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Keynote Address from Mary Lou McDonald T.D. to Sinn Féin Ard Fheis 2014

7 February, 2014 - by Mary Lou McDonald TD


Rarely a day goes by without a member of this government congratulating itself on the success of its reform agenda.

They look back, full of outrage, to the bad old days, to a corrupt past and commend themselves for their reforming zeal.

They’d do well to remember as the saying goes that self praise is no praise. They’d do well to realise that their windy rhetoric fools nobody.

Despite everything that has happened – the economic collapse, the failure of politics and the profound social damage that resulted; the root and branch reform promised by Labour and Fine Gael in the last general election has not been delivered.

Their revolutionary commitment to democratic reform ended once the votes were counted. But then, that’s what happens in elections according to Minister Rabbitte.

In truth this government is no different to the last.

Some are still more equal than others.

Public sector pay cuts unless you are a government special advisor.

A ban on recruitment for public and services set aside for public relations personnel in the department of the Taoiseach.

The government ministers are special and, in their own minds at any rate , the rules that apply to others can be set aside.

It’s that same sense of entitlement that defined the actions of a small few senior executives and the board of the Central Remedial Clinic. 

The CEO sailed off into the sunset with a package worth almost three quarters of a million euro. He was special too.

People donated generously to the CRC because they support the provision of services to people with disabilities. People who’ve seen medical cards taken from their own sick children, people refused grants to adapt their homes for their loved ones, people who count every cent to meet their bills. These are the people who put money in collection buckets for good causes. Decent people.

They are the same people who have been taxed and had their services cut to pay for the crisis caused by the entitled classes;

Over the last number of months those same people discovered that not even their charitable donations are safe from the entitled classes.

The CRC was not the only one to have huge salaries and top ups and big pensions for the great and the good. 

There is a long overdue need for rigorous regulation of the charity sector. The sector has long called for this. The required legislation has been on the books since 2009 but has not been activated. And yet despite the public outcry this government is lukewarm in addressing the issue. The reforming government voted down a Sinn Féin motion calling for full activation and enforcement of the 2009 legislation. Figure that one out!

This Government doesn’t challenge wrongdoing.

This Government, like so many before,  has to be dragged kicking and screaming into doing the right thing – whether it is apologising to Louise O’Keefe, or  to the women of the Magdalene Laundries – it is always an international  judgement or a public outcry that is too loud to ignore that forces the Government’s hand.

They haven’t yet felt the need to acknowledge the survivors of the Bethany Home, or those who went through the Mother and Baby homes or those who were illegally adopted.

They haven’t acknowledged these citizens because they haven’t yet been forced to.

Not yet.

Scandal is what marks this Government.

 

The scandal of a Health Minister, James Reilly, influencing where primary health care centres will be built.

The scandal of Phil Hogan, claiming he has no knowledge of how Irish Water spent €85 million of tax payers money. Phil, the Bart Simpson of Irish politics, with his constant refrain of  ‘it wasn’t me’.

 

And then there is Minister Alan Shatter.  

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence.

I wonder does the Minister know that equality is part of his job description.

 

I wonder if he considered the values of justice and equality in his handling of the Garda penalty points debacle.

 

The minister, in the weeks leading up to his own Government’s whistleblower legislation, attempted  to undermine the work of the Public Accounts Committee. He failed.

 

Having rubbished the two Garda whistleblowers who had stepped forward the minister finally accepted this week in the Dáil that the whistleblowing system in An Garda Síochána does not work.  

 

I hope the minister now accepts that vilifying and discrediting whistleblowers in the Gardaí or anywhere else is not part of his brief.

 

This Government has decimated its own election promises and failed the Irish people at home and abroad.

 

Remember Enda Kenny, a simpering Enda with an international audiencein Davos, telling all the world that the economy crashed because ‘we all went mad borrowing’?

Or Gilmore, telling us he was going to Europe to bring back a bank deal for Ireland?  No sign of that materialising.

 

I wonder have the lads put it up to the Eurocrats in the same way the put it up to the old, the sick and he vulnerable here at home?

 

Good Governments stand up for their citizens – at home and abroad.

Our Government is on its knees before it leaves Dublin airport.

 

Fine Gael and Labour are no better than Fianna Fáil. They put themselves and their friends first.

 

Our theme at this year’s Ard Fheis – Putting Ireland First – neatly summarises the challenge for Irish politics and politics and politicians at this time.

 

It is also our pledge to the Irish people.

Sinn Féin is in nobody’s pocket.

We are not afraid to ask the hard questions.

We are not afraid to stand up.

There is no TD, no Minister, no Taoiseach, no State board director, no public servant and no State-funded bank manager who is not accountable to the citizens of this State.

It is time for a change in direction.

It is time for a Government that stands up for its citizens, at home and abroad.

It is time to put Ireland first and Sinn Féin is the party who will do that.

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