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Gerry Adams Presidential Address to Sinn Féin Ard Fheis 2014

8 February, 2014 - by Gerry Adams TD


A chairde,

Tá failte romhaibh uilig chuig Ard Fheis Shinn Féin.

A special Céad Míle Fáilte to Friends of Sinn Féin from the USA, Canada and Australia; to our comrades from South Africa, Palestine, Cuba, the Basque country, Britain and to all our foreign dignitaries.

Ta mé an-sásta a bheith anseo i Loch Garman.

Áit in ar chruthaigh saoránaigh éirí amach seacht déag nócha a hocht a phoblacht féin. Loch Garman de Éirí Amach naoi déag sé déag. Loch Garman, áit dúchais an t-óglach Ed O’Brien.

Le stair chomh saibhir le sin tá Sinn Féin an-sásta a bheith anseo do ár Ard Fheis.

I want to send solidarity greetings to the family of Sinn Fein Councillor, John Davey, who was killed by British forces 25 years ago next Friday.

We also remember our friend Fr Alec Reid the chaplain to the Peace Process, who has passed away since we last met.

I also want to send greetings to John Downey, currently exiled in London and to the other OTRs.

A welcome to the Ballymurphy massacre campaign and other campaigns. Solidarity also, to the family of Pat Finucane and to all other victims of the conflict.

Remember, back in the day, when Fine Gael and Labour promised to govern differently from Fianna Fail?

They promised to transform political culture and to end cronyism.  They promised a Strategic Investment Bank.  The end of upward only rents.  They said they would not cut child benefit.  They said they would not cut supports for those citizens with disabilities.

What have they delivered?

Cuts to living standards and vital public services.  An unsustainable banking debt for decades to come.  Cuts to supports for people with disabilities.  Unemployment at 12.4%, with 179,000 long-term unemployed.  Ten people emigrating every hour.  Rural Ireland under attack, with the closure of Garda stations, post offices and schools.  140,000 householders in Mortgage distress.

And homelessness on the increase.  A health service that is crumbling.  A Family Home Tax.  Water Charges which go straight into the pockets of consultants.

No strategic plan for flood defences.  Or adequate financial aid for householders who can’t get insurance because of where they live.

That’s Labour’s way.  That’s Fine Gael’s way.

Aithníonn ciaróg ciaróg eile. 

Lots of money for consultants, investors, bankers and politicians but little for disabled children.

Most citizens do understand that difficult choices must be made.  But what they resent is the unfair way this is being done.

Tá a fhios ag daoine go bhfuil bealach eile ann. Bealach níos fearr. Bealach atá bunaithe ar chomhionannas.

Instead, our society has become increasingly polarized between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, ruled over by a Government which is increasingly arrogant.

The arrogance that dismisses concerns about Fracking.  The arrogance that breaches pay caps for Ministerial advisors but cuts the Carer’s Allowance, Home-Help hours and hikes up prescription charges.  The arrogance that ignores community health concerns at the construction of Pylons.

And does Pat Rabbitte really believe that the people will be fooled by a meaningless pre-election promise?

An ceapann an rialtas go bhfuil siad ag cuir an dallamullóg ar an pobal?

Let me be very clear. Sinn Fein will not make election promises that we cannot keep and Sinn Fein will keep every commitment that we make. 

That’s a real democratic revolution.

Today, this day, 240 people have left Ireland.  That is 240 devastated families.

Enda Kenny, our Taoiseach insults all of these families when he dismisses this as the desire of young people to travel.

Tá na daoine óga seo ag imirt peile, camógaíochta, agus iomanaíochta, san Astráil, i gCeanada, sna Stáit Aontaithe, i  Sasana, agus in áiteanna eile ar fud an domhain.

For some parents, all their children have left. They are the Skype generation, the scattering — given a final push out of the country by targeted dole cuts and the exploitation of Jobsbridge.

These 400,000 people and their families know exactly who is responsible for their forced emigration.

That’s why there is no Government Taskforce on emigration.  That’s why there is no vote for the diaspora that would give them a stake in our country.

Gan aon obair anseo, ní bheidh daoine óga ábalta fanacht. Tá siad fágtha gan mórán dóchas, agus gan aon rogha eile ach bogadh thar sáille.

But jobs can and should be created. That’s how we will bring our young people home.  And Sinn Fein wants our young people back here in Ireland where they belong.

Sinn Féin also firmly stands for a national public health service.  This state’s two-tier health service is at breaking point.

We oppose cuts to the health budget and support all those who are making a stand.

Like communities where the absence of a proper ambulance service is the difference between life and death.  Like patients waiting years for procedures because there aren’t enough nurses and doctors to cope with the demand.  Like the children waiting for cochlear implants or medical cards.

Is í an tír seo, an tír beag is measa atá ann chun a bheith tinn nó a bheith faoi mhíchumas.

James Reilly is letting patients and their families down.

Now, the Taoiseach may be tempted to move James Reilly in his Cabinet reshuffle.  But that’s not good enough Enda.  Minister Reilly has to go. But this Government has to go with him.

The Government is not just failing on the economy or public services.

Look at what it is doing to the Irish language, to the future of the Gaeltacht, to the rights of Irish speakers and the very survival of our native language.

The resignation of Coimisinéir Teanga Seán Ó Cuirreáin over the failure to provide services through Irish is a damning indictment of Fine Gael and Labour.

Look at what it is doing to the arts.

The arts, despite all their potential and contribution to society and the economy, are struggling in the face of substantial cuts and little commitment to their development.

The debacle over the Limerick City of Culture highlights this.

The arts are an easy target. But this is shortsighted.

The renowned artist Robert Ballagh has said that this Government is one of the worst for the arts in the history of this State. Robert Ballagh is right.  A community without a thriving arts and cultural life, is not a community at all.

The arts must be valued, promoted and their potential built upon because they enrich the lives of citizens, encourage social good and lift the spirits.

Many of the problems that Ireland faces today are a direct result of a toxic political culture, which arose from the counter-revolution that followed the 1916 Rising and the Tan war.

The counter-revolutionaries who succeeded Michael Collins, like their contemporaries in the North, copper-fastened Partition and the two conservative states, which it created.

In this part of Ireland this toxic political culture led to the abuses of power in planning, in the banks, in Church and State-run institutions, and in the health service.

An elite — politically represented by the Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil leaderships, often supported by the Labour Party – oversaw a culture of corruption and golden circles.

These are the same interests that collapsed the Irish economy six years ago.

This corrupt political culture led to scandals such as symphysiotomy, the Neary scandal, the Magadalene laundries, Bethany Home, and to cases like Louise O’Keefe — pursued all the way to Europe by this state, which also intimidated other victims to drop their court cases.

The same culture led to other scandals in CRC, Irish Water –Uisce Eireann, and Rehab.

Sinn Féin is committed to taking on this toxic culture.  That is what all our TDs, Senators, MPs, MLAs, MEP Councillors — all Sinn Féin activists do, every day.  That is what Mary Lou is doing on the Public Accounts Committee.

Being in government is about making choices.

In the Northern Executive Sinn Fein chose not to impose water charges – this government made a different choice.

Sinn Fein invested millions in new school builds and in capital projects.

We chose to protect payments to young people in education and refused to raise student fees or to impose prescription charges.

There are countless other examples of difficult but positive choices Sinn Féin in Government is making, even without the necessary fiscal powers.

So, don’t be fooled by Fine Gael, Labour or Fianna Fáil who claim they do not have any choice in the decisions they make.

Martin McGuinness and our team of Ministers have shown what is possible with real political leadership.

Rinneadh neart dul cun cinn le linn an próiséas a bhí faoi stiriú ag Richard Haass agus Meghan O’Sullivan i Mí na Nollaig.

Ghlac Sinn Féin leis na tograí. 

Let’s be clear. Issues like Acht Na Gaeilge, a Bill of Rights and the Long Kesh site, are not going away. Let us also be clear. These issues will be resolved. So too will issues of identity and contentious Orange parades.

While there may be obstacles, be sure of one thing — change will not be stopped.

I am happy to meet with the Orange Order at any time to discuss these matters.  I want to see the Orange Order treating its Catholic neighbours with respect. I want to see it treated with respect.  I want to see it upholding law and order.  Orange is one of our country’s national colours.  The Orange Order of Ireland is one of our national traditions.

And Sinn Féin wants all our traditions freed up from sectarianism from any quarter, to live together in peace and respect and with tolerance from everyone for everyone.

The tide of history is with those who seek to build a peaceful and inclusive future.  And Ireland, north and south, is changing.

Ach beidh orainn obair go crua don Éireann nua seo.

Sinn Féin is a united Ireland party. Other have a different view but a 'Border Poll' or referendum on Irish unity threatens nobody and gives all citizens their say on the future.

Isn’t it a very limited ambition that looks to a British Government to rule any part of Ireland – even in a semi-detached way? Surely we have the right to govern ourselves – all of us?

Why would any democrat refuse to let the people have their say on this?  Are they afraid of the people, afraid of the future or afraid of democracy?  As Ian Paisley told Martin McGuinness – We don’t need any English Minster to rule us.

This Ard Fheis has discussed proposals to protect and promote the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender citizens.  Equality is for everyone, and that must include LGBT citizens.  And Homophobia, whether in Russia or in Ireland must be rejected.

This Ard Fheis has also discussed policy proposals to protect and promote the rights of workers. 

We have discussed other proposals aimed at bringing the political system in this state into the 21st Century.

Ba mhaith le daoine áit atá bunaithe ar ceartas sóisialta, an pobal agus comhionannas.

If we are serious about changing this country, the Left needs to come together around viable alternative policies and take on the conservative establishment, who brought the economy to its knees and created the toxic culture that we are trying to break free from.

The conservatives, the right wingers consistently unite around their issues.

Those of us who have a different vision - a progressive, rights-based vision must do the same.

Last October, Sinn Féin put forward budgetary proposals based on fairness. These would have reduced the deficit, reduced tax on families, protected public services and invested in jobs.

Real change means tackling low pay and zero hours contracts.

It means, prioritising job creationabolishing the Local Property Taxand improving vital public services.

It means tackling excessive wages at the top of the public sector and the wages of TDs and Ministers.

But there is a lot to be hopeful about.

One party rule in the North has gone and two-and-a-half party rule in this state is going also.

However well they regroup, Fianna Fail will never,  ever again be the dominant force they once were.

Sinn Féin is now a major player in both states on this island with policies, objectives, and an expanding organization which transcends partition.

Táimid ag éirí i bhfad níos láidre. Mar sin tá an Bhunaíocht ag déanamh ionsaí orainn. Ach tá teachtaireacht againn do na elites. Tá Sinn Féin anseo agus níl muid ag dul áit ar bith, ach ar aghaidh.

In May, in European and Local Government elections north and south, you can play your part.

For the first time ever, every voter, in every county council on the island will have the opportunity to vote for Sinn Féin. In this centenary year of Cumann na mBan, Sinn Féin is running more women candidates than ever before.

And may I salute Councillor Catherine Seely who is standing up for women, and Sinn Fein against sectarian bigots.

There will be over 350 republican candidates across Ireland.

Each is a committed voice for their community, putting the people’s interests at the heart of local government.

In the coming weeks our party will launch proposals to radically reshape and improve local authorities.

Just remember successive governments here, including this one, have centralised power and emasculated local democracy.

I want to commend and thank the hundreds of Sinn Féin local representatives who have done sterling work at local level for decades.

Táimid buíoch daoibhse go léir.

Our EU candidates – MEP Martina Anderson in the North, Matt Carthy in the Midlands North West, Lynn Boylan in Dublin and Liadh Ní Riada in the South constituency – offer the people of Ireland the representation they have failed to get from other MEPs.

Sinn Féin MEPs will fight for the best deal for Ireland on every issue unlike Enda Kenny or Eamon Gilmore. 

Since we last met, the world, and in particular South Africa, lost a great leader with the passing of ‘Madiba’, Nelson Mandela.

Madiba was a friend of Ireland and of Sinn Féin. Richard McAuley and I were greatly honoured to represent Irish republicans at Madiba’s funeral and to be part of his final Guard of Honour.

Slán Madiba. Ní bheidh do leithéid arís ann.

Madiba's qualities of leadership and peace-building are needed more than ever in the world today, particularly in the Middle East.

The current Palestinian/Israeli peace process is not going to deliver a democratic outcome at this time, because the international community has failed to uphold the rights of the Palestinian people.

These conflicts can only be resolved if the international community upholds it’s own laws, international law and takes positive, focused initiatives to find political solutions.

This is true of the Central African Republic and in Syria where the suffering is horrific and unacceptable.

Despite this, and the obvious futility of militarism, the big powers at EU level are moving towards greater militarisation.

Sinn Féin opposes this and we will robustly defend and promote Irish neutrality.

Margaretta D'arcy is in prison over this issue. Margaretta is not a criminal. She should be released immediately.

Sinn Fein is the only real and credible opposition in Leinster House. We have clear and positive alternatives to the policies of austerity embraced by the cosy consensus of Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail.

So, our message is clear. Now is the time for change. It’s time to rebuild our economy and our society.

This Government must give families a break. The next budget must give something back.  It must ease the tax burden on working people.

Remove the Property Tax and prioritise investment in public services and jobs.

For Sinn Fein, in opposition or in government, north or south, politics is about delivery for people.

Bobby Sands put it well when, on the 11th day of his Hunger Strike, in his prison diary, he wrote:

“There is no equality in a society that stands upon the political and economic bog where only the strongest make it good or survive.”

So, it is about standing up for citizens and for their rights.

The Irish people have endured much throughout history and we’ve come through it all. Ireland is a great country. The Irish people are no mean people. So we will overcome the challenges and we will prosper.

Working together we will rebuild this great nation. We shall overcome. So, let’s make 2014 the year of change.

Ar aghaidh linn le chéile.  Ar aghaidh linn le Sinn Féin.

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