Gerry Adams: We won right to referendum by our devotion to democratic objectives

Ex-Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has claimed that the right to hold a referendum on Irish unity was something republicans “won” thanks to their devotion to “democratic objectives”.

Monday, 25th October 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Monday, 25th October 2021, 9:33 am
Gerry Adams canvassing in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast in 1983

He made the remarks on Saturday in a roughly 40-minute podcast interview with An Phoblacht, Sinn Fein’s official media outlet.

Mr Adams was the president of Sinn Fein from 1983 to 2018 but since he ceased to be TD for Co Louth in 2020, he has held no formal elected office.

The discussion covered a wide expanse of Irish history, and the contributions of republican icons like De Valera and Collins.

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Mr Adams then ended by saying this: “All the people we spoke about earlier on never had the chance to peacefully bring about Irish unity.

“We do. We’re the first.

“We won that in negotiations. We won that on the back of struggle.

“We won that by staying true to democratic and republican objectives – and building support for those objectives.

“We have the chance to end the union and out of that to build towards the republic that was proclaimed in 1916.

“We are going to get that chance to vote.

“Everybody should face up to the fact we are going to get that chance to vote.

“Let’s make sure 1) we’re registered to vote and 2) we’re informed of the importance of voting for unity when that referendum comes.

“Whether you live in Mayo, Cork, Wexford, Glens of Antrim, Derry, Shankill Road – let’s try and get as many people to get a tipping point in the struggle where a majority of people vote for unity.”

According to Ulster University, during the Troubles the IRA killed at least 1,705 people.

Among them was democratically-elected MP Robert Bradford, who happens to have been murdered 40 years ago next month (alongside a bystander whom the IRA also shot).

The right to hold a referendum on Irish unity was enshrined in the Belfast Agreement of 1998 – an agreement which, in large part, came into being as a means of persuading the IRA to finally stop murdering people.

Yet it took several more years before the IRA began committing to the agreement’s core principles through the decomissioning of most of its arms.

Throughout the IRA’s campaign, the Green Book (basically the operating manual for its members) proclaimed that the IRA was the legitimate inheritor of the 1918 Dail, and thus the sole true government of Ireland.

As academic Prof Brendan O’Leary has noted, at the time when the 1998 accord was struck, Sinn Fein was only ever a “reservedly pro-Agreement party”.

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