Envisioning a New Republic – Address by Gerry Adams to 1916 Commemorative event in the Mansion House

The speech below is Gerry Adams address to Sinn Féin’s 1916 commemorative event in the Mansion House this evening in which he speaks of the need to reclaim the spirit and vision of 1916, to build a real republic, to end the domination of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, and to secure a Sinn Féin led progressive government post the next general election.

Address by Úachtarán Shinn Féin

Gerry Adams TD

Mansion House, Dublin

Envisioning a New Republic

Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh achan duine anseo.

Go háirithe, cuirim fáilte roimh chlanna Óglaigh naoi déag a sé déag.

You are all very welcome to the Mansion House on this historic occasion.

I especially want to welcome the families and relatives of the Leaders and Volunteers of 1916.

Failte mór roimh na daoine a rinne turas fada le bheith linn anocht.

The Mansion House has a special place in the hearts of Irish people.

It was here on January 21st 1919 that the First Dáil met and asserted the national freedom and independence of the Irish people.

1916 The Flame of Freedom

2016 is a time to celebrate our identity, to commemorate our past and to deliver on the promise of the Proclamation.

It is a time for big ideas.

It is a time to stand up and be counted.

100 years ago men and women from the four corners of Ireland – nationalists,republicans, socialists, trade unionists, gaelgeoirí, feminists – were meeting in rooms in this city and across this island and beyond to plan the overthrow of the British empire in Ireland.

They envisaged a Republic, where people are citizens, not subjects; where people have fundamental rights, not arbitrary privileges; where there is equality, not elitism; where there is unity, not partition and division.

On Easter Monday April 24th 1916 Pádraig Pearse marched with a small number of comrades to the General Post Office and read aloud the Proclamation of a new Republic.

Gníomh cróga agus drámatúil a bhí ann.

A few hundred, poorly equipped Irish men and women took on the might of the largest empire in history.

After six days of heroic resistance by the republicans the centre of Dublin was in ruins.

Hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned and seeking to avoid further death and destruction, the leaders of the Provisional Government met for the last time in 16 Moore Street and ordered a surrender.

The leaders were court martialled and fifteen were executed over the following two weeks.

Roger Casement was later hanged in London.

The British hoped that by the speed of their actions and the scale of the executions that the flame of freedom would be extinguished in Ireland.

Ach ní raibh an ceart acu.

At his court martial Pádraig Pearse accurately predicted:

“If you strike us down now, we shall rise again to renew the fight. You cannot conquer Ireland. You cannot extinguish the Irish passion for freedom.”

Ba chor ciniúna i stair na hÉireann Éirí Amach na Cásca.

D’athraigh sé an pholaitíocht agus dearcadh na ndaoine.

The Irish language inspired many of those who took part in the Rising, as it did with the Hunger Strikers in 1981.

Irish is a hugely important aspect of who we are as a people and restoring the language to a central role in the life of our nation is a positive and achievable aim.

The Irish language is the heritage of all who live on this island, regardless of our background.

Mar a duirt an Pearsach ‘Ní amhain saor ach Gaelach comh maith. Ní amhain Gaelach ach saor comh maith’.

The Counter-Revolution

The Rising was a declaration of freedom heard all around the world.

The patriots of 1916 believed that a better Ireland is possible.

We also believe that.

And to achieve it – to win their freedom – to win our freedom – they put everything on the line – including their own lives.

The Irish revolutionary period was followed by a counter-revolution and Civil War.

Thousands more died and were imprisoned.

The revolution was defeated.

Narrow, mean-minded, conservative, elitist, sectarian regimes were established north and south.

In the north the unionist regime imposed decades of political and religious discrimination, repression and conservatism.

In this state there was the horror of institutional abuse  in the Magdalene laundries, in the Reformatory and Industrial Schools and in other institutions.

Poverty, emigration and inequality were rampant.

Censorship in the arts, culture and politics was pervasive.

Some of our greatest writers were banned.

The old, imperial administration was replaced by new, native political and economic elites.

The reality is that when partition was imposed by London there were activists who rejected it.

There were others who reluctantly accepted it as temporary and hoped that the new southern state would act as a stepping stone to full national freedom.

But there were also those who saw it as an end in itself.

And there are many in the establishment today who share that view.

They, like the Taoiseach, believe that our sovereign nation stops at the border.

They just don’t get 1916.

It is an inconvenient issue that they want to get out of the way.

That is why the Government’s approach to the centenary lacked any ambition and substance and why they have sought to remove context.

It reflects the Fine Gael and Labour leadership’s attitude to 1916, their lip service to core republican values and to their support for partition.

Partition has never served Irish national interests or the public good.

It created a duplication of public and private services, two sets of currencies, and two tax systems, laws and regulations.

Partition has ensured that the island of Ireland has not reached our economic, social or political potential.

Partition sustained decades of conflict, inequality and sectarianism.

The conflict has now thankfully come to an end but partition remains.

However one of the big achievements of recent Irish history is that there now exists a peaceful way to end partition.

But the Irish establishment has no strategy to achieve this.

Why would they? They want to maintain the status quo.

The Ideals of 1916

Of course Ireland and the world is a different place today from when the leaders of the Rising assembled on Easter Monday.

But Irish republican values and objectives – the core values of the Proclamation – remain as relevant as ever.

The Irish Republic proclaimed in 1916 was ‘committed to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally.’

At its core is a belief that all people are sovereign and equal.

That historic document is a clear statement of intent for an all-Ireland Republic built on the foundations of civil and religious liberty, social justice and equality for all citizens.

It remains the mission statement of modern Irish republicanism.

At a time where women did not have the vote it addresses Irishmen and Irishwomen.

Those who understood its significance were revolutionary women.

Is iad mná na hÉireann – na réabhlódaigh – a thuig cé chomh tábhachtach is a bhí sé seo.

Margaret Skinnider, who was wounded during the fighting in Dublin in Easter week  said in 1917:

“… in the Constitution of the Irish republic, women were on an equality with men. For the first time in history indeed, a Constitution had been written that incorporated the principle of equal suffrage.”

The Spirit and Vision of 1916

There are events that define any generation.

100 years ago it was the Easter Rising.

35 years ago it was the strength and dignity of the Hunger Strikers and their families.

Ireland today needs once again the spirit and vision of the hunger strikers allied to the selflessness and generosity of those who struck for freedom and justice 100 years ago.

And it is ordinary citizens like us who must take up that vision and renew that spirit.

We see it in the actions of rural communities who rally in the spirit of the meitheil in support of neighbours devastated by floods.

And over the last twelve months we have seen the people rise up and taking to the streets in their hundreds of thousands to oppose water charges.

We have seen it in the vote by referendum in support of marriage equality. The first such state to vote in this positive way.

Sinn Féin is part of shaping that type of change.

Tá muid  ina chuid lárnach den athrú sin.

But we want to do more. We want to make alliances with others of like mind to build a truly national movement based on equality and fairness.

We want to deliver a real Republic.

Chaos for working families

Like many people I’m sick to my back teeth listening to Enda Kenny and Joan Burton talking about stability while they perpetuate chaos in the lives of working people.

For the last five years they have shown that when it counted they were on the side of those who follow in the footsteps of William Martin Murphy.

If they get back into government it will be just the same.

Stability for the elites – chaos for working families.

Decision after decision taken by this government has caused chaos to working families.

• Hundreds of patients lying on hospital trollies every day because of this government. Today there are 427 patients on trolleys.

• 1,500 children in emergency accommodation  because of this government.

• Massive drops in family income because of this government.

• Vulnerable people targeted in the harshest cuts of all because of this government.

• Cuts to the bereavement grant, home help hours, discretionary medical cards for seriously ill children. Because of this government.

• Hundreds of thousands of young people gone – the scattering of rural Ireland – because of this government.

• A housing crisis – because of this government.

Fianna Fáil would be no better.

In government elements of Fianna Fáil were responsible for corruption and economic chaos.

There was the worst banking collapse in Irish history, almost bankrupting the Irish state,and creating  record high levels of unemployment and emigration, and hundreds of thousands of households in negative equity.

Join the Rising

So my friends, we are here tonight to say enough is enough.

I’m standing here tonight asking you to Join the Rising and be part of a generation demanding and delivering real change.

Like many Irish people I am moved by the image of James Connolly being carried out of the GPO strapped to a stretcher.

What would he say about a Labour Party in government which is responsible for children and elderly people being left on hospital trollies for days with no dignity or respect, including some who were born before the 1916 Rising.

My guess is he would say it’s time to put Labour and their cronies in Fine Gael out of office.

Fine Gael and Labour are trying desperately to set the agenda for the general election by presenting the result as a foregone conclusion.

And Enda Kenny as the inevitable Taoiseach.

They hope that many voters who want rid of this government will switch off and not vote at all.

It’s up to us to make sure that this does not happen.

So 2016 is the time to make change.

Mar sin agus Dhá Mhíle is a Sé Déag buailte linn, tá sé in am dúinn an t-athrú a dhéanamh

This election must be about what type of Ireland our people want to build.

Sinn Féin wants a society based on equality and fairness.

Sinn Féin wants to deliver a fair recovery for all.

This means:

• Helping low and middle income families by increasing the minimum wage, abolishing the property tax and water charges.

• Building 100,000 social and affordable homes and helping those in mortgage distress.

• Increasing spending on healthcare by €3.3 billion to move from a failing two tier health system to universal healthcare.

• Rebuilding rural Ireland by ensuring we have communities where the quality of life is matched by the quality of public services and which welcomes back those forced to emigrate over recent years.

• Securing a referendum on Irish unity and beginning the practical preparations for Irish re-unification.

• Rooting out corruption in politics and cutting the salaries of politicians.

And we will deliver, just as we have in the north.

Under the leadership of Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin is in government there defending the rights of citizens, protecting the most vulnerable and building prosperity and jobs, in the face of a Tory British Government in the Westminster.

Sinn Féin in the north is promoting partnership, reconciliation, equality and inclusion.

Sinn Féin, if we secure a mandate, wants to be in government in this part of the island as well.

Our goal is to implement a strategy to unite Ireland.

But citizens here, like those in the north, cannot wait until then for fairness.

Change is needed.

And change is needed now.

Delivering a Real Republic

The unfinished business of 1916 and the great challenge of the Proclamation is to unite all the people of this island, whatever their background or tradition, in equality and mutual respect.

So, any new government strategy aimed at uniting Ireland must involve finding common ground and common cause with those who see themselves as British to deliver real change.

The peace process is in many ways the reworking of the relationships between unionism and the rest of the people of this island.

And between all of us and Britain.

A government strategy for Irish unity would also involve pursuing every avenue to promote greater all-Ireland co-operation.

It would mean building the all-Ireland sectors in environment, health, energy, education and agriculture, and a single island economy.

It would also mean using every available opportunity to enlist the goodwill of our international friends towards the cause of a united Ireland.

So, this Centenary year is a time for national renewal, a time to build, a time for real political progress to be made across this island.

The men and women of 1916 were visionaries.

We need to be visionaries too.

Let us imagine and achieve a New Republic.

James Connolly in his New Year message for 1916 and mindful of the events to come said:

“…opportunities are for those who seize them”.

Let us seize the opportunities 2016 provides.

As always, the republic is in the ownership of the people.

Let us fulfil the promise of the Proclamation and complete the unfinished business of 1916.

Join us in a new peoples rising.

Join us in delivering the Republic.

Táimid anois ag cuimhniú siar ach ag an am céanna taimid ag amharc ar aghaidh.

Mar sin, bígí linn.

It is the time to end the domination of  Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

After 90 years their time is up.

It is time to elect a progressive republican government.

It is time for a Sinn Féin led government.

That is the opportunity we must seize. Let’s do it.

Dump Labour and Fine Gael.

Up the Republic.

Go raibh maith agaibh go léir.

Source: Sinn Féin Newsroom

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