By Joe O’Neill
SAN FRANCISCO – After delivering a message of thanks to a jubilant crowd of supporters of the Roisin McAliskey Justice Campaign in San Francisco and declaring a victory for the international effort that led to the release of her imprisoned daughter, Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, in a sweet-and-sour-flavored speech strongly denounced the current Irish peace accord brokered at Stormont Castle on Good Friday. She also took the opportunity to say that a debate and strategy summit among Republicans is a necessary step before next month’s referenda North and South.
In an interview, the veteran Irish civil rights campaigner outlined her criticisms of the deal and called for a “No Vote” in the forthcoming May 22 referenda on the Belfast Agreement, which will be held simultaneously in the six counties and in the 26 counties.
“There is an attempt to say that anybody who has a criticism of this peace agreement is in fact a warmonger,” she said last week. “Now, I, personally, as somebody who has campaigned within the human rights and non-violent movement for 30 years, find that offensive. Especially from people who are not four years out of the war.”
McAliskey’s analysis of the Sinn Fein position concludes that the leadership of the Republican movement has bought into the theories of Fianna Fail’s point man on northern policy, Martin Mansergh. “His solution,” said McAliskey, “is essentially a 25-year strategy to release the situation in the North from the tension of the past 25 years in hope that by not addressing the problem over the period of the next 25 years, at the end of it we might be able to engage in a rational discussion with the Unionists, and, as Martin Mansergh has said, ‘That discussion in 25 years time may or may not lead to an United Ireland’ Now that is a perfectly valid position for Martin Mansergh, but it is not a valid position for the leadership of the Republican movement.”
“The Republican leadership,” she said, “faced with the dilemma of Unionism, has retreated back again to the issue of accepting partition and working to attempt to democratize Ulster. If Gerry Adams believes that works, then we are entitled to an explanation of why he believes it, because he didn’t believe it in ’72. They consistently argue that they don’t believe it now. So the rest of us are entitled to ask, ‘What are you doing?’ . . . We are entitled to a better answer than, ‘You are too old, too rural, too bitter, to unsophisticated, to comprehend what we are doing.’ Because, I am entitled to say, ‘I don’t think so. Try me and see. Set it out there and see if old rural, bad tempered, bitter Bernadette could figure it out.”
Follow us on social media
Keep up to date with the latest news with The Irish Echo
Despite her criticism of the Republican leadership, Devlin McAliskey called for dialogue to resolve differences between pro- and anti-agreement factions.
“I don’t think we should allow ourselves to be cornered into a futile debate over issues like sell-out, betrayal, who did what at what point,” she said. “Let’s argue the issues, because that is the only way that we are going to make any kind of breakthrough into rational political discussion. I think we should be calling the broad Republican family together to see how we got into this mess and how best we can get out of it as a political strategy.”