Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey was selected tonight to contest the West Belfast in next year’s Westminster election. Paul Maskey succeeded party leader Gerry Adams when he won the seat in a by election in 2011.
Paul Maskey said tonight it was vital that his party stood firm against Tory plans to impose welfare cuts on the North.
Mr Maskey said:
“We are taking the lead in challenging the Tory welfare cuts, we are the party who will block the welfare cuts, we are the party who will protect working families, the working poor, we will protect the unemployed and those with disabilities.
“Next week I will be attending the British Labour party conference and I will be making it very clear to Labour MPs and party activists that we will oppose any effort to impose welfare cuts on the people of the North.”
This is the full text of Paul Maskey’s speech to Sinn Féin activists tonight in the Felon’s Club.
It’s a great honour and a privilege to be selected to contest the West Belfast Westminster seat on behalf of Sinn Féin for a second time.
It’s also a great privilege to be a member of the most vibrant and largest party on this island and standing this evening with the hardest party workers here in west Belfast.
Tonight we are embarking on another election campaign, for an election that will take place in May. I would rather be going door to door tonight asking people to make their way to the polling station to vote for Irish independence like so many people in Scotland today but that will only happen for us with electoral strength.
That’s what we in this room are about, building that strength and building Irish unity.
As the debate in Scotland has demonstrated there is a strong and convincing argument to be made for independence, an argument that even one-time opponents of the concept of independence find they can buy into.
Therefore our party will continue to demand a border poll to put the case for Irish unity and independence to the electorate. It’s a debate we can win and it’s clear that our enemies fear us putting our case about the benefits of Irish unity to the people.
Stability and equality are today the foremost threats to Britain’s claim to this part of Ireland. Stability, because it will remove all of the distractions that prevent people from focussing on the issues that matter. Equality, because it attacks the discriminatory culture that held this state together.
When Peter Robinson complains that the Executive is not fit for purpose he of course means that it isn’t fit for any useful unionist purpose. It has been structured to prevent unionist domination and misrule. It has been designed to ensure that unionist politicians can’t buy support with the modern-day equivalent of a job in the shipyard or a council house.
And so the unionist vote has fallen into decline.
We might have expected a fightback from the unionist leadership but nothing has materialised. Unionist people, who like us, find their living standards under daily attack from millionaire London-based Tory politicians might have expected their elected representatives to stand against the austerity programme. These people will have been frustrated by the readiness of unionist politicians to support a Tory agenda.
Almost daily you can pick up a newspaper and read of a crisis pertaining to one area of government or another. It can’t all be dismissed as inept ministerial management.
At some stage even the most stubborn unionist will have to consider the possibility that the so-called union is failing us all.
Here in West Belfast it is easy for republicans to become complacent ahead of a Westminster election. Retaining the seat simply isn’t enough. In order to move matters forward we have to win in resounding fashion. We have to do what it takes to win every possible vote and that work must start immediately.
Make no mistake; we can stand before the electorate in this constituency with confidence because we have delivered on past promises.
Sinn Féin has transformed West Belfast. Where once there was a shameful lack of investment we have ensured that this constituency is moving forward.
For those that say nothing changes we should urge them to take a drive around the constituency.
Take a look at the Falls Leisure Centre after a £6m investment. Just look at the new Dunville Park after £2m in investment.
Look at the new social houses throughout the area.
Work has begun on the new Rapid Transit system, £100m being spent between west and east Belfast.
The Social Investment Fund of over £12m will be coming on line soon and part of that is creating 200 jobs over the next two years.
St Comgall’s will be redeveloped to the value of £7m.
Colaiste Feirste has received £12m for new school buildings starting this year.
There have been road realignments and environmental projects throughout west Belfast improving the infrastructure and creating a welcome environment costing over £8m in areas such as Falls, Upper Springfield, Upper Falls and Colin areas.
A new Irish school in Twinbrook cost £1.5m plus over £2m went to St Gerard’s new school.
The finance secured for a new leisure centre in Andersonstown for £19m and £10m for a new leisure centre at the Brooke Activity Centre.
There has been over £1m secured for the Colinglen Forest Park attracting more people to the park.
Take a look at the unemployment register, 974 fewer people claiming unemployment in the last 12 months.
We are the leading party challenging the Tory welfare cuts, we are the party who will block the welfare cuts, we are the party who will protect the working families, the working poor, we will protect the unemployed and will protect those with disabilities.
These are just a few of the issues we have worked and delivered on. There are far too many for me to cover here this evening but our councillors, MLAs, the MP’s office and our activists have changed the landscape of west Belfast over many years and we like no one else will continue to do so as there is a lot more to do.
It is up to all of us between now and Election Day to make sure that not a single voter is left in any doubt as to what we have done in this constituency on their behalf.
We will ignore the small number of negative voices that complain about change and will instead point up the many benefits - to all of the things we have delivered.
We will challenge political opponents who might be critical of aspects of our work to explain how they would have done things differently. Nobody gets off the hook. We are after every vote.
There is a lot to do but the prize has never been bigger. It has been an honour and privilege to serve as Sinn Féin MP in this constituency. It is an honour to have been selected by you to run again for Westminster. It is a much greater honour though to be a republican activist at this pivotal time in our country’s history.