Here is the much celebrated video shown at Sinn Féin's An Chéad Dáil event in the Mansion House Round Room on January 12, 2019. Sinn Féin former Mayor of Dublin Mícheál Mac Donncha wrote and presents this historic and inspiring reflection of the events of 100 years ago.
The Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has branded as “shameful” today’s news that some 842 children appeared at Temple Street Children’s Hospital emergency department who were subsequently discharged with no fixed address.
Speaking in the Dáil McDonald said:
“This morning Temple Street Children’s Hospital released figures regarding the number of children that presented to their Emergency Department last year who were subsequently discharged with no fixed addresses.
“That number is an absolutely disgraceful and shameful 842 children.
“842 of the most vulnerable citizens of this State - not alone in need of medical care in an A&E, but in need of a home.
“The Lead Emergency Medicine Consultant at Temple Street has said - perhaps most shockingly of all - that ‘presentations were varied and complex but in the majority they stem from the fact that these children are living in completely unsuitable, cramped and temporary accommodation’.
“That is the reality of child homelessness. And there are tens of thousands of people out there living in perpetual fear of this happening to them and their children. Those who are a job loss or a rent hike away from the same fate - homelessness - and the sick, perverse reality that entails.
“The most obnoxious thing of all is that, if we really want to, we can do something about it.
“So I implore the government to let this be the last straw, to let this be the breaking point. Government policy is not working – it’s time to start building homes.”
The Joint-Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality will tomorrow hear from a number of Six-County based human rights and legal representatives and organisations regarding the impact of Brexit on citizens’ rights.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s meeting Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile encouraged people to follow proceedings and remain engaged on the issue saying;
“Tomorrow’s Justice and Equality Committee will hear from a number of highly respected figures from within the legal and human rights fraternity.
“As increasing numbers of people in the North look to the Government to stand in defence of their rights as citizens, it is indeed welcome and crucially important that fora such as the Oireachtas Committees have the opportunity to hear these views directly.
“Brexit poses a live threat to the rights of citizens, to our peace and political processes and the greater welfare and wellbeing of people all across Ireland. The Government must ensure that protecting citizens in the most comprehensive and tangible way remains central to their Brexit response.
“I would encourage people to follow proceedings tomorrow via the Oireachtas website and continue to lobby the Department of Justice and Irish Government on the need to enshrine their rights and entitlements as Irish citizens.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Children and Youth Affairs Denise Mitchell TD has said she is disappointed that survivors and relatives of those who suffered in Mother and Baby Homes will have to wait a further year before the publication of the Commission of Investigation’s final report.
Speaking at the Dáil on Tuesday, Deputy Mitchell said:
“This is very disappointing and upsetting news to victims and loved ones of those who suffered in these institutions.
"These survivors have already faced a year-long delay and to now be told they will have to wait a further twelve months is infuriating and unfair.
“The first question that needs to be asked is how a large amount of files in the possession of the Department of Health only came to light last month, a year past the original deadline for the publication of the report?
“Furthermore, the repeated delays in redress for the survivors of the Bethany Home – who were already wrongfully excluded from the 2002 redress scheme – is totally unacceptable.
"The continued snubbing of these survivors cannot continue. Nobody underestimates the huge amount of work the Commission must do, but this should not delay the recognition of these survivors and their entitlement to redress”.
Responding to comments by a spokesperson for the European Commission earlier today, who stated that in a no-deal Brexit scenario there will be a hard border in Ireland, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has said:
“Yesterday, I called on the government to convene an All-Ireland Forum to plan for a united Ireland and to build for Irish unity.
“Confirmation by the European Commission this morning that there will be a hard border on the island of Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit reinforces the need for that process to commence as soon as possible.
“We in Sinn Féin have been consistent in saying that there will be a hard border on our island in the absence of a ‘backstop’, but the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have continuously skated around the issue and dodged the question.
“While nobody wants a crash Brexit, we must prepare for any and all eventualities.
“The government must now face up to the reality that there will in fact be a hard border in Ireland in the absence of a Withdrawal Agreement and they need to assert that this is an entirely unacceptable situation for Ireland.
“The time for burying heads in the sand is over and preparations for a unity referendum must now commence immediately.”
The latest economic predictions of what a no-deal Brexit will mean in the North are ‘devastating’ and should serve as a warning to the DUP, Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has said.
The party’s Brexit spokesperson was commenting after the CBI predicted that a no-deal Brexit could cost the North’s economy £5 billion a year.
He said: “This is a frankly devastating prediction from the CBI who have warned that a no deal would cost the North’s economy almost £5billion a year by 2034.
“This confirms the official Bank of England estimate of an almost ten per cent economic contraction from a No-Deal Brexit — that’s worse than the banking crisis recession – and of course the damage will be greater and last longer in the North.
“The economy here simply could not sustain a drop of output on that scale. It would do significant harm to jobs, investment, living standards and the all-Ireland economy.
“Despite this the DUP continues to pursue a reckless agenda which is inexorably leading toward a no-deal Brexit.
“They have rejected a Withdrawal Agreement that broadly includes the kind of assurances that business has been crying out for. Instead they pursue a reckless and ideological position that threatens to devastate our economy.
“Perhaps this latest prediction from the CBI will serve as a warning to the DUP and they will belatedly start injecting some common sense into their Brexit strategy – if indeed they actually have one and aren’t simply lurching from one crisis to the next.”
Carthy raises failure of Irish Forestry policy at European Committee
Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West, Matt Carthy, has raised the failure of Irish Forestry policy with Commissioner Phil Hogan during an interaction at the European Parliament’s Agriculture & Rural Development committee.
Commissioner Hogan attended the special committee hearing to discuss progress on the EU’s Forestry Strategy. In his reply to Mr. Carthy the commissioner stated that the planning process should be utilised to ensure that adequate forestry policies were in place, seemingly not realising that, in Ireland, planning permission is not required for forest plans of less than 50hectres. This ‘loophole’ has led, in part, to the difficulties faced by communities in counties such as Leitrim.
Speaking after the hearing, Carthy said:
“The EU states as its main principles for forestry is that they serve environmental, social & economic purposes.
“Irish forestry policy, if you would be generous enough to call it a strategy, doesn’t address these three criteria. Having worked with communities, particularly in the West of Ireland, that have borne the brunt of forestry expansion I’d go so far as to say that it fails on all three counts.
“Environmentally the concentration of non-native Sitka Spruce plantations, that are regularly clear-felled and often planted in peat bogland areas often means that they actually harm the environment.
“The incentives provided by government and organisations such as the EIB to the private sector results in huge levels of land-grabbing and the transfer of land ownership from local communities to multi-national corporations, meaning that the forests are socially damaging. This further means that any economic benefit does not accrue to the communities in which the forests are planted. In essence this means that Irish forestry policy is an outright failure.
“It was interesting that, in his reply to me, Commissioner Hogan stated that the planning process should be utilised in order to address these concerns. But, at present, planning permission for afforestation in Ireland is not required for plantations under 50 hectares. This makes up the bulk of plantations and has led to private entities purchasing peat bogland, which otherwise should be contributing to carbon sequestration, in order to plant large, commercial plantations.
“That Commissioner Hogan pointed to the planning processes, seemingly unaware of the Irish planning laws which he previously oversaw as Minister, should spurn the current government into action.
“My Sinn Féin colleague, Martin Kenny TD, has proposed legislation to ensure that planning permission would be required for any plantation over 5 hectares. The government supporting parties of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael must put on the record their support of this move as one important part of the substantial changes in Forestry policy that is required.
“Regional development cannot take place independently of public policy tools that include community consultation and proper zoning. If forests are to serve the environment and the social and economic needs of our communities then a radical rethink is required. That rethink must begin now”.
Note: Video of Matt Carthy’s remarks & Phil Hogan’s response can be accessed here: https://youtu.be/HujSX3jfmwQ
Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for Public Expenditure & Reform Jonathan O’Brien TD has called on the Public Accounts Committee to request the attendance of the Secretary General at the Department of Public Expenditure.
Speaking today, the Cork North-Central TD said:
“The procurement fiasco and cost overrun at the National Children’s Hospital is set to blow a hole in the capital budget of the Department of Health and compromise the completion of vital capital projects in the next several years.
“While the Department of Public Expenditure may evade the requests of the Health Committee, it is now incumbent on the Public Accounts Committee to scrutinise its role in the Children’s Hospital scandal.
“The role of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and its General Secretary, is to supervise government procurement, capital planning and manage public expenditure.
“Given the scale of the predicted overrun at the National Children’s Hospital, which could inflate to €1.7 billion, it is within the competency of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to account for the procurement process and subsequent overrun.
“Furthermore, given the Department of Health reportedly anticipated overruns in August and brought details of the overspend to the cabinet at the end of last year, the questions arise; when did the Department of Public Expenditure become aware of this, and why did it not feature in the Government’s budget statements and publications?
“For this reason, I have contacted both the clerk and chair of the Public Accounts Committee, requesting that the department’s general secretary attends next week’s meeting.
“If this is not an issue for the Department, it must begin to ask itself why it exists.
“The National Development provides for less than €3 billion of capital spending in the next four years. A predicted overrun of more than €450 million is set to reduce that amount by up to 15%.
“This could compromise and ultimately end projects provided for in the National Development Plan, from the National Programme for Radiation Oncology in Cork to the provision of additional hospital beds in acute hospitals.
“What has become clear, from running health expenditure on volatile tax receipts to the National Children’s Hospital Scandal, is that this government cannot manage the public finances.”
Foyle MP Elisha McCallion is calling an urgent meeting with statutory agencies aimed at restoring services which have been suspended following the spate of alerts in the city.
A number of services including transport, postal and housing maintenance have been suspended due to the threats and the Sinn Féin MP said it is vital that they are quickly restored.
She commented: “I have asked the Unity of Purpose group to urgently convene a meeting with the key statutory agencies that have had services affected as a result of this mindless spate of alerts.
“It’s important that we do that in order to demonstrate that the political and civil leadership of this city is absolutely united in its opposition to what we have witnessed over the past number of days.
“We also want to show our support to the local communities who are suffering as a result. They have faced huge disruption and upset over recent days and they are continuing to face hardship due to the withdrawal of vital services.
“We fully understand the difficult position that many statutory agencies and service providers find themselves in and this meeting will be an opportunity to show our support and solidarity to them.
“However, it’s also vital that these services are restored as soon as possible and this meeting will hopefully enable us to take whatever steps are required in order for that to happen.”
Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan has called for immediate action from the British Government to implement the outstanding Legacy Mechanisms of the Stormont House Agreement. The agreement was signed up to by both the British and Irish Governments and the five main parties in the North of Ireland in 2014. It plots a roadmap to achieve truth and justice for all victims of the conflict.
Speaking in the Council of Europe, Senator Gavan condemned the British Government’s approach to the past as one defined by “Denial, Delay and Death”, saying:
“Denial, where the British State have denied involvement in the death of a loved one; Delay, where the British State have frustrated legal process to block the truth; and Death, where family members believe the British State strategy is to wait on the death of family members rather than tell the truth.
“The reason for British Government prevarication is in order to delay and avoid state collusion being exposed, particularly the role of the British Army in its dirty war against the nationalist population of the North of Ireland. Their approach continues to be to deny wrongdoing, conceal the truth and limit accountability.
Speaking on the opening day of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council, Senator Gavan went on to call on the British Government to immediately implement and adequately resource the Stormont House Agreement Legacy mechanisms in a human rights compliant manner.
He also called on the British Government to adequately resource the Lord Chief Justice’s five year plan to clear the backlog in Legacy inquests and adequately resource the Office of the Police Ombudsman to allow them to complete outstanding historical investigations.
Concluding his contribution to the Assembly, Senator Gavan declared:
“The people of the North of Ireland have already waited far too long for justice. It is high time that the British Government faced up to its responsibilities and commitments as set out in the Stormont House Agreement.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Business, Enterprise, and Innovation Maurice Quinlivan TD today said that the 86 empty Údarás na Gaeltachta properties across the country hold great potential for job creation in Gaeltacht areas and called on the Minister for Business Heather Humphreys to facilitate better cooperation between job creation agencies to ensure Gaeltacht areas attract more indigenous businesses and foreign direct investment.
Speaking today, Teachta Quinlivan said:
“Information I recently received today from Údarás na Gaeltachta show that 86 of their properties across the country are currently vacant, with one quarter of these units empty since 2009 or before.
“In one case, an Údarás premises in Béal an Mhuirthead in County Mayo has been lying empty for 20 years.
“For a business unit to be empty since 1999 is totally unacceptable. Surely Údarás could have found some use for it, for example to allow a start-up business, community group or charity use the premises for free until a paying tenant could be found.
“These figures show Donegal is worst affected, with 41 units or 23% of all Údarás’s units in the county currently vacant, half of these idle for 5 years or more.
“Many of these Údarás na Gaeltachta properties are located in rural areas, predominantly in the west of Ireland. These are areas that are in need of substantial investment and focus from the government to ensure local people have the opportunity to remain, live and work in their own communities.
“These properties hold great potential for job creation in Gaeltacht areas and I am calling on the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation to facilitate better cooperation between the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta to ensure all of their clients are made aware of the units and financial assistance each of the agencies have to offer.
“It is essential we attract more indigenous businesses and foreign direct investment to these regions and utilise these properties.
“Ensuring people from Gaeltacht regions are able to stay, live, and work in their home communities is also vital in protecting and growing the use of our native language.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Calire Canavan said tonight that the discovery of a suspect device in Lanark Way, Belfast, is causing serious disruption in the Springfield Road area.
Claire Canavan said:
“A suspect device has been found in Lanark Way which has now been closed.
“The discovery of this device has caused serious disruption with residents from Springfield Road being evacuated from their homes.
“It’s very upsetting for local residents caught up with all this disruption.
“I have been in touch with police who hope the disruption won't last much longer.
“I have also been in touch with Belfast City Council who are organising a venue close by for residents to go to for those who may need it if the disruption continues.
“Those responsible for this incident care nothing for the people who live in this area.”
Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has said the Irish Sea should become a submarine free zone.
Chris Hazzard was speaking after it was confirmed that a British Navy submarine was involved in a near-miss with a ferry in the Irish Sea.
The South Down MP said:
"Sinn Féin want to see an end to British military activity in Ireland in all its forms.
“The confirmation by the British Ministry of Defence that a Royal Navy submarine was involved in a near-miss with a ferry in the Irish Sea has raised serious questions.
“The lives of those on board the ferry were put at risk.
“The British Government and the British Ministry of Defence should end its submarine activity in the Irish Sea to avoid similar incidents in the future.”
Brexit has exposed the failure of partition and the strategic opportunity that now exists to end it must be seized, Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill has said.
Speaking at a major event in Derry’s Guildhall to mark the 100th anniversary of An Chéad Dáil, the party Vice President called for the transition to Irish unity to begin.
“Brexit challenges all of the old assumptions about the previous constitutional, political and economic status quo in the north and south of Ireland,” Michelle O’Neill commented.
“It has exposed the undemocratic nature and failure of partition in Ireland which created an artificial future which has and will remain contested.
“The fulcrum of the Brexit crisis is the border in Ireland.
“There is a growing sense that circumstances are rapidly changing which will inevitably lead to the final break-up of the constitutional structures of the United Kingdom which Theresa May and the DUP say they are committed to preserving.”
Michelle O’Neill said the Sinn Féin leadership had made it clear to British Prime Minister Theresa May in the event of a no-deal crash-out Brexit that it is absolutely incumbent on the British government to put the constitutional future to the people here through a unity referendum.
Michelle O’Neill said, “The Sinn Féin leadership has met with the British Prime Minister and the British Secretary of State over the past few months.
“We have made it clear that in the case of a Brexit crash-out and no-deal scenario that it is absolutely incumbent on them to put the constitutional future to the people here through a unity referendum.
“Their planned imposition of Brexit in Ireland once again demonstrates the failure of partition, and exposes further the gaping democratic deficit inherent in a partitioned Ireland.
“People from across this society, and even those of a British identity, are questioning what will be the merits, benefits of staying within the union after Brexit.
“The EU has said in the event of reunification the whole of Ireland will automatically be subsumed back into the EU.
“So the debate on our constitutional future is as much about our relationship with Europe as it is about Ireland itself.
“The Good Friday Agreement provides a peaceful democratic pathway to Irish Unity.
“There will be no unilateral rewriting of the Agreement by Theresa May, or anyone else, because it is an international Treaty lodged at the UN and had the overwhelming support of the majority of people who live on this island and who voted in support of it 20 years ago.
“The issue of Irish Unity has taken on a new dynamic because of Brexit.
“Beyond Brexit demographics are changing and so too is the political landscape.
“This cannot be ignored. A unity referendum will be held.
“The political momentum on change is moving in that direction.
“The Good Friday Agreement gives people the opportunity and choice to decide our future together.
“Now on the centenary anniversary of the First Dáil there is an onus on the Irish government to plan for unity. To become a persuader for unity. To build the maximum agreement and for all progressive nationalists and republicans to secure and win a referendum on unity.”
Full text of Michelle O’Neill’s speech at tonight’s event in the Guildhall, Derry to mark the 100th anniversary of An Chéad Dáil,
A chairde agus chomrádaithe
I want to begin by condemning the weekend bomb attack on Bishop Street, here in Derry City and the alerts which have taken place today.
It’s well past time for those involved in such actions to turn the page and support the task of advancing the peace process and republican and democratic goals or close the book, because there is zero support for armed actions in this society.
We will not allow these individuals to deflect us from this task or destroy the process of peace-building.
There is absolutely no justification for these actions. The GFA provides a democratic and peaceful avenue to pursue political change including the central republican objective of unifying our country.
This bombing is totally unacceptable and, ironically, comes at a time when support for a peaceful democratic transition to a United Ireland as set out in the GFA is at an all-time high.
There is no support or tolerance for these types of actions. Those involved need to accept that reality.
That said, it is fantastic to join you all here in Derry’s Guildhall to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First Dáil Éireann.
When the TDs of An Chéad Dáil met in the Round Room of Dublin’s Mansion House a century ago, they did so as the legitimate and democratic representatives of the Irish people.
They were the embodiment of a nation’s desire to be free.
Just weeks earlier, in the historic election of December 1918, the country had overwhelmingly voted to finally break the connection with England which then – as now – was the source of so many Irish ills.
Women and men came together from every class, creed and background to reject British interference in Ireland and vote for abstentionist Sinn Féin MPs.
Of a total of 105 seats, 73 were won by Sinn Féin candidates who refused to take their seats at Westminster and instead established the First Dáil.
That election – and that act of democratic defiance – has important parallels for us today.
When nationalist and republican Ireland turned their backs on Westminster in 1918, they did so because they knew the solutions to Irish problems would never be found in London, where they were created in the first place.
This was not just about the taking of an oath of allegiance to an English Queen.
That was certainly part of the equation.
But the key issue was and is one of sovereignty.
Today, once again, the nationalist people of the North have turned their back on Westminster, electing seven Sinn Féin all-Ireland abstentionist MPs to represent their best interests.
And it is an insult to that electorate when Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the SDLP demand that these MPs abandon the mandate they have been given by the people in order to go to Westminster, swear an oath to obey a foreign monarch and take their place on the backbenches of historical irrelevance.
With breath-taking hypocrisy, these same parties will all line up to celebrate and commemorate the democratic patriots of 1919.
But they are nothing more than rhetorical republicans and our message to them is clear.
Just like the patriots of An Chéad Dáil, Sinn Féin will not be sending Irish representatives to Westminster.
We as Irish republicans believe in the sovereignty of the Irish people.
We are opposed to monarchies and elites of all kinds.
Those who voted for Sinn Féin in election after election see no disadvantage in our MPs being active abstentionists.
Active abstentionism is about energetically representing citizens and providing republican leadership.
It’s about working with those citizens as equals and empowering communities to effectively fight for their rights, whether they are cultural rights, economic, national or political rights.
Sinn Féin has an unparalleled reputation in this regard, and do not let anyone tell us otherwise.
We won’t take lectures from Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar, Colum Eastwood or anybody else!
The vision of the Proclamation; the courage and generosity of the men and women of 1916, and of those who met in the Mansion House three years later, contributed to the production of that Democratic Programme of the First Dáil.
The Irish Republic they established 100 years ago was based on the proposition that the people are sovereign and that the public right and welfare comes before the interests of private profit and property.
A real Republic, where people are citizens, not subjects; where they have fundamental rights, not arbitrary privileges; where there is equality, not elitism; and where there is unity, not partition and division.
Never was that principle of the Democratic Programme needed more than it is now 100 years on.
The Rising and the establishment of the First Dáil was a declaration of freedom heard all around the world.
The patriots of this revolutionary period believed that a better Ireland is possible.
But what of Britain’s response to Ireland’s peacefully declared and democratically endorsed desire for freedom in 1919?
Predictably, the self-declared mother of democracy refused to recognise the democratic will of the Irish people.
Irish democracy meant nothing to England. It was collateral damage in Britain’s wider agenda to protect and expand the empire in its war with the other European powers.
An Chéad Dáil was quickly declared illegal and the Irish people were forced to mount a revolutionary war in order to assert their right to national sovereignty.
That history has always reverberated through Irish politics and we are still dealing with the legacy of it today.
Almost 100 years later the two states created by partition have failed to meet the objectives or vision set out in the Proclamation and the Democratic Programme.
Partition created two narrow, conservative, elitist, sectarian regimes.
In the North a deeply sectarian unionist regime institutionalised decades of inequality and injustice which the nationalist and republican people confronted and smashed.
In the south poverty, emigration and inequality was rampant.
NEW IRELAND AND REAL REPUBLIC
Today in 2019 Sinn Féin remains on the frontline confronting these injustices too.
But, much more must be done.
We are for a new Ireland that builds, repairs and organises this society into one that is democratic and inclusive, and based on equality, freedom and social solidarity.
A new Republic that embraces the ethos of the Proclamation and the Democratic Programme and shares its wealth more equitably, looks after its aged and its young, provides full rights for people with disabilities, liberates women, and delivers the highest standards of public services accessible to every citizen.
There are immediate challenges facing those of us who want a united independent Ireland.
These include getting the Irish government to change its policy from one of acquiescing to the union with Britain to one of becoming a persuader for Irish unity; getting the Irish government to begin preparations for Irish unity; and lastly engaging with those of an Ulster British identity on the type of Ireland we want to create.
I believe that the opportunities for real change are within our grasp.
Sinn Féin, with others, can unite our people and unite our country, to help build, shape and lead a new, modern and progressive Ireland.
One in which all identities and traditions have a place and the opportunity to contribute to our shared nation – together.
Sinn Féin is about transforming Ireland and uniting our country for everyone.
This is our raison d’être as a political movement.
We don’t want to hark back to old Ireland.
We are not sentimentalists – we are realists.
We want to build, shape and be part of leading a New Ireland.
We don’t want to face inwards and talk about a united Ireland.
We want us to face outwards and listen to those who don’t want a united Ireland.
Because it is our task to persuade those people, sectors and communities of why it’s in their best economic and political interests to share power not only at Stormont – but on an All-Ireland basis together.
I believe that Irish unity, on the basis of equality, offers the best future for all the people of our island.
Therefore, we need to listen and understand unionist fears, because they too must belong.
Not as a minority.
But as equals and critically as nation builders and political leaders.
Those of us who are united Irelanders must sell our vision.
We are confident about the economic, social and political benefits that a new Ireland will bring.
Brexit has once more brought into sharp focus the contradiction of partition at the heart of Irish politics.
It has created huge uncertainty and directly challenges democracy and Irish national interests.
Just as in 1918/19, the British Parliament is again ignoring the democratic will of the Irish people who do not want Brexit and see there is no good in it for Ireland.
Once again, Britain views our democracy, our economy and the future of our country as collateral damage in their wider European agenda. Our interests are expendable to them.
That has always been the way – and always will be.
Irish interests will never be best served in an English parliament. Even with the best will in the world that would still be the case.
Our future, our potential, our prosperity as a nation rests in the reunification of our country. That is the best way to serve the needs of all our people. That is the best way to maximise the resources of our island.
Our priority is to defend the Good Friday Agreement which is under constant attack from Tory/DUP Brexiteers; and to advance the Irish peace process; the political and constitutional arrangements that were achieved as a result of the Good Friday and subsequent agreements, and our republican objective of Irish reunification.
This is the pathway to success.
There is no other way.
A huge re-evaluation has been provoked about the island’s economic and political future including those of a unionist or British identity in the six counties.
A positive, national conversation about how our constitutional, political and economic future can be reimagined and redesigned has been started by civic and progressive nationalists – but the Irish Government must take their head out of the sands and understand that this reality is in fact occurring.
That the political and demographic landscape on the island is changing and they must fulfil their constitutional obligations by planning for constitutional change and a referendum on Irish unity.
Real potential now exists for a mature, rational and inclusive conversation in Ireland about our shared future – about a new relationship between Ireland and Britain, and between the island of Ireland, Europe itself, and the international community.
Ireland’s future, North and South, should be allowed to evolve in the context of new, progressive, democratic international relationships based upon social solidarity and mutual democratic co-operation.
Brexit challenges all of the old assumptions about the previous constitutional, political and economic status quo in the north and south of Ireland.
It has exposed the undemocratic nature and failure of partition in Ireland which created an artificial future which has and will remain contested.
The fulcrum of the Brexit crisis is the border in Ireland.
A strategic opportunity exists to maximise the democratic argument for an end to partition and to persuade for Irish unity, both domestically and internationally.
A new phase of political change is not only emerging - it has arrived - and the significant strategic political influence of the international community should now assist with planning for the transition towards a new, agreed, united Ireland.
It is time to end the division of Ireland and prepare the transition to Irish unity.
Citizens are looking to the future to see where their best interests are served.
Change is in the air.
Over the past two elections in the north the unionist majority has gone.
The notion of a perpetual unionist majority - the very basis of partition - is gone.
Be in no doubt that a Unity Referendum is coming, and we are preparing for it.
But the ultimate task is to win it.
The Irish people were denied their democratic entitlements in 1919 when the men and women of An Chéad Dáil sat for the first time.
Today, Sinn Féin’s aim is exactly the same as it was then – to end the connection with England and establish a genuine all-Ireland Republic.
That is our vision. That is our aim. That is our goal.
And that, is what this generation of republicans is going to achieve.
Míle buóochas agus go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.”
Sinn Féin Welfare Spokesperson Alex Maskey has welcomed confirmation that the Public Services Ombudsman is to launch an investigation into the handling of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefits.
The West Belfast MLA was commenting after the Ombudsman Marie Anderson announced that her office would use new powers to probe how the Department of Communities has been processing the benefit which replaced the Disability Living Allowance.
Alex Maskey commented: “A series of recent cases have exposed the cruel and arbitrary nature of the PIP assessments being carried out by Capita on behalf of the Department for Communities.
“We do not believe here is any possible justification for the cruel way in which many of these assessments are being conducted. The inexplicable scoring of severely disabled people has also caused considerable and understandable public anger.
“A Sinn Féin delegation met with the Ombudsman in December to ask for an investigation into the way the assessments are being carried out because it is our view that the department and Capita are failing in their duty of care to vulnerable people.
“I very much welcome today’s announcement by the Ombudsman because it is absolutely clear that the roll-out of PIP assessments needs to be probed and these cruel and unnecessary checks brought to an end.”
Sinn Féin Mental Health spokesperson Órlaithí Flynn has written to the Department for Finance to ask for an update on Holywell Hospital's Business Case.
Holywell in Causeway Hospital currently provides inpatient mental health beds for the Northern Trust area. The Business Case proposes a new unit providing over 130 inpatient beds covering PICU, dementia and addiction services.
The West Belfast MLA said:
“Last May I was part of a Sinn Féin delegation that visited Holywell Hospital. The visit confirmed to me the pressing need for a new build.
"At that time the Department of Finance said the new build was still being appraised.
“I have again written to the Department of Finance to ask for an update and to request that the business case is expedited. The case for a new hospital is clear and pressing.”
Speaking in the Mansion House today as part of the state commemoration of An Chéad Dáil, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald said that “the Ireland of today is not the Ireland promised in the 1916 Proclamation. This is not the Dáil of the Democratic Programme.” She continued by saying that “we have before us the opportunity to build a new and united Ireland”.
Teachta McDonald called for the Government to “convene an all-Ireland forum to build for unity and to plan for unity.”
Please see Teachta Mary Lou McDonald’s speech below
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Go raibh maith agat a Ceann Comhairle.
Táim lán-sásta labhairt ag an ócáid stairiúil seo - comóradh céad bliain An Chéad Dáil.
One hundred years ago - in this very room - revolutionary Ireland found its voice.
TDs gather with a unity of purpose, in the cause of equality, independence and freedom.
An eye witness to the day, Máire Comerford of Cumann na mBan said of An Chéad Dáil, “never was the past so near, or the present so brave or the future so full of hope”
It is an honour to follow in their footsteps.
To share this room with elected representatives from across this island and, including the counties of partitioned Ulster - Antrim, Down, Derry, Fermanagh, Armagh and Tyrone.
Today we are whole.
After so much hope, the vision of the Democratic Programme and the First Dáil was lost to British repression, civil war, partition, conflict and the establishment of two conservative states, north and south.
The Ireland of today is not the Ireland promised in the 1916 Proclamation.
This is not the Dáil of the Democratic Programme.
Ireland remains divided. Broken.
The tenements have gone, but tenants live in fear of eviction.
Children no longer go hungry in the streets but now in hotel rooms.
Unseen and forgotten.
The lockout bosses are gone, but workers’ rights are being eroded.
A job is no longer the route out of poverty.
There are those who believe that homelessness is acceptable, that poverty is inevitable and that partition is permanent.
I do not accept that view.
Our forbearers one hundred years ago rejected that view.
The generation that entered this room and said to the British government, your empire is ended.
This is our nation.
We come not to recriminate about what could have been; but to plan for what can be.
Let me say; this is the time.
This is the time to realise the promise of the revolutionary generation.
We come not to genuflect to the past but to stand with all those who came before us.
Is trí Ghaeilge a ritheadh imeachtaí na Chéad Dála céad bliain ó shin.
Tharla sé seo mar gur bhain chéad chruinniú na Dála le níos mó ná Stát a bhunú – bhain sé leis an Náisiún.
Uirlis pholaitiúil leis an náisiún a chur chun cinn a bhí i Sinn Féin agus chuaigh sé i bhfeidhm ar i bhfad níos mó ná a ballraíocht féin.
Bhí forbairt ag teacht thar ghluaiseacht na gceardchumann agus ar ghluaiseacht chearta na mban ag an am sin.
Bhí An Cumann Lúthchleas Gael agus Conradh na Gaeilge ar thús cadhnaíochta maidir le slánú agus caomhnú an Gaeilge.
Agus céad bliain ar aghaidh, tá an Ghaeilge faoi bhagairt fós.
Caithfimid níos mó daoine a spreagadh chun An Gaeilge a úsáid ina shaol, ar fud an oileáin - ó thuaidh agus ó dheas.
Independence alone is not enough.
To paraphrase Connolly, it is not about changing the flag over Dublin Castle.
Ireland, north and south, is changing.
We have before us the opportunity to build a new and united Ireland.
In which all can find a home.
In which the sick are cared for.
An Ireland of the safety net and of the helping hand.
An Ireland of equal rights, equal opportunity and shared prosperity.
A free and sovereign nation amongst the nations of the world.
Standing here one hundred years on, the past has never been so near, the present crying out for bravery.
The future so filled with challenge and hope.
Let us not wait another one hundred years.
The government should convene an all-Ireland forum to build for unity and to plan for unity.
We now have a peaceful and democratic pathway to a new and united Ireland.
An opportunity that was not afforded the First Dáil or generations of Irish Republications.
Now is the time to start the last leg of that journey.
To build a truly national democracy and a truly national parliament.
An Irish Republic, worthy of the name and the sacrifices of all those who came before.
Tá bealach síochánta, daonlathach againn anois Éire aontaithe a bhaint amach.
Deis nach raibh ar fáil do bhaill Na Chéad Dála ná do ghlúin eile phoblachtánaigh.
Tá sé in am anois an tír a aontú agus ní mór dúinn reifreann ar aontacht na hÉireann a bheith againn.
Caithfimid é sin a dhéanamh agus caithfimid Éire nua, aontaithe a bhaint amach.
Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Karen Mullan has welcomed assurances that changes will be made to school procurement rules following a consultation with over 200 principals.
The Foyle MLA said:
“Procurement is one of the main issues raised with me by school Principals. Schools require greater flexibility in this area because the current rules are too restrictive and don't deliver value for money.
“I have made numerous representations on this issue to the Permanent Secretary in the Department of Education and to the Education Authority.
“In May 2018 the Education Authority confirmed with me they were initiating a consultation with Principals.
"The Education Authority has now assured me that after consulting over 200 Principals immediate improvements are being made and further improvements are planned.
“I am glad to see that this issue has been recognised and that steps are being taken to give School Principals more flexibility on procurement.”