Building support for Irish unity and self-determination

Gerry Adams outlines Sinn Féin’s strategy at London meeting.

Proletarian writers

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Proletarian writers

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Sinn Féin has launched a renewed campaign to mobilise public support in Britain for the realisation of Irish self-determination and independence.

Launching a process of dialogue and campaigning that aims to build towards a major conference in support of Irish unity, to be held in London in February next year, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams addressed a packed public meeting in parliament on 14 July on the theme “a united Ireland is possible”.

According to Adams, “the single most important issue facing the people of Ireland and Britain is the achievement of Irish unity and the construction of a new relationship between Ireland and Britain based on equality.

“Economic crises, however severe, will come and go. Governments will come and go, but for more centuries than any of us care to contemplate, Britain’s involvement in Ireland has been the source of conflict; partition, discord and division; and great hurt between the people of these islands.”

Underlining the fact that whilst the armed conflict in Ireland is over, the root causes of that conflict still remain to be addressed, Adams continued:

“The peace process has delivered an end to conflict and that is to be welcomed and applauded. But the underlying cause of conflict persists – the British government’s claim of jurisdiction over a part of Ireland. It is this denial of the Irish people’s right to self-determination, freedom and independence that is the core outstanding issue that must be resolved.”

Outlining a way forward, Adams continued: “Sinn Féin believes that a national representative democracy in a sovereign reunited Ireland is desirable, viable and achievable in this generation through peaceful and democratic methods.

“To succeed in this, there are three interlinked challenges facing us. These are: getting the British government to change its policy from one of upholding the union to one of becoming a persuader for Irish unity; getting the Irish government to begin preparations for Irish unity; and engaging with Ulster unionism on the type of Ireland we want to create …

“The Good Friday Agreement has put in place all-Ireland political institutions which can be enhanced and developed. It contains a legislative, peaceful and democratic mechanism to set up a new and democratic Ireland. Advancing this means reaching out to others, including those who are unionist, and engaging with them on the type of Ireland we want to create …

“This is not about some pie-in-the-sky naive discussion and aspiration, about an unachievable goal or meaningless political outcome. No. This is about solving one of the great unresolved and contentious issues of Britain’s colonial past …

“Next February, we will hold a major conference here in Britain to move into the next phase. Of course this conversation, this dialogue, with people here in Britain or in the US or elsewhere will not in itself achieve a united Ireland. That is a matter for agreement between the people who live on the island of Ireland. But British policy toward Ireland is key to unlocking the potential for this change to occur. So, we need the active support of people in Britain.”

Adams stressed that his party wanted to reach out to all sections of British society in this process, including trade unions and “other ethnic minorities who have experienced a similar history of colonisation and immigration”.

He was particularly at pains to stress that Sinn Féin’s plans and strategy were not predicated on the continuation in office of the Labour party. Rather, he stressed that Irish republicans were experienced in dealing with British governments of whatever party as what they all have in common is that they have all been unionists. The British Labour party, he noted, continues to “uphold the union”, that is, the colonial occupation of the six counties and the denial of the Irish people’s right to self-determination. Comrade Adams further noted that some, such as former Labour defence secretary John Reid, had floated ideas of changing the union, but, he continued, a new type of union was “not possible”. Rather, he said, “no conditions should be put on a people’s struggle for freedom”.