All changed utterly as 'An Phoblacht' omits IRA message


FOR THE first time in memory, the Easter edition of An Phoblacht, which was published yesterday, does not contain the traditional Easter statement from the IRA.

Instead, the latest edition of the weekly paper, viewed as the house publication of both Sinn Féin and the IRA, carries a “Sinn Féin leadership Easter statement” recommitting members to the “achievement of our republican objectives”.

In the most symbolically important weekend for republicans, when the 1916 Rising is commemorated at republican gatherings, it appeared significant that there should be such a major break with tradition.

One mid-ranking republican source said he believed this was the first time there was no IRA Easter statement in the newspaper. Asked did this mean that the IRA had gone away, he laughed and replied, “No comment.”

At Stormont yesterday, Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness referred to the goal of achieving a united Ireland but did not specifically predict it would happen by 2016, the centenary of the Rising.

Mr McGuinness spoke after he and artist Robert Ballagh launched the first of seven pieces of art depicting the signatories of the 1916 proclamation. The works were commissioned by Sinn Féin. The first framed portrait of Pádraig Pearse by Ballagh was unveiled in the Sinn Féin offices at Stormont yesterday. Each year up to 2015 in the run-up to the centenary of the Rising a new piece will be unveiled of each of the six other signatories to the proclamation.

Sinn Féin leaders have spoken in the past of a united Ireland being achieved by 2016. Asked was this the timeline for Sinn Féin, Mr McGuinness said he always had stated that progress could be made on this issue. “I am certainly moving forward with confidence that the strategy that Sinn Féin is pursuing is one that will see the achievement of the reunification of Ireland. If it does not happen in 2016 then we try to make it happen in 2017, or as I am doing at the moment, try to make it happen in 2014,” he said.

The “Sinn Féin leadership Easter statement” extended solidarity to the “families of all our patriot dead” and to “those Irish republicans in prison”. “We are immensely proud of our patriot dead and of their families,” it said.

“The ideals and principles of the proclamation are as relevant today as they have ever been. The realisation of those ideals and principles is among the many tasks that we must complete in the time ahead,” it added.

The statement, in repeating that Irish unity remained Sinn Féin’s primary objective, said the party was right to resist those who have attacked the peace process. “This includes those in the British establishment who would seek to use recent events as an excuse to rush back to the days of militarisation and the abuses that flow from that,” the leadership added.

By implication the statement referred to the Real IRA murders of British soldiers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey and the Continuity IRA murder of Constable Stephen Carroll. “In Ireland today there is an alternative to armed struggle,” said the Sinn Féin leadership. “A small number of militarist factions oppose Sinn Féin’s peace strategy. Many are involved in criminal actions. Moreover they have no political programmes or strategies. There is no feasible alternative to Sinn Féin’s strategy for a united Ireland.”