Republicans united, Adams tells Sands commemoration


Republicans remain as one in pursuit of the goals of independence, unity, peace and justice, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has said.

Speaking last night on the eve of the 20th anniversary of hunger striker Bobby Sands' death, the West Belfast MP said the legacy of the British government policy which led 10 prisoners to starve to death could still be seen today.

"One leg of that strategy was about 'Ulsterising' the situation, drawing British troops back from the front line where possible, and reorganising, resourcing and training the RUC, a sectarian and paramilitary force, into the cutting edge and the front line killing machine of British counter-insurgency, while at the same time using loyalist death squads to assassinate and terrorise.

"The legacy of that policy can be seen today in the refusal by the British Government to implement the recommendations of its own Policing Commission and create an acceptable form of civic policing," he told 1,200 people at the Bobby Sands memorial lecture in west Belfast.

"It is also to be seen in today's decision by the European Court of Human Rights which found that the British Government had perverted the legal and judicial system to deny citizens their human rights, and in these particular cases that meant their right to life."

Mr Adams's speech marked the start of a weekend of events to commemorate the hunger strikes.

"Twenty years ago the prisoners and the people stood together. Today we stand as one in pursuit of our goals of independence, unity, peace and justice. Unshakable in our pursuit of equality," he said.

The stories of the hunger strikes had to be told, he said: "For those of us who were part of that period, it is hard to imagine that it was 20 years ago. It is as if it was yesterday."

He added: "The hunger strikers were ordinary men who in extraordinary circumstances brought the struggle to a moral platform which became a battle between them and the entire might of the British state.

"In the course of their protest the hunger strikers smashed British policy. Their legacy is still unfolding and their idealism remains an example to the rest of us.

"What we are aiming for is the establishment of a national republic on this island, one which will be no less than a source of enlightenment and a symbol of hope for humanity throughout the world."