Ard Fheis News and Speeches
I would like to welcome delegates and viewers to the televised section of the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis 2012.
Later on this evening Party President and TD for Louth Gerry Adams will be delivering his address outlining the republican vision for the future of this country.
For the rest of the day we will be debating and developing the policies which are putting to the people of Ireland as an alternative to the politics of austerity being promoted by the Fine Gael/ Labour coalition in this part of the country and by the Tories in the north. You will also hear this morning our alternative to the politics of austerity.
They are not, as has been suggested by some, based on Darby O’Gill economics. We have a fully worked out and costed programme and are currently engaged in developing a comprehensive jobs creation programme based on indigenous resources and indigenous talents and enterprise.
I am also proud to be part of another initiative by the part to reach out to rural Ireland and to encourage a whole range of organisations and groups and individuals from small business to the community and voluntary sector to submit their suggestions as to how to get rural Ireland moving again and to provide an alternative to emigration.
Out of this we plan to put together a report embodying those suggestions and placing them before the Oireachtas and the people as part of our alternative to the current politics and policies of negativity and austerity in the interests of failed banks, bankrupt speculators and faceless bondholders.
They were not mentioned by the founders of the Republic as those whose interests were to be paramount in a democratic republic. And nor will they be.
So I hope that both you the delegates and observers here in beautiful Killarney and viewers at home will gain both stimulation and enjoyment from the proceedings and use them to go forward to promoting the real alternative to the current malaise.
We are living in an age of austerity. But everywhere I go people ask me, but what does austerity mean. And my answer is, austerity is your mother, father or friend lying in a hospital trolley because there is not enough staff or beds to cater for them; austerity is a child being forced into a bigger class next year because the school has lost a teacher; austerity is having to decide whether to buy food for your children or to pay the mortgage at the end of the month. And the list goes on. Austerity is what people are living every single day in communities across the country.
A few months ago I spoke with a young man from my hometown of Buncrana. Both he and his brother, like so many thousands of our young people are now living and working in Australia. He told me of his love for his hometown and his country and his anger and frustration that he couldn’t earn a living here at home. His father had just the day before left his only two sons, this young man and his brother to the bus for the airport and the young man told me that for the first time in all of his life he saw his father cry.
It has been four years since Fianna Fail ran our economy into the ground. We have had five austerity budgets. A total of €24 billion has wrenched from the domestic economy in tax hikes and cuts to vital health, education and community services. And where has this policy of austerity got us?The economy is now officially back in recession.
The domestic economy has never been out of recession. Unemployment continues to scar our communities. 440,000 people languish on the live register while 115,000 people are in serious mortgage distress and 1,500 people are emigrating every week. Austerity simply isn’t working.
And yet the Fine Gael Labour government have committed to pulling a further €8.6 billion from the domestic economy over the next three years. What is our country going to look like after all of this austerity? What kind of future are we creating for ourselves and our children?
Last week I was struck by two stories in the newspaper that offered a disturbing answer to this question. The first was news of a 7-year-old child collapsing in a school in Cork, later to be diagnosed with severe malnutrition. The second was the news that once again that the Government has approved to breach the pay caps allowing massive salaries to political advisors, this time in the President’s office.
Is this the kind of place we want to live in? Are we going to accept a society which allows lavish lifestyles for those in power while letting children starve? Are we going to accept an economy that continues to bail out toxic banks rather than investing in getting people back to work?
My answer to this question and Sinn Féin’s answer to this question is an unequivocal unambiguous no. It is time for us to stand up for Ireland. To demand a better future. Fifteen months ago people voted for change. They rejected the corrupt Fianna Fail government that destroyed our economy and handed our economic sovereignty to the EU and IMF.
Fine Gael and Labour swept into office promising a democratic revolution. They told us they would renegotiate the Troika deal, invest in jobs and take radical measures to tackle the mortgage crisis. Fifteen months on and the hopes of the vast majority of people in the state have been dashed by a litany of broken promises. Disappointment is turning into a quiet but determined anger.
Right across the country there are signs of people, in their tens of thousands demanding a better future. The good people of Ballyhea, Co Cork, are protesting week after week demanding that taxpayer’s money be invested in people not bondholders.
They are demanding a better future. The brave workers of VitaCortex, La Senza, Lagan Brick and GAME all took a stand not just for themselves but for the rights of all workers. They are demanding a better future. The hundreds of thousands of ordinary decent people who have refused to pay the unjust Fine Gael and Labour Household Charge. They are all demanding a better future.
And Sinn Féin, in Leinster House and the Assembly, in council chambers and communities across the country are demanding a better future. Sinn Féin has a vision for the future of our great country. A vision based on the core republican values of equality, liberty and solidarity. It is these core values that motivated the men and women of 1916 to take a stand for Ireland. These same values inspired Pearse and Connolly to envision an Ireland which would treat all of the children of the nation equally. But these values have been abandoned by the parties in power today.
They have turned their back on that vision of a better Ireland and in doing so brought great shame on themselves. How relevant are the words of Padraig Pearse when one hundred years ago this year he penned Mise Eire. Sine mé ná an Chailleach Bhéarra, Mór mo ghlóir, Mé a rug Cú Chulainn cróga, Mór mo náir, Mo chlann féin a dhíol a máthair.
But Sinn Féin remains true to that vision. We passionately believe there is a better way. While there are no quick fixes or easy answers to our economic crisis there are choices. Unfortunately the Government is making all the wrong ones. Sinn Féin has a roadmap to get us to a prosperous and equal Ireland. We have produced a detailed, costed, and credible plan. Of course we want to reduce the deficit. Of course we want to reduce the debt.
But we want to do this in a way that creates jobs and grows the domestic economy. Our route to recovery stands in marked contrast to Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour who all believe you can cut your way out of a recession. You can’t. You cannot starve yourself out of a famine.
Only through a Government led investment programme can we get people off the dole, back into work and back paying taxes. Only through a progressive reform of the tax system can we generate sufficient revenue to build the education and health services that we deserve.
Good economic management is not simply a matter of balancing the books. Sinn Féin wants an economy that serves a higher purpose; that serves all of the people; that gives every person who lives in Ireland the chance to live a bigger and better life.
That young man from Buncrana was failed by this government and the last. He and all the young people like him deserve better. They deserve to have a future here with their friends and family. Sinn Fein has a true republican vision for Ireland. Together we can build a better Ireland, a prosperous Ireland, an equal Ireland.
May 26th, 2012
This has been a mighty year for Sinn Féin since we gathered in that historic Ard Fheis in the Waterfront Hall in Belfast. We have fought a hugely successful Assembly election campaign in the north receiving the endorsement of the northern electorate as their political leaders and of course we made an historic and spectacular breakthrough in the southern general election. Republican politics is now at the heart of political life in this state.
Our TDs and senators have become the voice of ordinary people across the country ravaged by the austerity politics of Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail. During my Presidential election campaign I visited every one of Irelands 32 counties. I was the only candidate to do so. And I did so because it was important to recognise the rights of Irish citizens outside the 26 counties, rights long ignored by the political elite in Dublin.
However in the course of that campaign, all of the other candidates from the other parties indicated support for the extension of Presidential voting rights for all Irish citizens, including those in the north and those forced to emigrate from their homeland. Hundreds of thousands of Irish citizens, including myself, where denied the right to vote, this is blatant discrimination and must end. And I want to give notice from this Ard Fheis that that this is a commitment we intend to hold this government to.
Talk during elections is one thing now is the time for action. Last night I spoke in greater length about the commencement of a process of National Reconciliation in Ireland. Our republican ideology is based on inclusion and recognition of the different cultural traditions and identities that share Ireland. I recognise that there are 1 million people on this island who are British and let me state here and now that as a proud Irish Republican I not only recognise the Unionist and British identity I respect it and in return all I seek is for my Irish identity and tradition to be respected as well.
Respect is a two way street. People who think that a new Ireland, a united Ireland can be built without unionist participation, involvement and leadership are deluded. During my Presidential campaign I called for the next decade of commemorations to become a decade of reconciliation, I reiterate that stance here today.
We have an opportunity to engage, learn and promote understanding between our different traditions but we also have a responsibility to ensure that the mistakes of the last century never happen again. As we look back over the last 100 years all of us and I mean all of us regret many of the actions and terrible events that resulted in conflict and death, we won't forget what has happened in our past but we also won't be constrained by it.
The recent convenient lecture by Peter Robinson in Dublin was an important and positive contribution to the need for the commemoration of our past history to support rather than to undermine the peace process. And indeed I was encouraged that the recent Orange Order commemoration of the signing of the covenant passed in a peaceful and dignified fashion.
Our future is in our hands it must be about building a new and shared community based on tolerance and respect. The naysayers say it can't be done, they pour scorn on all our progress and they focus on all the time on the negative, it is quite clear that the electorate north and south have a better understanding of where we are going – nothing is impossible.
There are still those in our community who claim to be republican and claim to still be fighting for Ireland, these people claim they love our country but clearly they don't love our people as the murder of Ronan Kerr a young GAA loving Police Officer in April last year showed. If anyone can claim to understand the mindset of those opposed to peaceful Irish Republicanism I think I can.
Those involved in these violent acts don’t believe for one minute that they further the cause of Irish reunification, what’s more they also know the agreements we have negotiated are solid and secure. They also know that the unity of the Irish people and their elected representatives in defence of our historic agreements will never be broken.
Nuala Kerr and Kate Carroll who I have met and respect are good people who are genuine and sincere supporters of peace and change, my message to those who remain committed to violence is that it is not much of an achievement to think that the only thing you have shown the capability to break are two fine women’s hearts.
And other families and other mothers have suffered likewise, including in my home city the families of Brian McGlynn, Jim McConnell, Andy Allen, Kieran Doherty and Emmett Shiels, shameful murders carried out by the enemies of the people Derry and of Ireland. The actions of these small groups underline their opposition to progress and their rejection of tolerance and change. These people present no alternative to the peace process or to building a better future, they talk about the conflict in romantic terms and criticise Sinn Fein.
Well today I want to send a message directly to them, I am offering them an opportunity to meet and talk, come and tell us what you hope to gain by deluding yourselves and the gullible that your actions will succeed in what is certainly a pathetic and futile attempt to turn back the clock. The war is over and we are in the process of building a new Republic and you can still be part of that.
There is plenty of room within the political process for voices who oppose the Sinn Féin strategy. I was part of the conflict, I was there during the difficult and tragic times we had in the past and let me tell you there was nothing romantic about the war, it was hard, it was painful and it was traumatic and I never ever want the children of Ireland who live today in peace to be subjected to the conflict, pain and hurt that we lived through.
I never want to be attend another funeral of a Police Officer or any other member our society who lost their lives due to violence, so I appeal to you for dialogue but I also say to you that the process of building a new future will continue with or without you, it is your call. Others in Derry have recently embarked on a series of shootings and beatings against vulnerable young people. Over thirty years ago I spoke out against such attacks and I do so again today.
These attacks are deplorable, they are not wanted and they need to end. Sinn Fein are moving forward regardless, we are progressive and forward thinking, proudly Irish and respectful of those that are not, our membership spans all the so called classes and our support continues to grow. However we cannot take our support for granted, we must work for the community, earn every vote and proudly represent the people who elect us to speak for them.
Through our work and with the peoples support we have made Sinn Fein a party of Government in the North and in the South we have made massive strides forward. It is up to us to give a voice to people silenced by poverty, by illness or by emigration.
Significant challenges remain ahead, but Ireland needs Republican politics like never before. Ireland needs patriots and Ireland needs leadership. As we approach the centenary of the 1916 Rising, Ireland needs a strong relevant and bold Sinn Féin party – standing up for Ireland and standing up for you.
A Chairde agus a chomradaithe,
In Ireland the Agri-food sector is one of our economies most important sectors.
In the south it has an annual output of over 24 billion euro and employs some 150,000 people. In the north it has annual output of £5.4 billion and employs 55,000 people.
The Agri-food sector is an export led sector that has demonstrated a strong track record of growth even through this recession, with external sales increasing in value by 45% over the last 10 years in the north.
Inputs to the food and drinks sector are mainly sourced from local agriculture and as a result the multiplier impacts of growth in this sector are considerable.
For every job created in the food and drinks sector, a further 3 jobs are created in the wider regional economy. Moreover the sector plays a significant role in ensuring balanced sub-regional growth, with jobs in the food and drinks processing sector largely located outside of major cities such as Belfast and Dublin.
The food and drinks sector has weathered the recession better than many other sectors. While between 2007 and 2011 the retailing and hospitality sectors here were squeezed by the fall in consumer spending and the number of construction jobs fell by 26%, employment in food and drink processing increased by 6%, with 1,100 additional jobs being created in the six counties alone.
In addition the global human population is growing rapidly and is projected to increase by 1 billion by 2030 and 2 billion by 2050. It is also becoming increasingly urbanised and more affluent, with diets switching increasingly towards products that we produce so well in Ireland, such as meat and dairy products.
There are also the growing environmental challenges coming from climate change, water shortages and soil depletion which are starting to impinge on other producing regions of the world but much less so here. Consequently, demand and supply side factors are very much tipping in favour of country such as ours.
Industry and Government, north and south, share a common goal of wanting to support and develop the Agri-food sector. I believe that we have good foundations to build on, not only in terms of our collaborative approach, but also in taking forward the new Agri-Food Strategy towards 2020 which will be developed by the industry led Board established by Michelle O Neill.
In order to stimulate the economy and create jobs, one of the key sectors for investment is agriculture and the Agri-food sector. This is one of the key sectors that can lead this country towards economic recovery. We intend to work towards in the Executive in the north; I would call on the Government in the south to do the same.
A very relevant and current issue affecting our young people is the state of unemployment which is constant and unrelenting throughout our 32 county island. This is a serious issue which is affecting both Ireland and its young people.
Young people attend university, spending thousands of pounds on degrees and education in the hopes of increasing their potential job opportunities. The sad fact is that they are not able to achieve these hopes, dreams, aspirations and jobs in their own land and are forced to emigrate, moving to other countries such as Australia, America, Canada and bringing with them their skills, knowledge and energy.
Young people believe they have a better chance of employment and a better chance of a good quality of life if they leave Ireland, and it is out of necessity that they emigrate, many sad at the thought of leaving friends, family and their home, but knowing they have no other choice. It is the last option, but for many it is the only option.
When looking at unemployment figures we need to realise that this does not give us a clear and full picture. Rather, these figures are manipulated in an attempt to minimize awareness of the problem and do not take into consideration the many young people who have emigrated in the search for work.
People need only look at their own communities and towns to see the lack of jobs and everyone knows of a young person who has had to leave Ireland in the search of employment. We are losing some of our best skilled and trained professionals to other countries who are benefiting from them.
We need to see a change. We need to see an increase in job creation. And we need it now. This must be at the forefront of the agenda in both the 6 counties and 26 counties. We cannot afford to lose any more of our young people and they should not be forced to leave our country. We need to make Ireland attractive, prosperous and successful. Young people are not work-shy, they are not lazy, they want and need jobs and it is up to Ireland to provide for them.
May 26th, 2012
Noeleen Reilly McCabe/Quigley Cumann Ballymun, Baile Átha Cliath
While the well off and those who caused our economic crash have been sheltered from the worst effects of the government's Thatcherite austerity policies, the effects in areas like Ballymun & Finglas has been devastating.
Savage cuts in health, education and community employment have seen vital services like mental health, special needs teaching and even Meals-on-Wheels for the elderly being decimated.
This year alone, Ballymun Regeneration has been cut by a massive €40 million which has left the area in a state of disrepair and over 220 families stuck in the old high-rise blocks. Combined with the privatization of DCC waste collection, this has led to huge levels of rubbish dumping in the area.
In Finglas much of the main street area was sold off to a private developer with the encouragement of FF & FG cllrs. Now he has gone into NAMA leaving the shops semi derelict. If SF's pro-growth policies were adopted instead of the government's counter productive austerity, dozens of unemployed building workers could be employed in refurbishing Finglas village. This would be a win-win strategy as the workers & their families would be spending their wages in the local shops, so generating further employment.
The latest CSO SLIC report shows that the bottom 90% have suffered a significant reduction in their income but the top 10% have significantly INCREASED their income. Austerity is transferring the wealth in this country from hard working people to the richest 10% of the population.
Not only is this unjust, but it is economic madness; those on lower incomes spend most of their money on local goods & services, so causing a multiplier effect, while the very well off tend to save, spend on expensive imports or invest their money abroad. That is why, despite €20 billion in cuts, the deficit has not been reduced.
What is needed instead is to harness what wealth remains and invest it in useful projects such as repairing the Pyrite problem, which is rife in Dublin NW, and generating renewable energy.
Comrades and friends, Sinn Fein is committed to building a new republic. A republic that cherishes all children of the nation equally, north south east and west. Our view is that there is enough wealth being generated in this country to ensure cradle to the grave health care, education, jobs and housing. No child hungry, no patients untreated and no prefabs for class rooms. Is this achievable? Can we deliver it? Yes we can!
But not with the current government policies based on austerity and inequality. Austerity is not a victimless crime. Austerity means less SNAs, it means attacks on lone parents, it means forced emigration it means communities losing essential services, patients waiting on hospital trollies. All this is a result of the bankrupt failed policies of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour. Fine Gael and Labour the parties who promised much and have only delivered heartache, pain and cuts.
It does not have to be Eamonn’s way or Enda’s way. Unlike the government our economic policies are solution based. Our economic policies are costed and aim to deliver jobs, growth and economic stability. We believe that we cannot cut our way out of this recession. It is only by implementing the right policies will we bring growth back to our economy. And growth will only happen if we invest in jobs and training instead of using it to bail out the toxic banks.
Sinn Féin proposes a €7 billion investment package in job creation and economic growth over 3 years. Department of Finance estimates that for every €1 billion invested in jobs you get an employment return of between 8,000 and 12,000 direct jobs.
We would fund this from the remaining €5.3 billion in the National Pension Reserve Fund and €1.7 billion in funding from the European Investment Bank. Our total investment should see an average of 60,000 jobs created directly, with thousands more indirectly; and anything up to 96,000 jobs saved.
Our proposals would contribute to developing a sustainable, performing economy. Investment in infrastructure not only benefits job creation in the immediate term. It has benefits for society in the long term.
A childcare system which caters for parents seeking to return to the workplace; an education system that allows for smaller class numbers and fosters young potential; a green energy system that provides for energy needs cheaply and efficiently; and a broadband service that meets the needs of modern Irish business. This is what our proposals will provide as well as creating jobs.
Our tax proposals would take approximately 500,000 people out of the tax net while raising €3.62 billion through a progressive fairer tax system.
Sinn Féin would ensure that those on salaries of over €100, 000 would pay more, tax loop holes closed and introduction of a wealth tax.
Our objective is to get people back to work, improve services and create just equal society for all.
All this is achievable. Together we must do it.
The single biggest challenge facing the Fine Gael Labour government today is unemployment.
14% of the labour force is out of work. 43% are long term unemployed.
440,000 people are languishing on the live register.
1,500 people, many of them young, are leaving the state every single week.
The impact of the jobs crisis is hurting families and communities.
In my own constituency of Dublin Mid-West more than 10,000 people are signing on, more than when Fine Gael and Labour took office. During the last general election Fine Gael and Labour promised to invest in jobs.
Enda Kenny told the voters that he would invest €7 billion in job creation in during the life time of the government. Eamon Gilmore promised a €2.8 billion investment in the form of a strategic investment bank. But since taking office this Government has refused to seriously invest in jobs. In 2011 less than €500 million was directly invested by the state in job creation.
Contrast this with the €21.4 billion Fine Gael and Labour poured into the banks, including €3.1 billion in Anglo in the same year. It seems Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore are more interested in bailing out banks getting people back to work.
Very little has changed in Government buildings since the bad old days of Brian Cowen and Micheal Martins Fianna Fail administration. We need investment and we need it now.
Sinn Féin has proposed a €13 billion investment programme over three years to get 100,000 people back to work. There is money in the National Pension Reserve Fund. This could be matched by funds from the European Investment Bank. Finance is also available from the cash reserves of NAMA and the private pension industry.
It is time for the Government to put up or shut up. It is time for real investment to create employment. It is time to deliver on the pre-election promises.
People need hope. People need to believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. M of all people need work.
Is maith a thuig James Connolly an toradh a bheadh ar Chríochdheighilt na hÉireann. "A carnival of reaction North and South" a thiocfadh dá bharr, a dúirt sé. Céad bliain i ndiaidh na cainte sin tá muid ag strachailt fós in aghaidh an dochar mór a thainig as an roinnt mí-nadúrtha a rinneadh ar an oileán.
But, comrades, progress has been made and is being made!
Sna Sé Chontae níl an pobal Náisiúnach faoi chois níos faide, ní saoránaigh den dara grád iad níos faide. Bíodh muid buíoch de chomrádaithe atá níos sine ná muid a sheas an fód in aghaidh an stáit Oráistigh a raibh tacaíocht na Breataine aige. Nuair a hionsaíodh léirseoirí a bhí ag máirseáíl go síochánta ar son cearta sibhailta agus nuair a maraíodh cuid mhaith acu ina dhiaidh sin ní raibh aon dul as ach réabhlóid armtha a thosú. Chaith cuid mhór acu tréimhsí fada i bpríosúin sa mBreatain agus in Éirinn. Maraíodh cuid eile acu. Is de bharr a gcuid íobairtí siúd gur féidir liomsa seasamh anseo inniu agus a rá "My gereration will create a United Ireland"
Our struggle in the Six Counties has reached an important new stage: as equals we approach our Protestant sisters and brothers and seek to overcome the centuries-long sectarian divide. We seek to show that our destinies are one, that our destinies can truly bear fruit in a United Ireland.
Ach ba mhaith linn a rá go soiléir lenár gcomharsana Protastúnacha agus Caitliceacha sna Se Chontae agus le muintir na Poblachta nach mbeidh aon chosúlacht ag an Éire Aontaithe atá ar intinn againn leis an stát frithghníomhach-- an banana republic- atá sa Deisceart inniu. Tá staidéar déanta ag Sinn Féin ar laigeachtaí na nua-choilíneachta atá sna Sé Chontae Fichead agus tá polasaithe soiléir curtha chun cinn againn leis an deisceart a athrú ar mhaithe leis an bpobal. Pobal comhionannais atá uainn ----Éire Aontaithe a bheas sásúil do mhuintir an oileáín ar fad ---"Protestant, Catholic or Dissenter".
Thanks to our older comrades, Sinn Féin is now the real opposition in the Twenty-six Counties. We are the party of real change on this island. Unlike the corrupt elite, we will not pay lip service to the goal of a United Ireland. Our day will come and it will be coming very soon!
Even an Italian, Giovanni Trapattoni, knows that an Irish team is better when its an all-Ireland team.
The best and most effective organisations on this island are All-Ireland organisations whether they be sporting bodies or credit unions or advocacy groups or trade unions or political parties for that matter. If you want efficiency then organise on a 32 county basis.
Ironically, the thing that we need to work for us most, the economy, is still hindered by partition.
Many businesses, especially in the border region, are crippled when trying to deal with dual taxation systems, two currencies, two administrations.
Communities are struggling trying to re-connect after over 90 years of division because they are faced with two different economic and political realities.
Small steps have been made in the battle to make the border irrelevant. And it is those communities most severally affected who are leading the charge. People in Derry and Donegal and Armagh and Louth and Tyrone and Monaghan know the benefit an all-Ireland economy will bring because they see at first hand the damage that has been done by its absence for so long.
But we have yet to convince some people outside of the border regions that they too need and will benefit from an all-Ireland economy and ultimately Irish Unity.
That is a job of work for Sinn Féin. We must spell out the necessity to end partition to the people of each Ireland’s 32 counties.
And we need to build this message beyond rhetoric. Because its too easy for political parties to play that game.
Fianna Fáil told us for years that they wanted a Free Ireland. What they didn’t say was they meant that they wanted to give the country anyway for nothing.
The truth is that Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour combined do not even have the imagination to deliver a United, Prosperous, Fair Ireland let alone the vision to make it happen. Between them they cannot even picture the benefits of the all-Ireland economy because they are wedded to a failed economic philosophy that is partitionist and subservient; a philosophy that thinks its okay for a child to collapse in school as a result of malnutrition so long as a ratings agency doesn’t downgrade one of our banks.
There can be a better, fairer Ireland. Sinn Féin has the vision, the policies and the determination to deliver it. The first step must be the further development of an all-Ireland economy.
Giovanni Trapattoni’s team will be better because James McClean and Darron Gibson will be in the squad alongside Robbie Keane and Shay Given. Because Irish teams are stronger when they’re all-Ireland teams.
And the Irish economy will be stronger when it’s an all-Ireland economy.