After the usual thanks he started of by equating the 1916 rising and the hunger strikers. Both aniversities are coming up soon. One of the deepest desires of the republican movement has been to make the Northern conflict seem as being the same and inextricably linked to 1916-1921. The hunger strikers are the same to the republican movement as the 1916 rising is to the first Dail. The great martyrdom of the troubles. Sands is their Pierce. So to them getting the 1981 hunger strikers legitimised in the eyes of the rest of the country is vital in legitimising the troubles. In the next few months be prepared to hear plenty of sentence containing both 1916 and 1981.
The 1916 rising was a big theme in this speech with Bertie still saying FF can be the heirs of the philosophy of the proclamation. Mr Adams said “These are great words, great ideas, which it is our task to see implemented.” Sinn Fein say they are a socialist party (Tom Cosgrave disagrees). In quiet a dazzling display of political prowess. They highlight the inequality stats and highlight cherishing all of the children of the nation equally“ part of the proclamation to not only attack Fianna Fail on society but also to attack them on 1916 in one move. Karl Rove eat your heart out.
He questioned the use of the army for the 1916 commemoration. Saying that his preference is “An inclusive, civic and cultural celebration, which educates us all, particularly about Irish republicanism,” Has this got more to do with the fact that they don’t recognise the Army. By inclusive Mr Adams does not mean Poles or Nigerians he means Unionists. Considering that nationalist not going to join orange parades that celebrate the Battle of the Boyne. Is it likely that unionist are going to celebrate the 1916 rising? If Unionist are ever going to be integrated into Ireland then we have to accept that we have differences that are never going to be fully solved. We have to accept that they are different suggesting they are not only deepens the devoid.
This is followed with the “five great strategic challenges facing Sinn Féin” The first is implementing the good Friday agreement including the issue of policing. This is nice to see but considering they are not going to join the police boards. We are not going to see this issue resolved in the next year. Next is that they must “engagement with unionism”. Then he called for Sinn Fein to “build support for Irish unity in Britain” considering that they consider that the blowing up Brits was legitimate. I doubt they will find much solidarity in Britain. However with the North’s financial drain on the British exchequer the union probably has never has as little support. Sinn Fein may indeed have something there. However perhaps they should let the SDLP carry the torch on that one. He called also for tackling of the equality in Ireland. Then he point out that “There are more republicans in Ireland today than at any time in our history”. Which is quiet true since our population has not been this high since the 19th century.
Gerry then pointed out “No one should harbour the notion that the republican struggle can be advanced any further by an armed campaign. This leadership is firmly opposed to such a departure”. On this I have to congratulate Mr Adams. It is questionable whether the IRA would have destroyed their weapons without his presence. If Ruairí Ó Brádaigh had remained leader of Sinn Fein who knows what might have happened since.
I have argued before that about the possibility of economic links between North and South and how unionism needs to realise this. Gerry also talks about this. He talks about what has happened the north. “This includes job losses, privatisation, education cuts, falling incomes for those working in agriculture, a failure to produce any strategy to deal with suicide prevention, and much more”. This is interesting the fact that he equates privatisation as a bad thing. Considering that the biggest problem with the Northern Economy is the over reliance on the state. That the states monopoly on talent stifles the economy and that privatisation is the solution. But I will let an economist answer that one.
Gerry mentions that racism needs to be tackled and it is true. But he can start by dealing with it in his own party. They should stop considering calling someone a west Brit an insult. Racism is not just against black people you know. He also states quiet rightly that “The reality of our time is that more money is spent on military projects than on aid or fair trade policies.” Which is quiet true Sinn Fein /Ira have spent more on military projects then on aid or fair trade policies.
Then Mr Adams moves on to issues of the Irish State. He makes excellent points about the Health service and the provision of social housing. Then he takes a dig at everyone’s favourite punch bag builders. Blaming them for the lack of houses. Even though we built more houses last year then ever before in this country. He attacks the government on childcare a real vote getter. Many seats around the country may be decided on this issue. The party with the best plan may be the winner. Sinn Fein’s plan is very strong. However will the voters who accept this accept the tax increases needed to pay for this.
The Irish language is very major part of Irish identity. So Gerry links the 1916 rising and the hunger strikes again to it. More reinforcing of the 1981 part of Irishness. However they do point out that teaching methods need to be improved. Something I think we can all agree on. He attacks the service directive which I don’t know much about so I wouldn’t comment. He also attacks Pat Rabbitte over his migrate stance. Which any reader of mine will know is one of my new pet hobbies.
Again the Swedish model rears it head in Ireland. This time from Gerry. “Sinn Féin would increase taxes on capital gains, property speculation and corporate profits. Of course, our policies will be attacked by those who have mismanaged the boom years of the Celtic Tiger” Funny how he considers the bringing in of the policies that have created the boom is mismanagement. He attacks FF/PD agriculture record. Is this showing signs that Sinn Fein are going to go after the farming vote? Considering that the government have done a good job on farming considering the pressure from Europe. He attacks the new pet hate in the country toll booths. Also the Rossport 5 make an appearance in his speech. He says over the government that “They hand over our natural resources to multi-nationals like Shell”. Considering the cost of exploring and the amount of empty wells that exploration ( Hat tip Gavin) off Irelands coast has yielded. It is highly unlikely that the government could ever have afforded to explore the sea as multinationals have.
Before launching into the final stretch of the speech he makes the ever original brown envelope joke.(edit: 16:55 19/02)He talked of "payments made to crooked politicians by corrupt developers. ".While ignoring payments to corrupt Sinn Fein members by the British Secert Service. (end Edit) Then the section entitled Make partition history. Make partition history has to be one of the most shameful exploitation of a charitable cause ever. Attempting to equate the evils of partition with the evils of world poverty is bad taste to say the least. Bob Geldof must be pissed.
Again the 1916 hunger strikers link is made and it is wound up with a tiocfaigh ár lá. So what do you make of it all. Personnel I think it was a very clever speech. Sinn Fein certainly are setting their stall out as the socialist party in Irish politics. With labour moving to the centre the left is relatively clear. But to fully emerge into the main stream they have to move the troubles more into the mainstream. To legitimise the troubles. The constant reinforcement to the 1916 rising - hunger strikers link is very much part of this. If they can place the hunger strikers into the legacy of 1916 during the next few months commemorations. It will bring a certain legitimacy to Sinn Fein. Then they will be able to move into the mainstream. Whether this happens depends on how everyone reacts to it.