“The next stage must see a genuine process of reconciliation among the people of Ireland and between Ireland and Britain. We need to address, comprehensively, issues such as respect for identity, symbols and culture.
“We need to deal properly with the legacy of the past.
“And we have to tackle the scourge of sectarianism.
“All of this requires nationalists and unionists working together. It requires political, civic and community effort.
“We are up for that challenge and anxious to work with unionist political leaders to bring it about.
“Conflict and political difficulties are there to be resolved and so they must be.
“A commitment to and a combination of engagement, political will and determination can resolve most difficulties. This is as true today as it was 15 or 20 years ago.
It is a great privilege for me to address you here today as we honour the memory of the five republicans who died at this place in a premature explosion in the early hours of Monday 11th November 1957.
These tragic deaths occurred during the course of ‘Operation Harvest’ — what became known as the ‘Border Campaign’ waged by the IRA between 1956 and 1962.
These men, who have since become popularly known as the Edentubber Martyrs, included the owner of the cottage, 54-year-old Michael Waters, Paul Smith, 19-years-old, from Bessbrook; Oliver Craven, from Newry; Patrick Parle, of Wexford and George Keegan also from Wexford.
As republicans have done every year since 1957, we gather here to honour their memory and to state clearly that we are as determined and committed to the achievement of an independent, united Ireland built on equality and social justice and respect for all traditions as were republicans of 1916, 1957 or 1969.
Different times and circumstances require different strategies but the goal and the commitment are the same. The work of republicans in this phase has laid the foundations that will ensure the final stages of our journey to national reconciliation and reunification are concluded through peaceful and democratic means. No man or woman young or old need ever again risk imprisonment, injury or death in pursuit of these goals.
But the journey will not be easy. It will require increased effort to mobilise people at home and abroad in support of republican objectives.
All our efforts are based on the certainty that political, social and economic progress for the Irish people requires an end to partition and the establishment of a new Republic. This commitment informs our work in the Oireachtas, the Assembly, the Executive, in Council Chambers the length and breadth of Ireland and myself as an elected republican activist in the European Parliament.
The Good Friday Agreement, now 15-years-old, provides for a Border Poll and a simple majority vote to determine the constitutional status of the North. A Border Poll will provide a unique opportunity for a historic debate on the future of this island. I think that should be welcomed by everyone.
The North has been transformed in recent years. The political geography has begun to change. It is no longer an Orange state. In the South the huge economic upheaval of recent times, the diminished influence of the Catholic Hierarchy and the disclosure of corruption in the golden circles of politicians and developers have also dramatically changed societal attitudes.
Politics across this island is in flux. A New Ireland can be what the people, all of the people, make it.
The border poll is a key element of this. It provides an opportunity to focus on the future: to build a modern, dynamic New Ireland – in which there is genuine reconciliation and out of which a more equitable society can emerge. It allows citizens have their say.
The North cannot exist in isolation from the rest of the country and the country cannot reach its full potential without the North.
I challenge those – in both jurisdictions – who oppose all-Ireland administrative integration and fiscal harmonisation to explain the logic of their position and provide a costed analysis of the benefits of maintaining the status quo.
Can they explain how it is cost effective to continue with two competing economies, back-to-back provision of healthcare, education, transport, agriculture, inward investment and every aspect of government across this island?
Can they explain why children cannot automatically access their nearest school, or why seriously ill patients regularly have to make exhaustively long journeys to access specialist treatment or why citizens cannot routinely attend their nearest GP or hospital?
Add to this the fact that the border impedes economic activity with many successful businesses and employers citing the border as a key disincentive to extending operations because of different fiscal policies and tariffs.
Both administrations on the island struggle to find efficiencies in public service delivery, yet the most obvious area of savings –that of duplication of services – particularly along the border is allowed to continue.
Whether we wish to accept it or not, the reality is that our economies are interlinked and interdependent and most of our public services are ineffective because of the financial strain under which they presently operate. This strain would be greatly relieved through all-Ireland planning and greater fiscal harmonisation.
Constitutional change is for the people to determine. Irish Unity is not inevitable. It needs to be worked and planned for. The Irish Government has a major responsibility in this regard.
Sinn Féin wants to see the maximum level of agreement on the nature of a future united Ireland. This requires dialogue and compromise.
Sinn Fein seeks to build a New Republic — a united Ireland with fairness at its core.
The party is growing in strength and in size throughout Ireland.
Membership in the 26 Counties is increasing rapidly. We are demonstrating that there is a credible political alternative to the tired old politics of FF/FG/Lab.
Those political parties who have run the Southern state since Partition have been badly exposed in recent times. They destroyed the economy, brought this state to its knees and gave away whatever sovereignty existed.
Sinn Féin was right during the era of the Celtic Tiger when we said that the wealth should be used to build public services, infrastructure and sustainable jobs.We are also right now when we say the economy needs growth and jobs – not debt and cuts.
We are committed to investing in job creation and retention.We have presented realistic, accurately costed, alternative proposals to reduce the deficit, create growth, and protect families under financial pressure.
People know we are in difficult times. They know that we must work our way out of it. They know they will have to bear some pain. But what they want is fairness in the way that is done. Of course the deficit must be tackled.But those with the broadest shoulders must bear the heaviest load.
Sinn Fein is in a period of significant party building in this state. Although we have more people in the Dáil we need a bigger party. We want as many people involved as possible North and South. We want to increase the number of women in the party in particular. We want to have a Sinn Féin cumann in every parish in the country.
The substantial growth in party membership and support is clearly a result of the leadership being shown by our public representatives in every elected fora in the 32 counties and of course the hard work of the organization on the ground.
Our TDs have played a key role in holding the government to account. Sinn Féin is a party of constructive opposition and we have put forward a raft of alternative proposals on budgetary matters and jobs as well as tabling legislation.
Sinn Féin has a vision and regardless of the ups and downs of opinion polls, and even elections, we will continue to work to deliver a better Ireland – a New Republic.
Preparations for next year’s European and Local elections North and South are well advanced and will prove a significant milestone in the development of this party as a major political force on this island.
In the North we have seen significant transformation in recent years through the peace process, which is still one of Ireland’s great success stories. However it remains a work in progress.
The next stage must see a genuine process of reconciliation among the people of Ireland and between Ireland and Britain. We need to address, comprehensively, issues such as respect for identity, symbols and culture.
We need to deal properly with the legacy of the past.
And we have to tackle the scourge of sectarianism.
All of this requires nationalists and unionists working together. It requires political, civic and community effort.
We are up for that challenge and anxious to work with unionist political leaders to bring it about.
Conflict and political difficulties are there to be resolved and so they must be.
A commitment to and a combination of engagement, political will and determination can resolve most difficulties. This is as true today as it was 15 or 20 years ago.
It is my hope that as Richard Haass brings his talks on parades, flags and dealing with the past to a conclusion over the next few months that the opportunity to inject a new momentum into the political process and the conflict resolution process will not be lost.
We have a New Republic to build – an Ireland beyond partition where the people will be sovereign. Sinn Féin will play its part in building that New Republic. We invite others to join with us to ensure that we can unite our people and our country as the Edentubber Martyrs and all our patriot dead sought to do. We have the opportunity to achieve it without further loss of life or threat to the liberty of anyone. Let’s leave this place today determined not to waste that opportunity.