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Those who believe in Irish unity must reach out to unionists — Anderson

17 June, 2012


Addressing Sinn Féin’s annual Wolfe Tone Commemoration in Bodenstown, County Kildare, MEP Martina Anderson said the result of the recent referendum was “more the fear of the people than the will of the people”.

She said that while the Government said the Treaty would mean jobs, investment and less harsh budgets, it is already clear that German Government and others interpreted the result as an endorsement of austerity policies, adding that Fine Gael and Labour had failed to stand up for Ireland’s national interests.

Anderson told the large crowd gathered at the graveside of Wolfe Tone that Sinn Féin is working for the peaceful coming together of all the people in Ireland and that those who believe in Irish unity must reach out to unionists and engage them “in the all-important discussions around the nature and form of future structures on this island”.

The Derry native who recently replaced Bairbe de Brún as MEP for the Six Counties said a genuine national reconciliation process crucially involved increased understanding of those from the unionist tradition and Sinn Féin acknowledged and respected the attachment many unionists have to symbols and institutions such as the English Royal family.

“The United Ireland we seek to create is pluralist, where all the elements of the Irish nation are comfortable, secure and can find the fullest expression of their identity, including those Irish people who wish also to express a British identity”, she said.

Real reconciliation also meant dealing with the legacy of conflict and that this would “challenge everyone —Republicans, Unionists and Governments in London and Dublin. But it is essential if we are to move from conflict resolution to a New Republic”, Anderson said.

ENDS

Martina Anderson MEP

Address to:

Sinn Fein Wolfe Tone Commemoration,

Bodenstown,

County Kildare

17th June 2012

Check against delivery

A Chairde.

We stand at the graveside of Theobald Wolfe Tone, the father of Irish republicanism and the leader of the United Irish Society.

Two hundred and fourteen years ago the United Irishmen launched a rebellion against British rule to establish an independent Irish republic based on the principles of equality for all.

Today, we honour the principles for which Tone gave his life; the men and women of 1798, and each subsequent generation of Irish republicans who struggled for those objectives.

The next decade will witness the 100th anniversary of seminal events in our history. The centenary of women's suffrage action in Ireland must be an important part of centenary commemorations.

100 years ago this month, the campaign of Irish women for full citizenship was stepped up. The campaign saw the first instance of hunger strike protests and force-feeding in Ireland. Many women involved in the campaign went on to play leading roles in the 1913 Lockout and the 1916 Rising. Significantly and appropriately, the 1916 Proclamation addresses itself to Irishmen and Irishwomen.

By the time of the 1918 General Election women had won the right to vote and helped to elect the First Dáil Eireann, which sought to implement the principles of Republicanism.

However Partition created a sectarian, one-party state in the North and a conservative state in the South dominated by corrupt political and business elites.

Both were the antithesis of the vision of Tone, and of the 1916 leaders. Their vision, Sinn Féin’s vision, of a genuine republic governed in the interests of its citizens, is shared by a growing number of Irish people.

Today, people across this state are suffering. Hundreds of thousands are unemployed, struggling to survive and young people are flooding out of the country to Australia, Canada and elsewhere.

This is the result of the failed policies of the previous Fianna Fáil-led administration and their successors in Fine Gael and Labour, implementing failed austerity policies written for them by their political masters in the EU and IMF.

Across Ireland, North and South, Sinn Féin is leading the political fight-back against austerity and in defence of Irish self-determination and sovereignty.

We are the leading voice of opposition in the South - advocating an alternative to the disastrous policy of making ordinary people pay for the crimes of bankers, developers, politicians and those financial vampires who sucked the lifeblood from our economy.

Sinn Féin seeks a society and an economy run democratically in the interests of Irish people.

In the North we have led the resistance to Tory cuts and worked to offset their effects on the most vulnerable. The Executive has prioritised frontline services, protecting those on lowest incomes and communities subject to decades of economic discrimination.

As we fight for the transfer of fiscal powers to the North, Fine Gael and Labour are surrendering to Brussels and Frankfurt what remains of this state’s economic sovereignty.

I want to acknowledge the work done by Sinn Féin activists in the campaign against the Austerity Treaty.

Sinn Féin TD Liam Mellows in 1922, speaking about another treaty which then, like now, sold Ireland short said:

“The people who are in favour of the Treaty, are not in favour of the Treaty on its merits, but are in favour of the Treaty because they fear what is to happen if it be rejected. That is not the will of the people - that is the fear of the people.”

Government scaremongering throughout the referendum campaign, the strong ‘No’ vote and the reluctance of a section of the ‘Yes’ vote all showed that the result was once again more the fear of the people than the will of the people.

The Government said this Treaty would mean jobs, investment and less harsh budgets. But it is already clear that they sold the people a pig in a poke. The German Government and others in Europe have since gone on record to say they interpret the ‘Yes’ Vote as an endorsement of EU austerity policies.

Labour and Fine Gael have failed to stand up for Ireland’s national interests and have failed our people.

As you know I have recently taken up the position of Sinn Féin MEP for the Six Counties. I want to pay tribute to our outgoing MEP Bairbre de Brún.

Over 30 years in the leadership of Sinn Féin, Bairbre served diligently in a variety of roles. She remains a senior figure in Sinn Féin and on behalf of everyone here I want to thank her and look forward to working with her in the future.

Bairbre was part of the SF leadership that was central the transformation of the North.

The Orange State that led to so much conflict and suffering is gone. We are confronting the damaging elements of sectarianism that remains across and within class boundaries.

Sinn Féin is working for the peaceful coming together of all the people on this island.

We are driving an equality agenda through government and, working with the representatives of Unionism, we are transforming a society emerging from conflict to a future based on partnership and equality.

Uniting Ireland is not just a noble aspiration. It makes social, political and economic sense.

Those who believe in Irish unity must reach out to unionists and to engage with them about the future of this island that we share.

In the Good Friday Agreement, the British Government repealed the Government of Ireland Act and agreed to legislate if a majority in the North want Ireland united.

As followers of Tone we believe in the unity of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter.

We do not believe that a United Ireland and a New Republic can be built without the involvement of the Unionist community.

In that context we must all engage in the all-important discussions around the nature and form of future structures on this island.

Currently Unionists remain isolated on the margins of the British political system where they make up less than 2% of the population.

In a united Ireland unionists would make up 20% of the population and exercise real authority, power and influence – as opposed to being bit players in the House of Commons.

Shaping a genuine national reconciliation process crucially involves increased understanding, respect and reaching out to those from the unionist tradition.

Let me state very clearly that Sinn Féin fully acknowledges the attachment that many within the unionist section of Irish society have to a sense of Britishness and to symbols and institutions such as the English Royal family – and we respect that.

The United Ireland we seek to create is pluralist, where all the elements of the Irish nation are comfortable, secure and can find the fullest expression of their identity, including those Irish people who wish also to express a British identity.

Real reconciliation on this Island also means dealing with the legacy of conflict. That will challenge everyone —Republicans, Unionists and Governments in London and Dublin. But it is essential if we are to move from conflict resolution to a New Republic.

Sinn Féin is a party of the future.

We are expanding our party and leadership team throughout Ireland. The announcement last week at Stormont, of an end to double jobbing is an important component of that. It will see four new MLAs in addition to four fulltime MPs in each constituency.

Unlike others who disappear to Westminster, Pat, Michelle, Conor and Paul will not be disappearing. That will be evident in the workload which builds around them in the coming period. They are all significant political figures in our leadership and will continue to be so.

They will take the lead in the Uniting Ireland project in both Britain and Internationally and drive party building efforts throughout the 32 counties.

We are building the Ireland of the future. But we need the help of everyone — young and old, male and female, rural and urban, North and South.

Sinn Féin’s message is being heard by ever-greater numbers of people. There are more republicans now than at any time since 1919. We want more people to become politically active, to use their potential constructively as part of a movement to change Ireland.

Sinn Féin seeks to change Ireland for the better. Young people need to be part of achieving that change. Sinn Fein is waiting for you. We want your ideas and your energy. We want you to join Sinn Féin

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