Gerry Adams: The IRA should give up war for democratic politics

From a speech by the President of Sinn Fein, delivered at Conway Mill, in west Belfast

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For over 30 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 sacrifice. Your determination, selflessness and courage have brought the freedom struggle towards its fulfilment. That struggle can now be taken forward by other means.

For over 30 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 sacrifice. Your determination, selflessness and courage have brought the freedom struggle towards its fulfilment. That struggle can now be taken forward by other means.

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. The way forward is by building political support for republican and democratic objectives across Ireland and winning support for these goals internationally.

I want to use this occasion to appeal to the leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann [IRA] to fully embrace and accept this alternative. Can you take courageous initiatives which will achieve your aims by purely political and democratic activity?

Sinn Fein has demonstrated the ability to play a leadership role as part of a popular movement towards peace, equality and justice. We are committed 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.

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 [gap of danger] again; not as volunteers risking life and limb, but as activists in a national movement towards independence and unity.

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