaionn sin, saoirse o smacht eachtranach, saoirse o aineolas agus eagla, saoirse o pla na ndrugai, saoirse o ranganna scoile plodaithe, o scuaini oispideil agus o easpa tithiocht.

The political landscape of Irish politics is changing and republicans in every corner of this island, are at the forefront of that change.

Emancipation and empowerment are the key themes of Sinn Féin. We envisage not only the political independence of our country but also the social and economic liberation of all citizens within it.

This means freedom from foreign domination, freedom from ignorance and fear, freedom from poverty and inequality, freedom from the scourge of drugs, from crowded classrooms, and hospital queues, and housing shortages.

All of these burdens and injustices can be overcome. But this will only happen if we make it happen.

Until such time as Irish reunification is fully achieved, Sinn Fein is adopting a spirited, innovative and strategic approach which aims to diminish the present national democratic deficit as far as possible. Other self-styled nationalist and wannabe [want to be] republican parties are loud on rhetoric and short on strategy or staying power.

Sinn Fein is what no other party on this island is -- a real alternative.

Our credibility and effectiveness have been demonstrated over and over again. Determination and political will are what identify Sinn Féin is distinctive, whether it be in tackling the British Government or in facing up to the scandals of corruption or in rising to the challenge presented by the crisis in our farming industry.

The Crisis in Food Production

Our agricultural industry is in crisis -- and not just over foot and mouth although that is the most pressing issue today.

We have to see the foot and mouth threat in its right context.

Foot and mouth, E-Coeli, salmonella, BSE -- it's a lot more than coincidence. For more than 10 years the farming sector has been rocked by a series of crises that all serve to undermine consumer confidence in the quality of the food products we eat.

This crisis has been caused by the transformation of farming from family-run enterprises to businesses where profits and costs dictate.

We need to tackle the foot and mouth crisis but we also need to look at the underlying reasons that created this crisis in the first place.

There is a clear need to put quality back as the cornerstone of the Irish farm sector -- from the decisions made by individual farmers, through to the food processors and abattoirs, and right down to the supermarkets and exporters.

We need an island-wide code of principles and practices for farm and commercial food processing.

We also need to urgently examine ways in which farmers affected by this crisis can be helped, both in the short-term and the long-term.

This reality needs to be at the heart of any honest policy to ensure an adequate food policy in Ireland. It also needs to be at the heart of our approach to the issue of the EU and forthcoming referendum on the Treaty of Nice.

The Treaty of Nice

In recent weeks the legal text of the Treaty of Nice was signed in Europe, a fact which few people in this country are aware of. Therefore, most people will be surprised to learn that this treaty moves us substantially closer to an EU super-state and will entirely change the economic, political and military face of Europe.

Sinn Féin believes that, if accepted, this treaty would be detrimental to Ireland's interests, North and South. Not only would it result in the further undermining of Irish sovereignty -- politically and economically -- it would also bring us closer into a European military alliance. With every day that passes, the Irish Government is marching us into a European Army and further away from neutrality.

For Sinn Féin, sovereignty means recognising the rights of the people, not ceding power to unelected officials. We want to see Europe defending our democratic rights, not eroding them. Over the next few months Sinn Féin will be mounting a vigorous public campaign in opposition to the Treaty of Nice. This will include public meetings, door-to-door canvassing and co-operation with groups such as PANA -- the Peace and Neutrality Alliance. We will also be building alliances with progressive forces in Europe who share our concerns.

The ongoing march towards an EU super-state and the loss of sovereignty, over-centralisation and the democratic deficit is something which should concern us all and also impacts on the role which the Irish nation can play in global politics. Are we to completely submerge Irish foreign policy within a giant EU state? Will we pursue an independent course, meeting as equals the poorer, formerly colonised nations with whom we have so much in common? Or will we help to exploit them as part of one of the world's economic and political power blocs?

I want to state clearly that Sinn Féin's voice is for democracy and economic and social justice.


Several elections loom in the months ahead. In the Six Counties it is expected that there will be two contests -- for Westminster and local elections. In the 26 Counties, a general election may come at any time between now and the spring of next year. We must be ready for all of these challenges and indeed welcome them as a chance to show the vigour of Sinn Féin and the support which is there for us throughout this island of Ireland.

There is no doubt that the nationalist electorate in the Six Counties are in good form and are confidently looking forward to these elections.

There is also no doubt that they have been energised by the peace process and the very positive changes that have occurred as a direct result of it.

They clearly are impressed with Sinn Féin's performance in the peace process and our provision of strong, effective representation.

I am in no doubt that Sinn Féin will win more votes than ever before in these elections.

And despite the obvious intent by the SDLP of introducing Brid Rodgers as a spoiler into West Tyrone, I am also confident that the people of that area will respond positively and that when our Ard Fheis finally meets later this year it will be to welcome Pat Doherty as the MP for West Tyrone.

But we will not be satisfied with that.

In Fermanagh/South Tyrone and in North Belfast Sinn Féin stands poised to make serious advances. Wouldn't it be a fitting tribute to Bobby Sands if we can elect Michelle Gildernew the first woman Sinn Féin MP since Countess Markievicz for that historic constituency?

If we apply all of our resources, marshal all our energy and drive I am confident that in Newry and Armagh, Foyle, South Belfast and other parts of the North we will see significant republican gains.

There has never been a better climate in the North for Sinn Féin to improve our share of the vote.

That is why we will be standing the biggest ever number of candidates in the local government elections.

We will also be standing candidates in areas where nationalists have come under sustained attack from loyalists. Let me extend solidarity to all those people who have suffered sectarian attack in Larne, Coleraine, Ballymena and other parts of the North. We will be providing nationalists in these areas with an opportunity to vote for Sinn Féin.

I am convinced that we will see significant electoral advances here also.

Sinn Fein's election contest in the North is usually presented by the media as a contest between the SDLP and ourselves. Our ambition is often described as being to outpoll the SDLP. We are much more ambitious than that. Our objective is to become the largest party in the Six Counties.

This can only be achieved over a number of elections and this year's contests will see us making considerable gains as we advance towards that objective.

And here in the South, Sinn Féin also have great things to achieve. I am confident that our poll-topping TD for Cavan/Monaghan, Caoimhghin O Caolain, will repeat his success, a just reward from the electorate for his and his team's hard work on the ground. And I am equally confident that when Caoimhgin walks back into Leinster House after the next election he will not be the only Sinn Féin TD going in through those gates to shake up the system.

All of this will increase our negotiating power to:-

* Fully implement the Good Friday Agreement and advance the peace process;

* Clean up the widespread corruption and sleaze in 26-County politics;

* More equally and fully share out the wealth generated by the Irish people, to the Irish people;

* And move closer to achieving our republican goals of independence and unity.

The Sinn Féin Ministers

In the North, Sinn Féin, along with all the other political parties, has been on a learning curve in terms of its input into the Executive, the Assembly and the all-Ireland institutions. I am satisfied that thus far we have made a valuable and a constructive contribution to decisions and developments at all levels.

We need to appreciate the strengths of the situation we find ourselves in. We have two republican ministers in the Executive and we have 18 republicans in the Assembly. The republican voice and analysis is at the heart of government, at the heart of decision making, at the heart of positively shaping the lives of the people of this island.

Sinn Féin is responsible for two of the most difficult ministries in the Executive. And here I want to commend Bairbre de Brun and Martin McGuinness. In such a short period of time they have done a remarkable job in health and education.

Inside and outside their departments, they have won the praise and admiration of many people, including some who are not republican supporters.

They have brought to their new task the same dedication, loyalty and diligence they have displayed in the struggle for freedom over the last 30 years.

Bairbre inherited a health service in almost terminal crisis. A service beset -- indeed besieged -- with difficulties, which have their origins in years and years of British Government neglect and gross under-funding.

To try to immediately improve the service, Bairbre has initiated a range of action programmes, reviews and public consultations.

These initiatives include:-

* A review of acute service provision;

* A consultation on primary care and the development of a public health strategy;

* Setting clear objectives and targets for the health service;

* Measures aimed at sweeping away the internal market in the health service;

* And she has led the debate for an all-Ireland health service.

Ta si tar eis bheith chun tosaigh ag usaid an Ghaeilge ina rannog, istigh san Assembly, ait a bhi uirthi cur suas le drochide seicteach o aondachtoiri.

Ba mhaith liom tacu le iarrachtai Bairbre an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn agus ta me ag suil leis an la a bheidh muid ar fad san Assembly agus ins na institiuidi eile ag deanamh ar ghno chomh maith ceanna tre Ghaeilge agus Bearla.

Molaim chomh maith na teachtai (MLAs) eile ag Sinn Féin nach bhfuil liofa sa Ghaeilge ach ata ag lorg bealai chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn tre bru a chur ar an gcoras.

She has also pioneered the use of the Irish language, in her Department and on the floor of the Assembly chamber where she has had to endure sectarian abuse from unionists.

I want to support her efforts in this regard and I look forward to the day when all of us in the Assembly, and in the other institutions, are able to conduct our business competently and efficiently in Irish and English.

I also want to commend other Sinn Féin MLAs who are not fluent but are seeking ways to promote the language by making demands on the system.

Martin has won the hearts and minds of large sections of the educational community by his straightforward, honest and thorough approach. Wherever he goes he builds up a warm rapport with the pupils and teachers.

He has ensured that there is regular interaction between Na Ranna Oideachais, between Belfast and Dublin. He has set up four Education Working Groups:-

* For special needs;

* Child protection;

* Exchange programmes;

* North-South teacher mobility to increase the mobility of teachers throughout the island of Ireland.

In the field of equality, like Bairbre, Martin has ensured that his department has an Equality Scheme and he has added an Equality Division to oversee the implementation of equality measures.

He has targeted social needs, aimed at distributing funds more fairly, and supported small rural primary schools.

Irish-medium education has also benefited from Martin's ministry. He set up Comhairle na Gaelscoiliochta in February 2000 and secured funding worth three-quarters of a million pounds for an Irish-medium trust fund. Under Martin's tutelage it is now easier to set up Irish- medium schools -- and two have been recently established, one in Strabane and Coalisland.

And he has initiated a review of the 11+ and my firm hope is that this will lead to the end of that much criticised selection exam.

Both Bairbre and Martin, the Sinn Féin MLAs who are Chairs and Vice-Chairs of Committees and are members of other Assembly structures, have done a lot. A lot more remains to be done. I am confident that they, with our help, can deliver the type of change republicans are striving for.


I would once again like to use this opportunity to address the Northern Protestant and unionist population. As always, my comments are aimed at reaching out and finding a route into the hearts and minds of the unionist population.

All I ask is that they listen and accept my words as my personal attempt at addressing difficult and hurtful issues.

Many republicans are of the view that there are large numbers of unionists who look at the conflict and place total responsibility for the conflict on the shoulders of the republican community.

In other words, they hear the voice of unionism saying to them: "You are morally culpable for the totality of the conflict."

Taking responsibility collectively for the problem is a necessary pre-requisite for taking responsibility collectively for resolving it. If one does not acknowledge any responsibility for the problem then there will be no acceptance of a need to find a solution.

I believe that we, as Irish republicans, are facing up to that difficult challenge.

Or at least we are trying.

The British Government also must face up to its responsibilities. It must acknowledge, even to itself, as a first step, the wrongs it has done to the people of this island if it is to set the course for righting those wrongs.

While I understand that unionists find it difficult to acknowledge the hurt they imposed on the nationalist community it is important that they do so. But taking responsibility contains another important element -- it signals the beginning of the healing process.

Today there are many in our society who lead by their example of healing. In this respect I should like to acknowledge the role of progressive elements of the Protestant churches, the business community and the community sector. Their willingness to engage in dialogue was and remains an essential ingredient of our society's efforts at finding a way out of conflict and a way into a durable peace. How are we to broaden out this dialogue?

I have long held the view that negotiations are the key to unlock the paralysis of our hurt and pain. And negotiations for us by now are a part of struggle. Negotiations also have to be about change. Change is by its nature volatile. But the process of negotiations has its own anchors.

Old hurts may remain but they sit alongside a new understanding of the other. We stop demonising our enemy. We begin to see the human being. We begin to look for the integrity of those who are our enemies or opponents. We begin to dismantle prejudice and stereotyping and replace the old perceptions with new understandings.

For my part, the politics of negotiations demand that we express a sense of the hurt and pain endured by the unionist section of our people. I have tried in my capacity as Sinn Féin president to consistently reflect on this. I also appreciate that going forward in this way is as difficult for unionists as it is for republicans.

These past 10 years have been hard ones for republicans. We have embraced change but not without a cost. We have lost some old friends and comrades who were with us from their early years. We have worked hard to provide our broad base of support with the necessary explanations on the political changes that happen, often on a daily basis.

Today, more than ever, I am convinced that the only way forward is through dialogue, reconciliation and accommodation. These are the values that continue to underpin my engagement with Northern Protestantism and unionism.

But it is a process that we must all embrace, equally and honestly, if our past is not to be repeated as our future.

An Apartheid Executive

Great progress as been made in recent years. If that progress is to be sustained then politicians must collectively make politics and we must make politics work. The UUP's refusal to nominate Sinn Féin ministers and their reduction of the institutions agreed in Good Friday, and ratified in referendums North and South, is wrong.

The people did not vote for an Assembly and an apartheid Executive in the North. The failure of the British and Irish governments to challenge the First Minister on this issue in a robust and forthright way is unacceptable.

Mr Trimble's action is unfair. It discriminates against a section of the electorate and is grossly insulting and a breach of the Good Friday Agreement. It is also not sustainable in the long-term.

Because I want this process to succeed I try to understand what motivates David Trimble and I am prepared to trust him and his colleagues, but they need to know that the old days of second-class citizenship are over and that Sinn Fein will not acquiesce in undermining the rights and entitlements of any section of people on this island.

There has been much media comment and speculation about what progress, if any, was made at Hillsborough this week.

It was good that all of the parties met as we did but the main progress around this week's talks was made, and is represented by the IRA leadership's decision to enter into discussions with the IICD. If this engagement is to be successful, as the IRA said at the time, then others also must play their part.

The flaw in the handling of the peace process by the British Government thus far is contained in its fixation about IRA weapons, even though these weapons are silent and the IRA has maintained cessations over seven years.

The political process could still fall if this issue is not handled properly. In other words rhetoric that it is not a precondition is not enough. It needs to be removed as a precondition and restored as an objective of a peace process.

Sinn Féin does not have the responsibility, the obligation or the desire to shepherd the IRA into disarming on UUP or British Government terms. This would not be possible anyway. Neither should the two governments, or any of the parties, take for granted our willingness to exhaust ourselves in the way that we have done consistently to resolve this issue if it is to be continuously used against us.

Appeal for Unity and Commitment

We can only do our best. I appreciate the efforts of the IRA leadership to enhance the peace process. I appreciate also, and I acknowledge and commend, the discipline of IRA Volunteers. But I know that these are all difficult matters for republicans. I know that many will have been shocked and confused when they hear of this latest move and I appeal for the utmost unity and commitment in the face of what appears to be perpetual rejection by governments and others of initiatives by republicans to resolve difficult issues.

Much has been made about the deal done here in Hillsborough on May 5th and 6th last year.

Sinn Féin has been among the parties who have pointed up this development and the subsequent failure of the British Government to deliver on its commitments. What needs to be pointed up also is that the British Government is obliged under the Good Friday Agreement to deliver on most of these matters.

For example, the British Government's policing plans do not meet the Good Friday Agreement's terms of reference for the Patten Commission. No matter how much he may argue otherwise, Mr Blair knows this. Instead of the NIO trying to shoehorn local parties into accepting its policing proposals, the British Government must go back as a minimum to the Patten recommendations.

The way to get nationalist and republican involvement in policing is to create a policing service which we can be part of.

The same position is true on demilitarisation. The people of republican and nationalist heartlands do not deserve to be occupied by the British Army. The excuse that the IRA represents a threat is not good enough. Mr Blair has to face up to his militarists.

This latest IRA initiative has created a space in which the two governments and all of the parties, working together, can resolve these matters and end this crisis.

We must build on this opportunity. Mr Blair has to consider whether he is about achieving that progress or is content to watch all of the gains of recent years being frittered away.

For our part, Sinn Féin is determined to continue with our efforts to end the current crisis, resolve all of these difficulties, and see progress made in consolidating the peace process.


Like many other Irish people, I have been shocked and saddened at the ongoing stream of corruption being uncovered in Irish political society. The revelations have become all so pervasive that we now run the risk of alienating huge numbers of people from the political process.

What we have seen -- running from the Beef Tribunal, through to the McCracken, Lindsay, Moriarty and Flood Tribunals -- is moral, ethical, political and human decency thrown out the window as some corrupt politicians and profiteers in big business put their own selfish greed before the public good.

Public interests were sold out for personal and private profit.

And those who did it should be ousted from office and stopped from holding any other position of power or influence.

What they did was not about 'cute hoorism' -- it was about the political establishment being involved in a systematic abuse of power. They did this through illegal acts like accepting money for planning favours, through hiding their money in illegal offshore bank accounts, through using their positions of power to aid their friends in the so- called "Golden Circle." The political establishment was about legitimising a two-tier society of "us and them." While so many lined their pockets, young people in this city were dying on the streets in the midst of a heroin epidemic -- something that is continuing today. I, for one, am angry about this. I have had enough of the equivocation, the double standards, the false promises of new dawns.

We need a fightback against all of this. We need to build a coalition between republicans in the broadest sense of the term and all those campaigning for real and lasting change in our country.

We need a coalition of all those seeking an end to poverty and inequality through the sharing of the wealth in our economy. We need a coalition of people across sectarian and racial divisions and an end to racism and sectarianism in all their forms.

We need a coalition of those in rural and urban communities who have not been allowed to take full advantage of increased prosperity.

Share the Wealth

In present-day Ireland we are in the happy circumstance of having a successful and growing economy, particularly in the 26 Counties. But what is also growing is the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

You walk through city streets and see expensive restaurants full of customers while, nearby, young men and women are sleeping in doorways. There are others who are less unfortunate and conspicuous but they are still among the excluded and deprived. The last official assessment of poverty showed over a third of persons in this state falling below the 60 per cent relative income poverty line.

The failure of the economic and political system to secure a better distribution of the recent huge increase in available resources is extremely disturbing.

In the midst of plenty it would be easy for society to forget those who have been abandoned. But while Sinn Féin exists, they will not be forgotten and they will not be abandoned.

Sinn Féin believes that, particularly at this time of unprecedented wealth, we have an unrivalled opportunity to invest in the Irish people and correct many of the inequities and economic injustices inflicted over many generations.

Just imagine a united Ireland where the wealth is invested creatively -- and more fairly. A united Ireland where the tens of thousands of children currently living in dire poverty are able to wake up in homes that are warm, where they have adequate clothing, and where there is no hunger.

A new Ireland in which the schools are properly resourced, where parents can travel to work knowing that their children are in affordable, quality-built and community-run childcare centres, and where no one waits for a hospital bed, a home or a job.

It isn't a pipe dream. It can happen. We have the resources. But they need to be properly managed in the interests of all the Irish people and not just some of the Irish people.

Who is going to do that? Is it going to be Fianna Fail? Or Fine Gael? Or Labour? Or the PDs?

Of course not! But Sinn Féin can -- and we will!

We will because we are the party of the people. We are the party of Pearse and Connolly, of Tone and Emmet, of Sands and Farrell -- the republican party determined to achieve the real republic, the republic of the people! But to achieve that we must build political strength. We must forge new alliances, confront inequality and injustice, promote inclusiveness and democracy, and keep our eyes firmly fixed on the twin objectives of a united Ireland and a lasting peace.

These are inseparable goals.

What we are aiming for is the establishment of a national republic on this island, one which will be no less than a source of enlightenment and a symbol of hope for humanity throughout the world.

We will build a new Ireland in which Irish men and Irish women, whatever our birthplace, or colour, or religion, or politics, will live together in peace and harmony; a new Ireland in which every citizen will respect the dignity and worth of their brothers and sisters.

We Irish, all 70 million of us across this globe, are no petty people. We have a destiny to fulfil in realising the genius of our nation. And at times when we are daunted by the challenges that face us, let us remember the hunger strikers.

One of the biggest achievements of the hunger strikers was that they set a moral standard for the conduct of struggle for the rest of us. I am sure this was not their intention but it is a fact. The women or Armagh and the men of the H-Blocks set an example for all other republicans to follow. When we falter in the face of our opponents, let us draw strength from them and their example, their unselfishness, their generosity, their commitment and idealism.

And let us recall the words of Brendan McFarlane's song.

We're stronger now

You showed us how

Freedom's fight can be won

If we all stand as one

Comrades -- let us stand as one. The hunger strikers endure forever in our continuing struggle for freedom. Let us achieve the freedom for which they gave their lives.

Ar aghaidh linn.

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