Sister of hunger-striker denounces peace process as deception

The sister of the dead hunger striker, Bobby Sands, has said her brother and other IRA members did not die for a peace settlement…

The sister of the dead hunger striker, Bobby Sands, has said her brother and other IRA members did not die for a peace settlement based on cross-Border bodies with executive powers but for a British withdrawal and Irish unity.

In her most stinging criticism of the peace process so far, Ms Bernadette Sands McKevitt, vice-chairwoman of the dissident republican group, the 32-County Sovereignty Committee, called on Sinn Fein to withdraw from the Stormont talks immediately. She said many grassroots republicans shared her disillusionment.

In an interview in Magill, published today, she said the talks could not secure republican goals. "Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness can stand up, wrap the green flag around themselves and sing A Nation Once Again at the top of their voices but it will do no good."

Any settlement which failed to end partition was anti-republican, she said: "Bobby did not die for cross-Border bodies with executive powers. He did not die for nationalists to be equal British citizens within the Northern Ireland state."


Although Ms Sands McKevitt refrained from directly attacking Sinn Fein, she was very critical of key phrases it has championed: "Words such as `independence' and `freedom' do not seem to be used by any party on this island today.

"Instead, we have the in-phrases, nice cosy terms like `equal citizenship' and `parity of esteem'. Well, the last two IRA volunteers to die on active service - Ed O'Brien and Diarmuid O'Neill - did not die for parity of esteem and equal citizenship. They died for freedom.

"Throughout this conflict, men did not give up their lives and liberty, families did not suffer terribly, and there was not all this heartbreak and sacrifice for what is on the table now. The campaign was for an end to British rule, not a rejuvenated partition."

When asked about the morality of IRA violence, she said: "The Irish people have the right to assert their independence by every means at their command. I'd prefer if the British listened to argument but they haven't so far. They are the aggressors."

She expressed "grave reservations" about the first IRA ceasefire of September 1994 and would like to have seen a British declaration to withdraw first. Although she did not name Sinn Fein leaders, she said: "False hope was generated by some people. The message sent out was that there was light at the end of the tunnel for republicans . . . But that wasn't true."

The 32-County Sovereignty Committee was formed last month following a meeting of some 150 republican activists in Dublin. It aims to "uphold the 1919 Declaration of Independence"(made by the first Dail) and oppose any settlement emerging from the talks which falls short of Irish unity.

It is seeking a meeting with the Government to discuss any potential changes in Articles 2 and 3. In the interview Ms Sands McKevitt, who now lives in Dundalk, spoke of her early life in Belfast, her relationship with her brother and the 1981 hunger-strike. It is her first detailed media interview.

She said she was a "very private person" who had come forward only because she felt "so strongly about what is happening". There had been media reports that one of those who recently resigned from the IRA was the sister of a dead hunger-striker.

She said she was taking legal action against some media and had never been a member of the IRA. However, she said her feelings were representative of many grassroots republicans. "My position is not a maverick or isolated one.

"Many people see what is going on but until now have been afraid to say, `The emperor has no clothes'. A lot of people have been deceived and a lot of lies told. There has been a lack of debate in the republican movement, but that is starting to change."