Flash: Adams calls on IRA to embrace politics
The following is the text of a significant keynote speech today
by Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams at Conway Mill in Belfast, in
which he urges the Provisional IRA to build political support as an
alternative to armed struggle.
I want to speak directly to the men and women of Oglaigh na
hEireann, the volunteer soldiers of the Irish Republican Army.
In time of great peril you stepped into the Bearna Baoil, the gap
of danger. When others stood idly by, you and your families gave
your all, in defence of a risen people and in pursuit of Irish
freedom and unity.
Against mighty odds you held the line and faced down a huge
military foe, the British crown forces and their surrogates in
the unionist death squads.
Eleven years ago the Army leadership ordered a complete cessation
of military operations. This courageous decision was in response
to proposals put forward by the Sinn Fein leadership to construct
a peace process, build democratic politics and achieve a lasting
Since then despite many provocations and setbacks the cessation
And more than that, when elements within the British and Irish
establishments and rejectionist unionism delayed progress, it was
the IRA leadership which authorised a number of significant
initiatives to enhance the peace process.
On a number of occasions commitments have been reneged on. These
include commitments from the two governments.
The Irish Republican Army has kept every commitment made by its
The most recent of these was last December when the IRA was
prepared to support a comprehensive agreement. At that time the
Army leadership said the implementation of this agreement would
allow everyone, including the IRA, to take its political
objectives forward by peaceful and democratic means.
That agreement perished on the rock of unionist intransigence.
The shortsightedness of the two governments compounded the
Since then there has been a vicious campaign of vilification
against republicans, driven in the main by the Irish government.
There are a number of reasons for this.
The growing political influence of Sinn Fein is a primary factor.
The unionists also for their part, want to minimise the potential
for change, not only on the equality agenda but on the issues of
sovereignty and ending the union.
The IRA is being used as the excuse by them all not to engage
properly in the process of building peace with justice in
For over thirty years the IRA showed that the British government
could not rule Ireland on its own terms. You asserted the
legitimacy of the right of the people of this island to freedom
and independence. Many of your comrades made the ultimate
Your determination, selflessness and courage have brought the
freedom struggle towards its fulfillment.
That struggle can now be taken forward by other means. I say this
with the authority of my office as President of Sinn Fein.
In the past I have defended the right of the IRA to engage in
armed struggle. I did so because there was no alternative for
those who would not bend the knee, or turn a blind eye to
oppression, or for those who wanted a national republic.
Now there is an alternative.
I have clearly set out my view of what that alternative is. The
way forward is by building political support for republican and
democratic objectives across Ireland and by winning support for
these goals internationally.
I want to use this occasion therefore to appeal to the leadership
of Oglaigh na hEireann to fully embrace and accept this
Can you take courageous initiatives which will achieve your aims
by purely political and democratic activity?
I know full well that such truly historic decisions can only be
taken in the aftermath of intense internal consultation. I ask
that you initiate this as quickly as possible.
I understand fully that the IRAs most recent positive
contribution to the peace process was in the context of a
comprehensive agreement. But I also hold the very strong view
that republicans need to lead by example.
There is no greater demonstration of this than the IRA cessation
in the summer of 1994.
Sinn Fein has demonstrated the ability to play a leadership role
as part of a popular movement towards peace, equality and
We are totally commited to ending partition and to creating the
conditions for unity and independence. Sinn Fein has the
potential and capacity to become the vehicle for the attainment
of republican objectives.
The Ireland we live in today is also very different place from 15
years ago. There is now an all-Ireland agenda with huge
Nationalists and republicans have a confidence that will never
again allow anyone to be treated as second class citizens.
Equality is our watchword.
The catalyst for much of this change is the growing support for
Of course, those who oppose change are not going to simply roll
over. It will always be a battle a day between those who want
maximum change and those who want to maintain the status quo. But
if republicans are to prevail, if the peace process is to be
successfully concluded and Irish sovereignty and re-unification
secured, then we have to set the agenda - no one else is going to
So, I also want to make a personal appeal to all of you - the
women and men volunteers who have remained undefeated in the face
of tremendous odds.
Now is the time for you to step into the Bearna Baoil again; not
as volunteers risking life and limb but as activists in a
national movement towards independence and unity.
Such decisions will be far reaching and difficult. But you never
lacked courage in the past. Your courage is now needed for the
It won,t be easy. There are many problems to be resolved by the
people of Ireland in the time ahead. Your ability as republican
volunteers, to rise to this challenge will mean that the two
governments and others cannot easily hide from their obligations
and their responsibility to resolve these problems.
Our struggle has reached a defining moment.
I am asking you to join me in seizing this moment, to intensify
our efforts, to rebuild the peace process and decisively move our