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.