Ard Fheis News and Speeches
May 25th, 2012
I would like to extend to you all on behalf of Kerry republicans a Ceád Míle Failte to the Kingdom.
Apart from its many other attributes the county is of course the home of Sam Maguire who is now in temporary and short lived exile in Dublin. It is only right that they should get a look at it every twenty years or so.
While we are here for a weekend of hard work I hope you will also find time to enjoy the town of Killarney and some of the local hospitality, although not too much of course!
It is fitting that we should be here given Kerry’s proud republican history and also the fact that the last Kerry republican TD elected - prior to myself being sentenced to Leinster House - was the late John Joe Rice who was elected for the South Kerry constituency in 1957.
South Kerry would be regarded as relatively weak in comparison to the north of the county in more recent times but we have dedicated and committed activists here and the local election areas returned impressive returns for Martin McGuinness in last year’s Presidential election when he took 16% of the vote in Killarney itself.
Of course the whole of the county will be one constituency in the next general election and we are confident of returning two of the five TDs.
That will hopefully reflect the significant surge in support for our party in the past year. We achieved a magnificent result in the general elections last year and we are now polling at twice that according to some recent surveys.
That is a consequence not only of the work being done in Leinster House and the higher profile of the party throughout the country but also of course the widespread disillusionment with the three main parties.
Fianna Fáil was exposed for its role in bringing about the current crisis and the current government are following the same path despite promises to the contrary. In particular the Labour Party has let down the huge a number of people who voted labour in 2011 only to see the party adopt the right wing austerity agenda which they attacked during the campaign. Many of those people are now looking towards Sinn Féin and it is our duty to ensure that their faith is not misplaced.
The strong support for the party is above all, however, due to the hard work being done in every corner of the country by dedicated republican activists such as yourselves. That applies not only in areas where we are already strong and have elected representation but in places where Sinn Féin was practically non existent up until the recent past.
I am confident that that work will pay dividends in vastly increased representation in the next local and European elections and that that will provide a springboard for the next general election in this state. If indeed that has not already been called before then.
This Ard Fheis then provides us with an opportunity to debate and hone the policies which not only will form our manifestoes for future elections but which in the foreseeable future will form the centre of a programme for government throughout the island.
Partition created two conservative states on our
island. The rights and entitlements of ordinary citizens were secondary to the
needs of the political class in both states. That is why every Irish
government, since partition, including the present one, is happy to pay lip
service to a united Ireland and more importantly to the rights of citizens.
That is why it was acceptable to abandon nationalists in the north to whims of a unionist regime and the reality of second class citizenship.
That was a political reality that I could never accept as normal. Through forty years of struggle and our involvement in peace negotiations we have managed to dismantle one party rule in the north and brought second class citizenship to an end. We have replaced this with equality, partnership and power sharing.
We have erased the physical nature of the border. We have constructed all-Ireland political institutions.
But we have yet to achieve our primary political objective of re unification and sovereignty. That is the mighty task which we now face.
And Irish unity is not simply a republican objective, it is I believe necessary for our people, catholic, Protestant, Dissenter and others to achieve our full potential.
There is a better way than the status quo. A re-united Ireland and a New Republic built in the interests of citizens is the future.
There is massive potential for Republicans in the time ahead. We are in an entirely new situation legislatively and constitutionally.
There are massive challenges in trying to provide good progressive government in the north within the constraints we operate in and at the same time giving hope for tens of thousands of Irish citizens in the south living under the austerity regime created by the selfishness, greed and incompetence of bankers, developers and politicians.
We have transformed Ireland in the course of the past decades.
Our role as the driving force at the heart of the peace process has proven that where there is a desire and a will for change anything is possible.
We have also transformed Irish republicanism, all Ireland Republicans in government for the first time in 100 years working peacefully and democratically for Irish freedom.
But our work as Republicans is far from done.
It is now time to move from the peace building phase of the struggle to the nation building stage of the struggle.
That requires the very same confidence, strategic thinking and determination that has marked our approach for many years.
This is not about trying to turn unionists into nationalists or to try and hook wink people about our intentions.
The reality is that much hurt has been caused on all sides during the conflict and indeed by the very imposition of partition itself.
To date much of the public running in this debate has been undertaken by Republicans. It is however a mistake to think that many within the broad unionist community are not thinking their way through the necessity for reconciliation.
And I can report to this Ard Fheis that the process of National Reconciliation and reconstruction has commenced.
In recent months senior party members under the direction of the party Chairperson Declan Kearney have been involved in initial discussions with a range of civic unionism and protestant churches. It is my firm view that a foundation is being built slowly and steadily upon which we will as a community jointly move forward.
Indeed one very significant group of people that have been engaged with us over the past number of weeks have told us, and I quote:
“As a group of people from the Protestant and Unionist tradition we welcome this initiative which we believe is a genuine invitation to engage in dialogue. It will provide an opportunity to explore and seek to understand the concepts, principles and language of the statements of the National Chair of Sinn Féin and others. It will also provide the opportunity for those from our community to try to help Sinn Féin understand our concepts, principles and language. Further, we would wish to encourage the representatives of Sinn Fein to continue in their pursuit of this work with a wide range of political and community interests, and to encourage others to engage. We would wish them to know that we are keen to engage further on a range of issues as the initiative develops.”
This very positive response represents a further
crucial building block on the road of peace and reconciliation.
It is my view, backed I believe by plenty of evidence, including the lack of co-operation with the Saville, Barron and Smithwick Inquiries that the British government is not interested in a process which would deliver truth and reconciliation. This is in the main motivated by self interest. Put simply it does not suit Britain’s own strategic interests to face up to its role in Ireland.
However we cannot let the divisions fostered through the decades of conflict and the British government stalling on the issue of the past to hold back the potential that now exists to move forward politically and democratically to a new Republic.
In that context, we have a responsibility to reach out to unionists and to others to engage with them about the past and indeed even more importantly about the future.
A united Ireland will succeed with the input of all sections of our people. We seek an Ireland in which unionists would feel comfortable not just in being a part of but being in the leadership of.
I have said many times that it is possible for unionists and republicans to stand together without dilution of our beliefs. The Executive of which I have jointly led with Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson for the past five years is evidence of that.
I said in my Easter speech that in the discussions leading to re-unification we need to be imaginative and generous towards unionists. The ability to be generous to each other should be seen as a strength not a weakness. Passport rights, symbols and other issues of identity crucial to building a fully inclusive united Ireland respecting the traditions of all our people in all their diversity can be addressed.
And we need to remember at all times that dialogue isn’t a one way street. We also need to listen to what unionists say to us and indeed about us. That is the role of nation builders. That means always stretching ourselves and always taking risks to advance the task of building a new Ireland.
Ireland as a nation can only truly prosper if we are at peace with ourselves as a people. Having the confidence to build a new better relationship with Britain will also be important. It means overcoming the historic fracture between Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter. In the Ireland of 2012 it means building a pluralist, ethnically and culturally diverse society that embraces all our citizens.
In the year ahead I intend to deepen and expand my role to help lead the process of national reconciliation in Ireland. A process which is already underway. I hope to do this with your continuing support.
National reconciliation is a necessity for future constitutional change. It is work that we as Republicans need to energetically embrace.A peaceful and democratic path to a united Ireland is there. This party is utterly determined to drive forward along that road.
The first meeting of Dáil Éireann occurred on 21 January 1919 in the Round Room of theMansion House. This was after the election for Westminster in 1918 when all of Ireland was under the control of the British rule.
In that election Sinn Féin won 73 out of the 105 seats and once elected the Sinn Féin MPs chose to follow through with their manifesto commitment of abstention from the British Parliament and set up Dail Éireann.
Today Sinn Féin unlike most other parties continues to adhere to their election pledges and due to this the Sinn Féin popularity continues to grow.
The people in the North have returned 5 Sinn Féin MPs to represent them knowing fine well that we are an abstentionist party, but they have the confidence in us to deliver for them.
As an Irish republican I am proud to represent the people of west Belfast as their MP but I won’t be taking my seat there, I maybe absent from taking my seat in Westminster but I’m not absent from west Belfast.
The people who elected the Sinn Féin MP’s would much rather have them travel to Leinster House and have their views and concerns raised in the Dáil than rather travel to Westminster, and that’s why Sinn Féin is calling on the Government here to allowNorthern MPs representation in the Dáil.
So we are calling for the existing 18 Westminster MPs which may reduce to 16 to automatically be accorded membership of the Oireachtas.
I had the privilege to attend the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement Committee in Leinster House a few weeks ago and in attendance there was TD’s, MP’s, Senators along with Senator George Mitchell who paid us a visit and spoke about his role in the Peace Process here.
But the people who elect us want much more than this, they want full representation in the Dail for their MPs.
What we need is real political reform and we have called for representation for 6 county citizens in the Dail.
So from this Ard Fheis I am calling on the Irish Government to implement this.
Representation at the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement Committee is not and should not be a substitute for that.
What is the Irish Government afraid off?
Well let me tell them, they have nothing to be afraid off and that they owe it to all the citizens on this island to be represented at the Dail.
Would they expect someone elected by the people for Cork, Dublin, Donegal or any other of the 26 counties to travel to Westminster and swear an oath to a British Queen?
I suspect not, so why do they expect individuals elected by the people from West Belfast, Fermanagh Sth Tyrone, Mid Ulster, Newry and Armagh, West Tyrone or any other part of the 6 counties to do so.
Let’s send a clear message from Kilarney today comrades to Enda and co, that we are demanding representation in the Dail for the 18 MPs and we won’t be letting up until it is granted.
Most of us will be cheering on the Irish Football team at the European Championships next month.
The success of this team has been down to players from all over the island choosing to play for the Republic. Some have refused to play for the Northern team for one reason or another but they have been welcomed in to our national team and rightly so. And if Ireland do well Enda and Eamon will be there to welcome the team home and to congratulate them on their success (Northerners and all).So Enda and Eamon I refuse to play at Westminster and want to play in the Dail so come on, do the right thing and give our constituents and the people of Ireland the right to send their elected representatives to Leinster House and represent their views in a parliament that hopefully will act on their needs more so than the British parliament that has contributed to their hardship for generations.
The political system has failed the people of this State. Corruption and self-interest has deepened the divide between politics and the people. Decisions have not been made in the public interest. Citizens do not have a sense of ownership of their own State. Trust has broken down.
Despite plenty of promises in the run up to last year’s General Election it appears that the only political reform that the Fine Gael/ Labour government are interested in is reducing the number of elected representatives and the numbers of democratically elected bodies.
Breaking Fianna Fáil’s dominance in Irish politics was a good thing but Fine Gael and Labour in Government have failed to commit themselves to a real reform agenda. Salaries remain excessive. Jobs for the boys are still part of the course. Transparency is shied away from. The Executive is not properly accountable to the legislature. Committees need to get tougher. State bodies and local authorities are sheltered from scrutiny. Good governance is a catch phrase and not an objective.
It is time now for fundamental political reform. Trust must be rebuilt. Politics must be rehabilitated. We need to see public confidence in the political system restored. We need this Government to start walking the walk. Perhaps as a first step Enda Kenny could take a lead from Francoise Hollande and the disgracefully high salaries he and his cabinet pals continue to enjoy. There is no place in public life for excessive pay. It is quite simply impossible for a public representative to make decisions in the best interests of ordinary people if they cannot comprehend how difficult it is for those people to get by financially. Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour should follow Sinn Féin’s lead. Let them live on the average industrial wage. Then we will see things change.
We need electoral reform that increases the participation of citizens in the political process at all levels. Elections need to be held at weekends. Simplify voter registration by automatically registering voters as soon as they become eligible to vote using PPS numbers to avoid fraud. Reduce the voting age to 16. Voting rights in Presidential elections must be extended to citizens in the Six Counties. Partition has had a corrosive and deeply damaging impact on our politics, economy and society. We need to increase women’s participation in politics at every level.
We need an effective Dáil that holds the government to account. Amend the law to allow for the impeachment or removal from the Dáil any TD found guilty of corruption, deliberate misuse of public money or fraud. Make the Dáil more accessible to the public. Give all TDs the power to bring forward draft legislation for consideration by the committee of which they are a member.
Our Constitution needs reform. Truth be told it needs to be turned inside out. Fine Gael and Labour have promised us a Constitutional Convention. We are still waiting. This Convention must be fully inclusive in it composition which must be determined on an all-Ireland basis. It needs to guarantee economic and social rights. Politics must work towards an entirely new Constitution – a Constitution that serves as a cornerstone of a New Republic.
Most fundamentally of all – we need real local government reform. We actually need Local Government, not local administration which is basically what we currently have. Powers must be devolved to local, democratically elected councils. Decisions must be made as close to the communities who will be affected by them as possible.
Politics is about people. Our people deserve a decent, honest and fair political system.
Motions 1-8 are part of Sinn Féin’s debate to help achieve this.
May 25th, 2012
This Ard Fheis has heard much about the economy, and rightly so, as these are very tough times for many. Over the course of the last number of years, the Government in the south has taken much from ordinary people. However, as Oscar Wilde once stated, “Ordinary riches can be stolen from a man. Real riches cannot. In the treasury-house of your soul, there are infinitely precious things that may not be taken from you.”
The arts and our culture are among these infinitely precious things.
Tá saibhreas faoi leith againne sa tír seo inár gcultúr, agus tá clú agus cáil orainn ar fud na cruinne dá bharr. Ó Yeats go Glen Hansard, ó Beckett, go Murphy - Ó Cadhain, le Brocquy, Gleeson, Neeson agus na céadta eile ina measc. Tá ealaíontóirí den scoth tar éis teacht ón tír seo le fada, agus is í an chultúr ceann de na príomh cúiseanna a dtagann na mílte daoine anseo gach bliain ar chuairt.
Tá sé fíor-thábhachtach nach ndéanfaimid damáiste don ealaín Éireannach le ciorraithe gan ciall, gan reasún. Tá sé deacair luach a chur ar na healaíona, ach tá sé léirithe go saothraíonn an ealaíon i bhfad níos mó don Stát, idir féilte, taispeántais agus eile, ná a chaitear air.
The arts pay their way, and then more.
But what the arts contribute cannot be measured solely in monetary terms. Participation in the Arts has a holistic value all of its own. We see it in the sparkle in the eye of a child on a stage. Or, in the pride which a local community takes in their homegrown, cultural events. And in the myriad of ways ordinary people interact with the arts and artists.
Culture and the arts do not belong to an elite. They belong to us all. It is incumbent on us as republicans to ensure that funding mechanisms and resources reflect that reality, and that art and culture is easily accessible for every citizen.
May I take this opportunity to commend our Minister for Arts, Culture and Leisure in the Assembly, Caral Ní Chuilin, for her great work in all the areas for which she is responsible.
She faces significant challenges, in particular from political opponents hostile to the Irish language. She has however, proven herself to be equal to these challenges.
Treaslaím leis an scéim Líofa 2015 ach go háirithe, agus molaim í mar go bhfuil sí ag Gaelú aicme daoine, nár mealladh go dtí seo.
A chairde, tá mé cinnte gur thug sibh faoi deara, go bhfuilimd faoi láthair i mbun Gaelú an pháirtí. Is mór an sásamh a thugann sé dom eagrán faoi leith don Phoblacht - lán ghaelach - a fheiceáil timpeall na hArd Fheise, ócáidí imeallacha ag tarlú le linn na deireadh seachtaine, úsáid na Gaeilge ón árdán agus dár ndóigh Oifigeach Náisiúnta Gaeilge nuacheaptha ag an bpairtí, rud nach bhfuil ag aon phairtí eile sa tír, Liadh Ní Riada, agus í mbun a cuid oibre go cumasach, cáiréiseach. Tá go leor obair ar siúl, ag is féidir linn a rá go bhfuilimid mar an pháirtí is Gaelaí sa tír.
Ach, tá neart eile le deánamh againn, agus iarraim oraibh leanúint le bhur n-iarrachtaí nuair atá an deireadh seachtaine seo thart.
The language has made huge strides in recent times, as we see with Bernard Dunne’s Bród Club, and the positive census figures. Despite this, the Dublin Government seems laconic, indifferent, and worse - at times belligerent to the language.
The Twenty Year Language Strategy is taking on the status of a fiction classic, as the committees tasked with its delivery talk, but don’t act, and objective after objective falls unachieved. The goodwill of all political parties and of the language community is being tested.
Tá an Rialtas tar éis díriú ar neamhspleáchas an Choimisinéir Teanga a bhaint uaidh, in aineoinn an obair den scoth atá dhá dheánamh aige, ar bhealach trédhearcach, agus éifeachtach. Tá an cinneadh seo dhá dheánamh in aineoinn nach bhfuil bhfuil pingin le sábhail as an gcur chuige seo. Agus tá an Roinn Oideachas freisin ag déanamh scrios ar an oideachas tré Ghaeilge.
Taimid faoi láthair ag fanacht ar an mBille nua Gaeltachta, ach tuigtear dhúinn go cuirfear deireadh le toghadh Bhord an Údaráis an, rud a bhainfeadh de dhaonlathas na heagraíochta. Tá moltaí dearfacha déanta againne áfach, maidir le hathbhreithniú ar an Samhail Nua Maoinithe do na heagrais Ghaeilge.
The Government pays a lot of lip service to our national language. As Republicans, we are committed to challenging the Government, and to ensuring that they do not renege on their duty to the Irish people.
Tá an Ghaeilge tábhachtach don phobal agus tá an phobal tábhachtach don Ghaeilge Caithfear sin a neartú agus a bhuanú do na glunta atá romhainn agus beidh Sinn Féin i lár an aonaigh sin.
May 25th, 2012
Not far from here at Ballyseedy Cross on 6 March 1923, 8 republican prisoners were horrifically killed after being tied to a mine by Free State forces.
The previous day at Knocknagoshel 5 Free State soldiers were killed in an IRA attack.
The day after Ballyseedy 4 more republican prisoners were executed in similar circumstances here in Killarney, and on 12 March, another 5 republican prisoners were again tied to, and killed by a landmine in Cahirciveen by the Free State.
That month in Kerry is a stark reminder of the terrible suffering inflicted throughout our civil war.
However, nothing was done in its aftermath to reconcile the seismic hurts caused.
No reconciliation was put in place in this state to try and heal the human effects of that conflict.
The divisions created became trans generational. They blighted Irish society for 9 decades.
We should learn from our history, and avoid the past repeating itself.
The end to our recent political conflict has given way to peace and political progress.
We are right to be satisfied, but have no right to be complacent.
The war caused huge pain for republicans, unionists, and all our people, north and south.
Sinn Fein recognises that pain and hurt remain to be addressed among our people, and we are committed to developing an authentic reconciliation process to do that.
We believe it is possible to open a new phase in our peace process, facilitating dialogue on how all hurts can be acknowledged, reduced and if possible healed.
There is a political and moral responsibility on us to work collectively and create the best circumstances for our children to grow up in a better Ireland than we did.
We are republicans in the tradition of Tone and McCracken, dedicated to a united Ireland, and unity of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter.
An Ireland at peace with itself is a pre requisite to achieving an Ireland of Equals.
As agents of change we believe the peace process can be powerfully advanced through reconciliation, supported by economic and social rights and opportunities for every citizen.
Republicans have been central to achieving peace.
We believe now is a time to begin forging new relationships, among and between our diverse communities, north and south; a time to make new friendships; and, a time to begin authoring a new future for our children.
That needs a shared commitment from us all to begin understanding and knowing each other better, based upon our common humanity and increased mutual respect.
In recent months, I and Martin Mc Guinness have publicly encouraged dialogue in which, we listen to each other unconditionally; language is humanised; and, all voices are heard, north and south; republican, unionist, nationalist and loyalist.
Since then citizens from the Protestant and unionist community have welcomed this as a genuine initiative.
A range of Protestant and unionist people have been engaged privately with myself and other Party colleagues to explore our respective concepts, principles and language. They have come from within Protestant churches, loyalism, business, community and civic life.
In those meetings I have outlined our vision of an authentic reconciliation process.
These have been important discussions, and we are inspired by the encouragement expressed for the leadership shown by Sinn Fein.
Our Party wants to build on this challenging work and promote dialogue across all sections of Irish society.
Through listening, persuasion, and a willingness to be persuaded, republicans are pledged to try and heal our divisions.
This evening I particularly urge political unionism to help us develop that dialogue. Unionist leaders have an important contribution to make.
Conversations such as these – no matter how uncomfortable – are key to reconciliation.
Republicans and unionists must become partners and leaders in reconciliation.
Visionary leadership from all parties is required.
No section of our people has anything to fear from reconciliation, equality and the protection of citizens’ rights.
The prize is greater than any sectional interest. We will all need courage and compassion to bring it about: but the possibilities far outweigh the risks involved.
The peace process has been a transformational journey for us all. Reconciliation and trust are its next phase.
More imagination and compromises will be necessary.
But this is the road to a new republic.
The heavy lifting of the peace process is finished.
Now is the time for the big thinking to begin, about Ireland’s future, and how we cherish and celebrate all our people and diverse traditions.
The unification of our island as a sovereign Republic remains at the heart of our project. We are confident that aim is shared by the majority of the Irish people, and we are confident that will achieve that objective.
We are also conscious that we need to act as persuaders for a United Ireland and that is why we are engaged in a wide ranging outreach to people in all sections of our community including within the Unionist community.
That work is ongoing and I would like to pay tribute to the vital role within all of that of Lucilita Breathnach and others.
As part of that work we have organised conferences on a range of issues. Central to that is to demonstrate that the unification of the country is not some esoteric or mystical pursuit but that it is a practical and indeed realistic objective.
Many people indeed, who do not share our republican commitment to achieving unity, are persuaded by the practical aspects of the question.
It is not only ludicrous across so many sectors of Irish life that we have duplicate organisations and networks but it actually costly in terms of lost opportunities. To that end we have already produced research showing the economic and financial benefits of organising the economy and public services on an all Ireland basis.
We need to develop that further and to draw in a wider and wider range of people with expertise in different areas and who can assist in framing the policies and frameworks for best utilising our resources on an All Ireland basis.
We are also of course a campaigning party and a party to whom increasing numbers of our people look to for a lead in their own struggles against the current economic and political order.
And while there are differences between the two jurisdictions there are many areas where mutual co-operation between communities can be most effective in achieving outcomes for those communities.
A current case in point is the campaign to ensure that the gas that lies under several of the border counties in the Lough Allen Basin is not extracted through the process known as fracking. Our party representatives on both sides of the border; in Stormont and in Leinster House and on local authorities have been to the fore on this. We also need of course to highlight the wider issues of ownership and taxation of the gas itself.
All of this and other ley issues must be faced on an All Ireland basis with the practical aim of implementing our policies within a 32 county administration in the not too distant future.
I look forward to listening to the debate.
Fraternal greetings to our friends and comrades from home and abroad and welcome to this year’s Ard Fhéis in beautiful Killarney from Sinn Fein’s Office of Foreign Affairs and our international department.
Tá failte roimhe, Karibu sana, Bienvenido, Ongi Etorri, agus Salaama waku.
I have been given three minutes to impress upon you the vision that drives Sinn Fein’s international agenda. So, I think the best way to do this is to quote from our party’s recent submission to the Government’s White Paper on Development Aid.
“Sinn Fein’s primary goal, in all our dealings with the international community, is to keep Ireland at the heart of global justice.”
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 states:
The ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedoms and freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his civil and political rights, as well as his economic, social and cultural rights.
These are fine words. And Sinn Féin believes that such fine words need to be turned into action – now. States do not confer human rights. Law does not confer human rights. Humanity alone confers the right to freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. But the indivisible relationship between political and civil rights, and economic, social and cultural rights cannot be ignored – and the effective mainstreaming of these human rights must become the thread that runs through all our work in foreign policy.
To that effect, Sinn Fein’s Foreign Affairs Department has been very busy over this past year. We have championed the human rights of peoples from Sri Lanka to Colombia and from Peru to Bahrain and we have actively supported Ireland’s overseas aid programme. I can personally report on the real positive impact of that programme following a visit to Ethiopia last November.
Both nationally and internationally, Sinn Fein’s Foreign Affairs Department has been working to halt the spread of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and to advance the rights of the Palestinian people to a Palestinian state.
This Ard Fhéis again extends solidarity greetings to all of our brothers and sisters across the Arab world, fighting for freedom, justice and democracy. The spirit of the Arab Spring is still burning bright.
Finally, we can never forget our friends and comrades in the Basque Country who have been our staunch allies through all our years of struggle, as we continue to support them to achieve their rightful objectives.
Sinn Féin will continue to address these issues and advance the cause of besieged people wherever we find them. And whenever these people find us.
In a few days’ time the people of this state will be asked to vote on a treaty which will bring an extra 8 billion euro in cuts on top of what we have already suffered because of the failure of the previous and current government and the EU itself to rein in casino capitalism.
Only the Irish citizens who happen to live in the 26 counties have the opportunity to express their democratic view on the Austerity Treaty which to quote Chancellor Merkel is “permanent and binding forever”. There are 500 million people in the EU but only the 5 million who happen to be Irish citizens living in this part of Ireland get to have a say! It seems that is democracy EU-style in this day and age.
It is easy to feel powerless as the forces of austerity in this government and across Europe would wish us to feel but there should be hope. The Greek people have said enough is enough and have thrown out the cheerleaders of austerity in their country. The reaction has been predictable- a tidal wave of threats and interference in their democratic procedures. In France, Germany and Italy there has been a swing against austerity-mongers and towards more realistic policies. We can join in this movement and help put a nail in the failed policy of austerity.
What this treaty also does in erode Irish sovereignty in a very real way. It is nearly 100 years ago that the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army took up arms to establish the rights of the Irish people to the ownership of Ireland. What they fought for was the right of then Irish people to choose for themselves their own path- the “unfettered control of their own destinies”.
Sinn Fein is committed to fighting to the last day and working with all progressive forces to ensure that this austerity treaty will not damn us to a generation of cuts and a generation of Irish people to forced emigration to keep unemployment figures down.
Fundamentally, and in a very explicit way, this Treaty surrenders Irish sovereignty in return for absolutely nothing. No Irish Republican could support this and nobody who claims to be heirs of James Connolly could accept this.
Sinn Féin’s core objectives of promoting equality and building a united Ireland dictate all my work as Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure in the six counties. That is evident through a range of political strategies Sinn Féin is driving in relation to the Irish language, the major capital spend on new sports stadia, and the development of a positive and effective approach to the decade of centenaries now upon us.
Take the Liofa campaign which is increasing the inclusiveness and spreading the cultural richness of the Irish language. I was deeply proud to launch Liofa last September, with a target of generating 2015 fluent Irish speakers in the next three years.
Nine months on, over 1900 have already signed up and the campaign is spreading by the day. People from every walk of life have committed themselves to Liofa: from PSNI officers to GAA members; from DUP politicians to republican ex-prisoners; from those who have lost their fluency, to those who never had it. Young and old; from every background: in every area.
It is a campaign which I have launched throughout the north, and the appetite and enthusiasm for Liofa is inspiring. Mar shampla, tá mé ag foghlaim arís agus ag freastal ar mo rang gaeilge gach seachtain. Ma bhfuil mise abalta é a dhéanamh, thig le gach duine é a dhéanamh!
Those principles of equality and inclusiveness for the Irish language, are also at the heart of the new stadia programme I am directing. Costing over £110m, the three new sports stadia for gaelic, soccer and rugby represent one of the biggest capital projects that the Executive is bringing forward in the current term.
Sinn Féin as a party, and I as a republican activist and Minister of Sport, see the stadia programme as a major responsibility. But it is not just about bricks and mortar, or pounds and pence. It is about people and places, especially the most deprived and objectively needy in the six counties.
I have made it my Ministerial priority to ensure that effective contract clauses and equality policy mechanisms will be built into the development of the three stadia. The purpose of these initiatives will be to target sustainable employment and sustainable apprenticeships at the most objectively needy sectors of society, and at the same time ensure that local deprived communities in the vicinity of the new stadia gain maximum involvement and outcomes through wider social and economic returns.
This isn’t just about building new stadia: it’s about building a future for the most systematically deprived communities in the north. And while we are building that practical future, we also have to build a political future in which equality, inclusiveness, self-determination and respect for difference are at the heart.
That is why Sinn Féin will ensure that the current decade of centenaries into which we face will be commemorated and celebrated on the basis of those core republican values. That means Irish republicans being open to learning, understanding and appreciating the common history of this island in ways that we might never previously have considered.
It means unionists starting to engage with the republican reality that partition and the Orange state was bad for everyone on the island, because it allowed the British connection at Westminster to once more divide Irish people on the basis of a regime of malign apartheid and structured discrimination.
And it means that some politicians in the 26 counties who commemorate major IRA actions of one hundred years ago whilst at the same time facilitating modern illegal wars in the Middle-East through Shannon airport, should catch themselves on and finally accept that modern Irish republicanism – led by Sinn Féin – is truly delivering for the people and for the future.
Go raibh mile maith agaoibh.