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Villiers’ sums ‘don’t add up’

Published: 24 Apr 2014 17:000 comments

SINN Fein MLA Rosie McCorley used her Easter address in Fermanagh on Sunday to hit out at Secretary of State Theresa Villiers who last week said that any review into the past must have “proportionate focus on the wrongdoing of paramilitaries”.

The Easter Commemoration at Donagh on Easter Sunday.

Speaking in Donagh, the West Belfast representative said it was not helpful when secretaries of state such as Ms. Villiers “add their ignorant voices to the mix by making the ludicrous suggestion that the focus of investigations needs to move away from state forces and back on to Republicans and Loyalists”.

“Where has this woman been? The facts speak for themselves - around 25,000 Republicans went to prison over the course of the conflict spending well upwards of 100,000 years in jails on this island and beyond.

“In contrast, about ten British agents went to prison spending between them about 20 years in total. Someone needs to tell Theresa Villiers to do the math,” said Ms. McCorley.

The Sinn Fein woman said the secretary of state’s comments were “really about appeasing Unionism”.

“We recognise the need to engage, work with and respect Unionism but the days of appeasement are over. The new, agreed Ireland we seek to build is inclusive, where all the elements of the Irish nation - including those in this country who regard themselves as British - are comfortable, secure and can find the fullest expression of their identity.

“None of the difficulties that the political process faces is insurmountable. With political will, it is possible to resolve all of the outstanding and toxic issues, such as flags, parades and the past. This will only happen when both the Irish and British Governments take a leadership role in ensuring such an outcome,” she said.

On the subject of the Haass proposals, she said the Irish Government and others had already agreed that they represented “the best way forward”.

“To achieve progress on implementation of the Haass proposals requires the British Government to take up a clear and unambiguous position in support of Haass. There is currently an effort on the part of political Unionism to roll back on the progress that has been made since the Good Friday Agreement was achieved 16 years ago. This cannot be allowed to happen.”

Also in her address, Ms. McCorley paid tribute to Cumann na mBan, meaning League of Women, which she said “played a very important role in the 1916 rebellion, just as they did right through all the phases of our struggle, and particularly in the most recent phase”.

“The roles women played were varied and took many forms. From the very young to the very old, they involved themselves in all ways from making their homes available to the army, taking part in marches against oppression and right through to the very coalface of the war. And of course, as we all know, many of them went to prison for their beliefs and many of them made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives.”

“And you the people of Fermanagh have much to be proud of too, for you had among you some of the bravest most dedicated women of this era. It is fitting therefore that on this important day that we make special mention of Joan Foster, who came from this very village of Donagh that we’re standing in, and whose life was committed to the Republican struggle.”

Ms. McCorley added: “Easter is the time of year that we set aside to pay special homage to our dead. We pay tribute to those brave selfless women and men, who gave their lives in the struggle for Irish freedom. We commemorate our fallen comrades with pride, and we are all the richer for having known them, among them women like Joan Foster.”

But the politician said it was “a sad reflection” on society to say that women “are often invisible and written out of history when it comes to the telling of the story”.

And she remembered former Fermanagh-south Tyrone MP and Hunger Striker Bobby Sands.

“As Bobby said, everyone has their own part to play, and I feel those words are worth remembering. I would urge everyone here to think about that,” said Ms. McCorley.

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