Sinn Féin - On Your Side

December backstop agreement must be upheld - Mary Lou McDonald TD in New York

9 November, 2018 - by Mary Lou McDonald TD


Speaking last night in New York at the annual Friends of Sinn Féin Dinner, Mary Lou McDonald reiterated the importance of the December backstop agreement being upheld.

Teachta McDonald said:

“Brexit is a disaster for Ireland, north and south.

"There is an onus on of us all to protect Irish interests. Sinn Féin has stood shoulder to shoulder with the Taoiseach and with European leaders to defend the interests of our peace agreements, our economy and our people.

"In the face of British bad faith and intransigence the Taoiseach must stand firm and the Irish government must be resolute.

"It is alarming that earlier this week the Taoiseach moved away from the agreed position on the backstop.

"Considering a review clause is a dangerous move and a reckless mistake.

"The Taoiseach must correct this mistake. The EU and British Government are looking on and we need a sure footed and confident Taoiseach. This week we saw a Taoiseach who looked uncertain and naive under pressure.

"Leo Varadkar needs to be firm. He needs to be clear and he needs to be consistent. The backstop that was agreed in December must be put in place. It must be legally enforceable and must remain in place as our insurance policy."

ENDS//

Editor's notes:

Full Speech from NYC:

Friends, it is good to be here back in the wonderful city of New York.

It is my great pleasure to address you as the President of Sinn Féin for the first time.

I want to first of all thank all of those who organised the event here this evening, and all of you for attending and for continuing to support the cause of Irish unity.

Many of your parents , grandparents, great grandparents, left Ireland, made the hard choice to leave a place called home, to come to America.

An America that welcomed the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. 

An America that promised opportunity

Landing on a shore with a little else but the promise of work, maybe a distant relative and hope for the future.

Many found hardship and struggled in the belief that they would build a better life for their children.

They persevered, they met the challenges and shaped a life for their families.

The contribution of the Irish to American life is immeasurable.

Generations of Irish immigrants helped build this nation, with their courage, their labour, their intellect and creativity.

Presidents, business leaders, labour leaders, artists and generations of working families have proudly proclaimed their Irish heritage.

And Ireland is so proud of them.

Generations of Irish in America have acted as the bridge between our two nations.

Millions of Americans view Ireland as their homeland, a place of welcome and a place of common heritage.

A place of common struggle.

At every stage of revolutionary struggle in Ireland, Irish America stepped up.

Standing by the demand for an independent and sovereign Ireland.

The Irish Republican principles of liberty, equality and fraternity were echoed in homes and States across America.

Generations that sought refuge in the US brought with them the love of Ireland and their Irish Republicanism.

They were the Young Irelanders, the Fenians, the Irish Republican Brotherhood and Clan na nGael.

Without Irish America there would have been no 1916 Rising.

Standing on the steps of the GPO on Easter Morning Padraig Pearse proclaimed the Irish Republic and thanked our “exiled children in America”.

With the ending of the Rising and the execution of our leaders, the British government believed that they had defeated Irish Republicanism.

The soldiers of the Republic were imprisoned or scattered to all corners of the globe.

How wrong they were.

They underestimated the passion and determination of Irish Republicans.

December 1918 - a century ago - was the turning point.

With the support of Irish America, Sinn Féin stood candidates across Ireland.

Republicans had a landslide in what would become known as the Sinn Féin election.

The people returned a clear majority for Irish Freedom, for independence from Britain.

Sinn Fein abstentionist MPs.

They refused to take their seats at Westminster.

Instead they established our own parliament, the First Dáil in Dublin.

1918 was a fully and truly a national election.

It is a matter of immense pride that in that election the first ever woman MP was elected.

A Sinn Fein MP - Constance Markievicz.

She was part of that tradition of Republican women who wear as a badge of honour the title of the most unmanageable of revolutionaries.

A tradition that is still with us alive and well, with anyone who knows Rita O’Hare!

Fifty years on from 1918, the injustice of partition was the reality for a new generation of Republicans. Discrimination, repression and inequality.

In 1968, inspired by the Civil Rights movement in American, Republicans and others took to the streets of Derry.

They demanded respect, rights and equality.

A courageous generation, marched with defiance, with determination and with hope.

The response of the Orange State was laid bare for all to see.

The attack on peaceful protesters in Duke Street in Derry was an iconic moment of the civil rights struggle.

As far as the Stormont regime was concerned, it was a Unionist state for a Unionist people and they would crack as many skulls as necessary to preserve it.

They failed.

They failed because repression cannot defeat a just demand, cannot defeat a people alive with hope and expectation.

Thirty years later, after much hardship, conflict and suffering the Good Friday Agreement was signed.

It was Irish America who put the cause of peace, justice and Irish unity on the agenda of an American President.

The Good Friday Agreement is your agreement. Is our agreement.

The changes that the North now enjoy are because of the people in this room and those that came before us.

It has not been easy and it came at a cost.

Many in this room have been dismissed, pilloried and denigrated for standing up for the people of Derry, Belfast and Armagh. (I’m told that Tyrone always looked after their own).

You were right, you have prevailed, you have delivered.

We how have a peaceful and democratic pathway to Irish unity.

A confident and strong Irish America brought a new dynamic to politics.

For years American administrations followed the lead of British governments.

But the Irish in America broke that mould and build a new American policy on Ireland.

A policy that centred on the rights of the Irish people, of justice and peace.

We are all better for that. We are all thankful for that.

The process of change continues.

Ireland is changing.

The perpetual unionist majority, the very foundation of partition is gone.

There will be a nationalist majority in the north in the coming time.

It is no longer a case of if there will be a referendum on Irish unity, but when.

We must win that referendum.

All of us must be part of that and be part of building a united Ireland.

If you hold dear the cause of unity; the cause a new, progressive and united Ireland, now is the time to act.

Now is the time to stand up. Now is the time to let your voice be heard.

We are in the end game of partition and this will be one of the most challenging phases in our republican struggle.

Brexit is a disaster for Ireland, north and south.

There is an onus on of us all to protect Irish interests. Sinn Féin has stood shoulder to shoulder with the Taoiseach and with European leaders to defend the interests of our peace agreements, our economy and our people.

In the face of British bad faith and intransigence the Taoiseach must stand firm and the Irish government must be resolute.

It is alarming that earlier this week the Taoiseach moved away from the agreed position on the backstop.

Considering a review clause is a dangerous move and a reckless mistake.

The Taoiseach must correct this mistake. The EU and British Government are looking on and we need a sure footed and confident Taoiseach. This week we saw a Taoiseach who looked uncertain and naive under pressure.

Leo Varadkar need to be firm, he needs to clear and he needs to be consistent. The backstop that was agreed in December must be put in place. It must be legally enforceable and must remain in place as our insurance policy.

Unionist parties support Brexit and see a hard border and economic recession an acceptable cost for the union with Britain.

They are on the wrong side of history.

Their poisonous pact with the Tory Party in London will end.

But the demand for Irish unity will remain. It will strengthen, and it will be delivered.

A chairde gael the coming time is full of challenges and opportunities.

It is a time for cool heads and strong hearts.

A time for determination and vision.

It is a time for action. It is time, once again, for Irish America to make your voice heard.

We need Irish Americans - and America - planning for unity.

We need an Irish government that is planning and advocating for unity.

Next year the Irish government will hold a referendum on extending voting rights to Irish citizens in the north and across the globe.

Many in this room, your friends and family have the opportunity to have a say in electing our Presidents and being part of Irish political life.

Let’s do everything we can to make sure that referendum is passed.

Let’s support the campaign for the McGuinness Principles. These principles are what defined and guided our friend Martin McGuinness. Equality, Justice, Respect and Unity. These are the foundation stones of the Good Friday agreement, they are the way back to restore the institutions of the north. They are the road map for the future.

Writing from his prison cell Bobby Sands said; “There is nothing in the whole Imperial Arsenal of Britain that can break the spirit of an Irish man”.

They have tried. They have attacked us, Imprisoned us, banished and killed us. Censored us, demonised and disrespected us.

And still we rise. And still we stand.

We have endured.

Now is the time to build a sovereign and free Ireland.

An Ireland of equals that will claim its place amongst the nations of the world.

This is my first time addressing you as president of Sinn Féin. I follow in the footsteps of my friend Gerry Adams.

A leader who refused to be broken. Who redefined history.

A giant of Irish political life. Irreplaceable.

I can’t step into his shoes. So I have brought my own.

I follow in the tradition of many proud republican woman. Resolute and irreformable. Many of the men in this room know to their cost to never underestimate an Irish woman.

We all gather here this evening in common cause.

In the cause of Irish Unity.

I ask you to keep the faith. To continue the journey. To know your power and to use it.

Friends this is our time, this is your time.

Unity is within reach.

We will be the generation to unite our country and our people.

We will write the epitaph of Robert Emmett.

And together we will deliver a new, independent progressive and prosperous united Ireland.  

Up the rebels.

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