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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A Cairde, For far too long the ordinary working people of this state have been carrying the burden of austerity, firstly by the Fianna Fail led government and more recently by the FG/Lab government, every day we see the human cost of austerity, the real and very damaging effects it is having on the lives of families across this state
We see children going to school hungry. Young people emigrating in their droves.
We see cut backs in our schools and hospitals. Teaching posts lost and class numbers increasing.
Hospital beds closed and patients lying on trolleys.
Businesses closing and people losing their jobs.
Our domestic economy is on the floor.
440,000 people are out of work. 150,000 more have emigrated.
1,600 businesses shut their doors last year. Many more are struggling to stay afloat.
Families are making tough decisions every day as they struggle to pay for basic necessities.
But of course it does not have to be like this. There is a better and a fairer way.
We need to change course. Cutting and hacking away at public services is not the answer.

Empting the pockets of low/middle incomes families is not the answer. We need to recognise that austerity is not working. We need a strategy based on growth and investment. One that creates jobs and gets people back to work.
One that grows our domestic economy and offers real stability.We in Sinn Féin have published our proposals. We are calling for a three-year investment package of €13 billion focusing on infrastructure and new enterprises.
This money would be sourced from the National Pension Reserve Fund, matching funding from the European Investment Bank and an investment from the private pension sector.

This could create some 40,000 jobs per year. Similar proposals are also being put forward by SIPTU and ICTU. The Government needs to take heed of what is happening across Europe and join with the growing demand for a move away austerity. We the citizens need to demand a new plan from our government, one based on growth; investment and getting people back to work.

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A chairde
The Programme for Government of the Assembly in the North is based on developing the economy in a way which promotes equality and targets objective need. Now, more than ever, that is our challenge.

To this end we have the shared objectives of building the economy and tackling disadvantage. We need to ensure that those most in need benefit from economic growth.

The lack of fiscal powers at the Assembly limits our ability to tackle the economic crisis. Without the necessary tools we cannot design the policies to assist economic recovery on the island and are simply reduced to redistributing an ever decreasing block grant from London.

The reality is that no British Government budget is about easing the burden of the people in the North. Economic policies emerging from Whitehall are not designed for our long term economic benefit.

The reality is that the Tory led British Government has slashed the Executive’s budget by around half a billion pounds on top of their cuts effecting Social Welfare programmes. This is having a devastating effect on the most vulnerable in our society.

The likelihood is that the Tories will continue to impose even more severe cuts that will have a direct impact on the Executive’s finances and we are completely powerless to prevent the British Government’s smash and grab tactics on our resources until we take control of our own economic destiny. It is imperative that give ourselves the ability to mitigate against the worst effects of British economic policy.

The work to devolve Corporation Tax powers to the Assembly is a welcome beginning but we must not stop there. The Executive needs to press the Treasury for accurate figures on the total tax take for the North and then set about, systematically, securing for itself the economic levers to allow us to act in the interests of those who gave us that responsibility.

The position of our Finance Minister that he doesn’t want any more fiscal powers transferred from London to Belfast because he is a unionist is a complete abdication of his responsibility to those who elected him.

On one part of the island we have Ministers who don’t want fiscal powers in case it offends the Union, while in the Southern part we have Ministers surrendering the state’s economic sovereignty lest they offend the bankers in Europe. Meanwhile the people of Ireland suffer.

It is time for elected leaders across this island to stand up for the people who elected them, to take responsibility for economic recovery and to do so in the interests of all of our citizens.

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In February of this year the unemployment rate was 14.7% in the South. Youth unemployment, which is unemployment of persons under 25 years, was more than double that figure at 31.6%. And in the North youth unemployment is at a 15 year high. Sinn Fén is a party of equality and the equality that we seek is not just basic rights of food and shelter, of education and healthcare but also I believe that real equality should give us other important things, such as; HOPE and OPPORTUNITY.

We can see clearly with the economic collapse that equality was never a part of the establishment’s agenda. These were the first rights to disappear for all of us; outside the golden circles; of banking, of closed shop professions and of political elites. For many who seek hope and opportunity emigration has seemed the only option and up to 75,000 Irish people are predicted to emigrate in 2012.

Sinn Féin will actively fight for these rights for young people and to provide opportunity and hope in their own country. We envisage the young people who are currently unemployed breathing new life into new areas for job creation; computer gaming and multimedia, community development, the green economy and new directions in tourism and agriculture.

As well as a fully costed commitment to the young people of Ireland to provide 18,000 places for retraining and up-skilling we also propose a Youth Jobs Fund. This fund would be open to organisations in the public and private sectors, social enterprises, co-operatives and young would-be entrepreneurs with the capability to create real jobs that deliver real benefits to our community. The cost of such a stimulus package is €500 million, however the disastrous costs of not taking action and creating youth employment will be immeasurable.

We also propose a national entrepreneurship programme with incubation centres around the country and to re-energise the co-operative sector, where Ireland often led the way in the past, through the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. While Youth Employment is key to the development of each young person’s future, our nation’s future also depends on this generation of young people and the next generations; their skills, their educated adaptability and their energy. Help us to build a prosperous, sustainable and equal future for everyone.

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A Chairde agus gcomrádaithe

With the continuation of the economic crisis, unemployment and austerity in the 26 counties social issues have taken a back seat to discussion about bank debt, sovereign debt and bailouts.

One such social issue, a very core right which republicans strive for is housing.

But in many ways in the 26 counties housing has been taking the back seat for decades. Government policy has seen the end of any development and increase in the social housing stock of local authorities.

The responsibility of the state to provide a roof over the head of its citizens has been replaced with the need to form cosy deals with developers, landlords and speculators in order to enrich the few while hundreds of thousands are inadequately housed or not at all.

The economic crisis as I have said has only continued this pattern.

Last year the Department of Environment announcement what it termed “a radical new departure” in housing provision. Given the fact that what was outlined in the policy document this quote is taken from were nothing new, we must look at how the Department have pursued housing responsibilities since its publication.

The most glaring example is the very handsome deal squared with developers under NAMA that the department heralded as the Social dividend long sought by NAMA’s opponents especially Sinn Fein.
2000 units were to be identified.

Now 6 months later not one person has been housed by the deal and half the identified units have been deemed unsuitable.
But just were the details of this deal.

Really the word deal is misleading because the scheme setup by NAMA and the Department is nothing more than another feathering of the bed of developers who were instrumental in the states downfall.

The government plan to pay developers approximately 15 million euro a year for 20 years and then hand back the units for the developers to do with what they will.

That is an estimated 300 million over the lifetime of this scheme being paid to developers already bailed out by the public through NAMA and for nothing more than a 20 year lease.

We in Sinn Fein are committed to real social housing and state provision. To the true recognition of everyone’s right to housing.

The solution to the problems of the housing crisis and homelessness are within the grasp of the Fine Gael Labour government.

They must listen to us when we demand a real social dividend from NAMA and the recognition of the right to housing.

They must listen to us when we demand a target for ending homelessness, a dedicated strategy to deliver follow on housing and “housing first” and the equality proofing of all housing policy to ensure it serves everyone.

I welcome the motions to be debated on housing this year and encourage comrades to contribute to the discussion on what is an incredibly important issue for the people of our country.

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The priorities for Sinn Féin are to ensure families across this country live in safe sustainable communities with services paid for by a progressive fair tax system.

In my role as party spokesperson on Environment, Community & Local Government I have held Minister Phil Hogan to account on major issues, including Septic tank charges, house hold charges and the proposed water charges.

I have demanded the minister introduce a Climate Change Bill and introduce local government reform based on democratic accountability, inclusion and consultation.

We have worked with the community and voluntary sector in opposing cuts and I have worked with trade unions to ensure employees in the community sector are properly and adequately represented.Sinn Féin remains absolutely opposed to the Household Charge. We have opposed it at every opportunity both inside and outside Leinster House.

The household charge is a fraud. The government cut the funding to local government by €175 million and used it to bailout the banks. The same government then charge householders €100 for local government services already paid for in your taxes.

Households now pay for waste collection, pay €500 to call out the fire brigade and if this government have their way you will also pay for the water you drink. And despite their bully boy tactics and propaganda the government and in particular Minister Hogan have failed to win the argument.

Nearly 50% of households are standing up to the right wing tactics of Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail and by boycotting this unjust charge. I would like to take the opportunity to highlight one particular important initiative taken by our office.

We have drafted and submitted a bill which, if passed by the Dáil, will reverse the household charge. Our bill entitled, the Local Government Household Charge Repeal Bill 2012 will be taken for debate in the Dáil on June 19th next.

Our ‘Back the Bill Campaign’ aims to build support for our bill. I am happy to say we have already received support from both Unite and Mandate trade unions. We will, over the next 3 weeks, be campaigning for support from other unions, community groups and TDs.

Our bill will give a voice to all those who have campaigned in recent months against the Household Charges. I would urge all opposition TDs and in particular Labour government TDs to come out and support our bill.

I would encourage you to get your union, community group, residents association to Back the Bill Campaign and ensure the households charge are reduced to the rubbish bin of history on June 20th.

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The Development of Regional Transport Networks and Public Transport is an integral part of Modern Life to achieving a sustainable future across the Island of Ireland.

A Modern Competitive Country needs to provide an efficient Public Transport System to support our increasing economic and social demands for mobility and accessibility.

Sinn Féin can utilize our Strength to develop a modern transport system, fit for purpose for the 21stCentury advancing an All Ireland network which integrates all of our Country.

The A5 plans for a dual Carriageway from Aughnacloy to Derry is a project which was only made possible because Sinn Féin held the Ministry for Regional Development in the last mandate.

Sinn Féin’s Commitment to deliver a policy to ensure balanced Regional Development saw this go ahead. This region as you all know has been neglected by both states on this island since partition.

The A5, one of the biggest Capital Projects ever on the island will begin later this year. Sinn Féin will continue to lobby the Irish Government to stand by their commitments to the A5 and plans for the Route from Strabane to Letterkenny and from Aughnacloy to Clontivrin are developed and delivered.

The need for cross border infrastructure projects is essential for the delivery of all island issues that will be of great benefit to all the people in this country. There are indeed a wealth of these which need to be brought forward.

Much more work must be done on the other proposed projects such as the Enniskillen By-pass and indeed the problematic sections of the A6 particularly the Dungiven By-pass and the Castledawson to Randlestown section.

I would propose that the dynamic be changed on this from being an entirely Northern based scheme encompassing the Derry-Belfast route to being an All-Ireland approach connecting Belfast Derry Sligo Galway Limerick Cork, otherwise known as the Atlantic corridor.

The benefits of this on a National basis would be immense in terms of trade and industry. Smaller but equally important infrastructure projects should include the Greencastle to Magilligan Ferry which has carried nearly three million passengers since its inception. This is a critical piece of the tourism product for all of Ireland as well as being of significant importance to the North-West. It is clear that current patterns of transport and the high level of dependency upon the private car are not sustainable.

The significant increase in fuel prices, emissions and congestion over recent years, particularly in our major cities and towns must be fairly addressed. This will required moving towards alternative means of powering vehicles and sustainable transport choices. Sinn Féin supports the E-Car/vehicle rollout across the island, a number of councils in the 6 counties have purchased electric vehicles as part of their fleet.

An issue close to my heart is rail transports, Sinn Féin in the North West produced a Pham plat arguing for the re-establishment of the Rural Network to the region, however whilst this might not be feasible or practical in the present economic climate.

The current rail system needs modernization, particularly between the major cities of Belfast and Dublin. It takes an hour longer to travel by train than by road.

Sinn Féin will continue to lobby and drive forward plan to upgrade this important. Sinn Féin again through our tenure of Minister of Regional Development initiated plans to bring a rapid transport bust system to Belfast. People with knowledge and expertise were seconded from Dublin Bus by Conor Murphy to Translink to oversee the system implemented in Belfast.

Finally Sinn Féin must be at the Centre of defending and enhancing Rural Transport Schemes which provide vital means of travel for Rural Communities particularly those at risk of Social exclusion.

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Sinn Féin has been at the forefront of pushing for positive change to transform the delivery of justice on the island of Ireland for over a century.

Our policy development team have developed a very progressive and comprehensive draft set of policy proposals in the Justice area which must now be finalised by giving members the opportunity to participate in its further development.

Over the years, we as Republicans have challenged unjust laws, unjust means and methods of policing, unjust means and methods of investigation and interrogation including torture, unjust courts, the corruption of the trial process, and inhumane prison conditions.

We did this not just for the benefit of political prisoners – but for the benefit of the community as a whole.

Due to the constructive interventions of republicans, fundamental changes in the landscape of Irish justice have taken place – and are continuing to take place.

But our work in this regard is far from done.

People still feel unsafe. People are still vulnerable to crime.

Rural communities are being faced with cuts to policing services based purely on a financial calculation from the Garda Commissioner, rather than local needs.

Everyone has the right to freedom from fear, and this is a challenge the Irish policing and justice systems must meet.

We must have effective policing as one of the mechanisms to combat crime – but we must also not allow that to draw us towards supporting policing strategies that are clearly not republican because they come at the expense of human rights.

There must be more than the sound-bites and gimmicks, more than the reactionary policies we all too often get from Government – they are quick fix solutions that simply won’t work.

If they did work then we wouldn’t have the levels of crime and anti-social behaviour that blight many of our communities.

As I have said, there are no quick fix solutions, this will be a long process and the solutions have to be socially and economically effective.

This approach is what makes us different to other parties.

We do not construct justice, social or economic policy based on knee jerk reaction.

Justice policy must be evidence-based. We must address what causes crime – prevention is better than cure.

We know from our research and international best practise of an evidence-based analysis of justice policy, that one of the main things that will cut crime levels, is ensuring the provision of community, economic development and the elimination of poverty, ensuring education and employment, having a rights-based society where housing, healthcare and equality are not reserved for the privileged few.

These are the things that reduce people’s insecurity and vulnerability to crime – not the populist gimmicks demanded by certain crime columnists.

Very often we see the creation of more laws, and new laws and regimes, so that the Government can be seen to be doing something about crime. They are token gestures.

A few years ago Michael McDowell introduced ASBOs. We said they wouldn’t work and they didn’t.

Justice is a core republican objective and it requires the rule of law – but rule of law must be rights-based and accountable.

Everyone has the right to freedom from fear, and to feel safe and secure in their homes and communities – and for this to happen there must be a more equal society, but while we are on the way to building that society, there is an obligation on the Government to ensure that the policing systems are resourced effectively.

There must be an increase in the proportion of Gardai on operational duty including through civilian support, response times should be quicker, and high visibility patrols must increase.

There must be an increase in greater foot patrols on the ground in communities. These are the things that reduce crime and lead to increased safety in communities.

The recession has been an exceptionally negative thing but there is now an opportunity for the Government to actually look at the solutions that work and what is cost effective.

Short-term measures cost more in the long term, but we have the capacity, as republicans to come up with effective solutions to crime in Ireland.

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Prior to the 2007 Assembly elections Sinn Féin set out a number of objectives around achieving fully democratically accountable policing and justice structures in the North.

Fundamental to those objectives was the transfer of Policing and Justice powers from Westminster to the Assembly and all-Ireland Ministerial Council.

Others said that we would never succeed but as with other seemingly intractable issues, through perseverance, determination and negotiation skills - we once again confounded the naysayers.
In 2007 Alex Maskey, Martina Anderson and Daithi McKay took their places on the Policing Board and since April 2010 the Department of Justice has been in existence within the structures of government in the North. Sinn Fein has been to the fore of holding the Department to account and also shaping policy to bring about a fair and equitable justice system.
But simply because Policing and Justice are now under democratic control does not mean that much more change is required.

Indeed there are many issues which require radical reform and continuing scrutiny.
That is our challenge and that is our work.

Sinn Fein has played a critical role in exposing the lack of leadership and political interference within the Police Ombudsman’s Office. We brought to public attention how this interference was undermining confidence in the vital role this Office plays in accountable policing.

Sinn Fein publicly stated that under the leadership of Al Hutchison public confidence was being severely undermined and that he had no role in bringing that office back to where it needed to be.

Al Hutchison departure removes an critical obstacle to restoring and we welcome the appointment of Michael Maguire. He as the head of Criminal Justice Inspectorate is aware of the task and challenge before him. We pledge our support to make the Office the effective accountability mechanism it has to be.

Our members on the Policing Board have exposed the practice of retiring and rehiring for what it is – an attempt to circumvent normal standards and practices. In the old days this would have went undetected so the efforts of Gerry Kelly Pat Sheehan and Caitriona Ruane and their advisory group should be commended.

We welcome yesterday’s intervention by NIPSA in calling retiring and rehiring as jobs for the boys. The space to make this statement was created by Sinn Fein.

I want to put on record an acknowledgement of great work carried out by our members on the DPPs, we have turned them into the accountability mechanism that they were designed to be.
Their work will continue on the Policing and Community Partnerships. Some want to curtail their role, and fought and shaped them to ensure that accountability was one of their guiding principles.

Sinn Fein at Hillsborough sought and achieved at Hillsborough the need for radical reform of the Prison Service in the North. The Owers Team has outlined the way forward and we will ensure that reforms delivered. Now is the time for the old regime to move aside and the exit scheme for prison warders is freeing the prison system of the old customs and practices which stand in stark contrast of the needs of imprisonment in 2012.

Our work on the Youth Justice Review, the reform of the criminal justice system continues and will help us in providing a fair and equitable system of justice.

This Ard Fheis in motions call for the release of Martin Corey and Marian Price – our position is clear no one should be held on the revocation of a conflict related life sentence.

Under the terms of Weston Park Gerry McGeough should not be in prison.

Our work to promote a fair and equitable justice system will continue, we face many challenges and we meet resistance from those who oppose to change, those unaccustomed or resentful to scrutiny and being accountable - but that is a challenge we will face head on, confident in our ability to deliver and strengthened by the successes of the past year and beyond.

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In the 26 counties 90 people a day are emigrating. Half a million people are unemployed and 170 homes are reposessed over three months.

In the 6 counties £4 billion has been taken out of the block grant and on top of that the welfare system is being decimated.

And all of this is done in the name of austerity without any understanding or care of the devastating consequences for the ordinary people who have to face reduced take-home pay in real terms, higher costs of living, the burden of bank debt and cuts in public spending.

But we’re all in this together, right? Well, not quite.

The financiers, the bankers, the corporate executives, the holders of private equity and hedge funds, those faceless financial gamblers who lie at the root cause of the recession, are living pre-recession lifestyles whilst the rest of us live with austerity as a fact of life.

Granted, since 2008 some tighter financial regulations have been put in place but the necessary reform of economic policies has not happened.

Regulations are still not restrictive enough and reform has fallen far short of what is needed to prevent 2008 from happening again.

The pre-2008 economic system is pretty much still intact.

The financial sector continues to operate largely unregulated - like a casino full of Reckless Gamblers who, like Financial Vampires, are still taking chances with other people’s money, who exploit pension, insurance and savings funds, as well as the profits from genuine labour and business, and are still amassing billions in personal wealth that is stored far from the reach of the public purse.

Banks and Corporations continue to stock pile cash, Top Executives, Bankers and Financiers are still increasing their wealth.

Vodaphone has built a cash surplus of $14.3 billion; BP has built $12.8 billion.

In 2009, bank bonuses were at the same level as that year’s lending to small businesses; and almost 3,000 employees from the City of London, and around 300 employees at the Royal Bank of Scotland and employees at the Anglo Irish Bank, earned more than £1 million each in bonuses.

Added to the difficulties within the financial sector we also face duplication costs by having to pay for two of everything: two health services; two education systems; two transport infrastructures; two administrations.

In the North we are fighting to gain more control over our sovereignty, while the South look ready to hand sovereignty over to Europe.

In both cases, we’re at the mercy of external powers who hold the financial purse strings. In the North, British rule; in the South, EU control.

Despite our limited powers in the North, we have strived to protect people

We rejected the introduction of household water charges;

we froze student fees;

we maintained free travel for Pensioners,

We widened the provisions for Free School Meals and introduced grants for primary school uniforms,

We invested £80 million for disadvantaged communities; and are we will find the same funding for the to assist the most vulnerable in our society and have already allocated and additional 22 million to those on benefits particularily pensioners and those in receipt of cancer treatment.

If Sinn Féin in the north can achieve all of this with such limitations, think of what we could do on an all Ireland basis.

With the sovereignty of our country in our own control, we could decide our own economic and social fate.

We could choose an economic model that would promote greater equality of wealth distribution through increased wages, progressive taxation and investment in businesses to create new jobs and wealth.

This is not some dream for a fantastical utopia. It’s an entirely realisable and practical solution that has been successfully applied already in other places and in other times throughout modern history.

So, let’s work together to put an end to the short-termism of the financial vampires who drain our economy and instead, return to the practical economic measures that will ensure an economic system based on equality and rights and all Ireland solutions in a united Ireland context.

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The Austerity Treaty is bad for Ireland and bad for the European Union.

Its authors have misdiagnosed the cause of the Eurozone crisis and have prescribed the wrong medicine.

Their proposed remedy – more austerity and less democracy – will make the patient even worse.

On May 31st citizens in this state have a clear choice.

If you are for austerity and against democracy vote Yes.

But if you believe, as I do, that austerity has failed, then you must vote No.

If you believe, as I do, that decisions are best taken by democratically elected politicians, then you must vote No.

Article 3 of the Austerity Treaty seeks to impose a harsh structural deficit target of 0.5%. This will mean at least €6 billion more austerity post 2015 – this will mean more taxes on low and middle income people and more cuts to front line services in health, education and community services.

Article 4 of the Treaty requires us to reduce our debt-to-GDP ratio by 1/20th a year from 2018. If the economy does not perform well this could lead to even deeper cuts and higher tax increases in order to reduce the debt.

Article 5 gives significant new powers to the European Commission to impose fiscal and budgetary prescriptions on member states deemed to be in breach of the rules.

Article 9 gives the European Court of Justice the power to impose fines of up to €160 million on states deemed to be in breach of the rules.

And by giving these harsh rules and tough enforcements the force of international law and the protection of our Constitution we are making it almost impossible to change them.

Austerity is not working. It is hurting people, damaging our society and blocking a return to economic growth.

We need a change of direction. We need investment in jobs. We need to stand up for Ireland. We need to vote no on May 31st.

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Sinn Féin’s core objectives of promoting equality and building a united Ireland dictate all my work as Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure in the six counties. That is evident through a range of political strategies Sinn Féin is driving in relation to the Irish language, the major capital spend on new sports stadia, and the development of a positive and effective approach to the decade of centenaries now upon us.

Take the Liofa campaign which is increasing the inclusiveness and spreading the cultural richness of the Irish language. I was deeply proud to launch Liofa last September, with a target of generating 2015 fluent Irish speakers in the next three years.

Nine months on, over 1900 have already signed up and the campaign is spreading by the day. People from every walk of life have committed themselves to Liofa: from PSNI officers to GAA members; from DUP politicians to republican ex-prisoners; from those who have lost their fluency, to those who never had it. Young and old; from every background: in every area.

It is a campaign which I have launched throughout the north, and the appetite and enthusiasm for Liofa is inspiring. Mar shampla, tá mé ag foghlaim arís agus ag freastal ar mo rang gaeilge gach seachtain. Ma bhfuil mise abalta é a dhéanamh, thig le gach duine é a dhéanamh!

Those principles of equality and inclusiveness for the Irish language, are also at the heart of the new stadia programme I am directing. Costing over £110m, the three new sports stadia for gaelic, soccer and rugby represent one of the biggest capital projects that the Executive is bringing forward in the current term.

Sinn Féin as a party, and I as a republican activist and Minister of Sport, see the stadia programme as a major responsibility. But it is not just about bricks and mortar, or pounds and pence. It is about people and places, especially the most deprived and objectively needy in the six counties.

I have made it my Ministerial priority to ensure that effective contract clauses and equality policy mechanisms will be built into the development of the three stadia. The purpose of these initiatives will be to target sustainable employment and sustainable apprenticeships at the most objectively needy sectors of society, and at the same time ensure that local deprived communities in the vicinity of the new stadia gain maximum involvement and outcomes through wider social and economic returns.

This isn’t just about building new stadia: it’s about building a future for the most systematically deprived communities in the north. And while we are building that practical future, we also have to build a political future in which equality, inclusiveness, self-determination and respect for difference are at the heart.

That is why Sinn Féin will ensure that the current decade of centenaries into which we face will be commemorated and celebrated on the basis of those core republican values. That means Irish republicans being open to learning, understanding and appreciating the common history of this island in ways that we might never previously have considered.

It means unionists starting to engage with the republican reality that partition and the Orange state was bad for everyone on the island, because it allowed the British connection at Westminster to once more divide Irish people on the basis of a regime of malign apartheid and structured discrimination.

And it means that some politicians in the 26 counties who commemorate major IRA actions of one hundred years ago whilst at the same time facilitating modern illegal wars in the Middle-East through Shannon airport, should catch themselves on and finally accept that modern Irish republicanism – led by Sinn Féin – is truly delivering for the people and for the future.
Go raibh mile maith agaoibh.

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In a few days’ time the people of this state will be asked to vote on a treaty which will bring an extra 8 billion euro in cuts on top of what we have already suffered because of the failure of the previous and current government and the EU itself to rein in casino capitalism.

Only the Irish citizens who happen to live in the 26 counties have the opportunity to express their democratic view on the Austerity Treaty which to quote Chancellor Merkel is “permanent and binding forever”. There are 500 million people in the EU but only the 5 million who happen to be Irish citizens living in this part of Ireland get to have a say! It seems that is democracy EU-style in this day and age.

It is easy to feel powerless as the forces of austerity in this government and across Europe would wish us to feel but there should be hope. The Greek people have said enough is enough and have thrown out the cheerleaders of austerity in their country. The reaction has been predictable- a tidal wave of threats and interference in their democratic procedures. In France, Germany and Italy there has been a swing against austerity-mongers and towards more realistic policies. We can join in this movement and help put a nail in the failed policy of austerity.

What this treaty also does in erode Irish sovereignty in a very real way. It is nearly 100 years ago that the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army took up arms to establish the rights of the Irish people to the ownership of Ireland. What they fought for was the right of then Irish people to choose for themselves their own path- the “unfettered control of their own destinies”.

Sinn Fein is committed to fighting to the last day and working with all progressive forces to ensure that this austerity treaty will not damn us to a generation of cuts and a generation of Irish people to forced emigration to keep unemployment figures down.

Fundamentally, and in a very explicit way, this Treaty surrenders Irish sovereignty in return for absolutely nothing. No Irish Republican could support this and nobody who claims to be heirs of James Connolly could accept this.

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Fraternal greetings to our friends and comrades from home and abroad and welcome to this year’s Ard Fhéis in beautiful Killarney from Sinn Fein’s Office of Foreign Affairs and our international department.

Tá failte roimhe, Karibu sana, Bienvenido, Ongi Etorri, agus Salaama waku.

I have been given three minutes to impress upon you the vision that drives Sinn Fein’s international agenda. So, I think the best way to do this is to quote from our party’s recent submission to the Government’s White Paper on Development Aid.

“Sinn Fein’s primary goal, in all our dealings with the international community, is to keep Ireland at the heart of global justice.”

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 states:

The ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedoms and freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his civil and political rights, as well as his economic, social and cultural rights.

These are fine words. And Sinn Féin believes that such fine words need to be turned into action – now. States do not confer human rights. Law does not confer human rights. Humanity alone confers the right to freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. But the indivisible relationship between political and civil rights, and economic, social and cultural rights cannot be ignored – and the effective mainstreaming of these human rights must become the thread that runs through all our work in foreign policy.

To that effect, Sinn Fein’s Foreign Affairs Department has been very busy over this past year. We have championed the human rights of peoples from Sri Lanka to Colombia and from Peru to Bahrain and we have actively supported Ireland’s overseas aid programme. I can personally report on the real positive impact of that programme following a visit to Ethiopia last November.

Both nationally and internationally, Sinn Fein’s Foreign Affairs Department has been working to halt the spread of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and to advance the rights of the Palestinian people to a Palestinian state.

This Ard Fhéis again extends solidarity greetings to all of our brothers and sisters across the Arab world, fighting for freedom, justice and democracy. The spirit of the Arab Spring is still burning bright.

Finally, we can never forget our friends and comrades in the Basque Country who have been our staunch allies through all our years of struggle, as we continue to support them to achieve their rightful objectives.

Sinn Féin will continue to address these issues and advance the cause of besieged people wherever we find them. And whenever these people find us.

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The unification of our island as a sovereign Republic remains at the heart of our project. We are confident that aim is shared by the majority of the Irish people, and we are confident that will achieve that objective.

We are also conscious that we need to act as persuaders for a United Ireland and that is why we are engaged in a wide ranging outreach to people in all sections of our community including within the Unionist community.

That work is ongoing and I would like to pay tribute to the vital role within all of that of Lucilita Breathnach and others.

As part of that work we have organised conferences on a range of issues. Central to that is to demonstrate that the unification of the country is not some esoteric or mystical pursuit but that it is a practical and indeed realistic objective.

Many people indeed, who do not share our republican commitment to achieving unity, are persuaded by the practical aspects of the question.

It is not only ludicrous across so many sectors of Irish life that we have duplicate organisations and networks but it actually costly in terms of lost opportunities. To that end we have already produced research showing the economic and financial benefits of organising the economy and public services on an all Ireland basis.

We need to develop that further and to draw in a wider and wider range of people with expertise in different areas and who can assist in framing the policies and frameworks for best utilising our resources on an All Ireland basis.

We are also of course a campaigning party and a party to whom increasing numbers of our people look to for a lead in their own struggles against the current economic and political order.

And while there are differences between the two jurisdictions there are many areas where mutual co-operation between communities can be most effective in achieving outcomes for those communities.

A current case in point is the campaign to ensure that the gas that lies under several of the border counties in the Lough Allen Basin is not extracted through the process known as fracking. Our party representatives on both sides of the border; in Stormont and in Leinster House and on local authorities have been to the fore on this. We also need of course to highlight the wider issues of ownership and taxation of the gas itself.

All of this and other ley issues must be faced on an All Ireland basis with the practical aim of implementing our policies within a 32 county administration in the not too distant future.

I look forward to listening to the debate.

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Not far from here at Ballyseedy Cross on 6 March 1923, 8 republican prisoners were horrifically killed after being tied to a mine by Free State forces.

The previous day at Knocknagoshel 5 Free State soldiers were killed in an IRA attack.

The day after Ballyseedy 4 more republican prisoners were executed in similar circumstances here in Killarney, and on 12 March, another 5 republican prisoners were again tied to, and killed by a landmine in Cahirciveen by the Free State.

That month in Kerry is a stark reminder of the terrible suffering inflicted throughout our civil war.

However, nothing was done in its aftermath to reconcile the seismic hurts caused.

No reconciliation was put in place in this state to try and heal the human effects of that conflict.

The divisions created became trans generational. They blighted Irish society for 9 decades.

We should learn from our history, and avoid the past repeating itself.

The end to our recent political conflict has given way to peace and political progress.

We are right to be satisfied, but have no right to be complacent.

The war caused huge pain for republicans, unionists, and all our people, north and south.

Sinn Fein recognises that pain and hurt remain to be addressed among our people, and we are committed to developing an authentic reconciliation process to do that.

We believe it is possible to open a new phase in our peace process, facilitating dialogue on how all hurts can be acknowledged, reduced and if possible healed.

There is a political and moral responsibility on us to work collectively and create the best circumstances for our children to grow up in a better Ireland than we did.

We are republicans in the tradition of Tone and McCracken, dedicated to a united Ireland, and unity of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter.

An Ireland at peace with itself is a pre requisite to achieving an Ireland of Equals.

As agents of change we believe the peace process can be powerfully advanced through reconciliation, supported by economic and social rights and opportunities for every citizen.

Republicans have been central to achieving peace. 

We believe now is a time to begin forging new relationships, among and between our diverse communities, north and south; a time to make new friendships; and, a time to begin authoring a new future for our children.

That needs a shared commitment from us all to begin understanding and knowing each other better, based upon our common humanity and increased mutual respect.

In recent months, I and Martin Mc Guinness have publicly encouraged dialogue in which, we listen to each other unconditionally; language is humanised; and, all voices are heard, north and south; republican, unionist, nationalist and loyalist.

Since then citizens from the Protestant and unionist community have welcomed this as a genuine initiative.

A range of Protestant and unionist people have been engaged privately with myself and other Party colleagues to explore our respective concepts, principles and language. They have come from within Protestant churches, loyalism, business, community and civic life.

In those meetings I have outlined our vision of an authentic reconciliation process.

These have been important discussions, and we are inspired by the encouragement expressed for the leadership shown by Sinn Fein.

Our Party wants to build on this challenging work and promote dialogue across all sections of Irish society.

Through listening, persuasion, and a willingness to be persuaded, republicans are pledged to try and heal our divisions.

This evening I particularly urge political unionism to help us develop that dialogue. Unionist leaders have an important contribution to make.

Conversations such as these – no matter how uncomfortable – are key to reconciliation.  

Republicans and unionists must become partners and leaders in reconciliation.

Visionary leadership from all parties is required.

No section of our people has anything to fear from reconciliation, equality and the protection of citizens’ rights.

The prize is greater than any sectional interest. We will all need courage and compassion to bring it about: but the possibilities far outweigh the risks involved.

The peace process has been a transformational journey for us all. Reconciliation and trust are its next phase.

More imagination and compromises will be necessary.

But this is the road to a new republic.

The heavy lifting of the peace process is finished.

 Now is the time for the big thinking to begin, about Ireland’s future, and how we cherish and celebrate all our people and diverse traditions.

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This Ard Fheis has heard much about the economy, and rightly so, as these are very tough times for many. Over the course of the last number of years, the Government in the south has taken much from ordinary people. However, as Oscar Wilde once stated, “Ordinary riches can be stolen from a man. Real riches cannot. In the treasury-house of your soul, there are infinitely precious things that may not be taken from you.”

The arts and our culture are among these infinitely precious things.

Tá saibhreas faoi leith againne sa tír seo inár gcultúr, agus tá clú agus cáil orainn ar fud na cruinne dá bharr. Ó Yeats go Glen Hansard, ó Beckett, go Murphy - Ó Cadhain, le Brocquy, Gleeson, Neeson agus na céadta eile ina measc. Tá ealaíontóirí den scoth tar éis teacht ón tír seo le fada, agus is í an chultúr ceann de na príomh cúiseanna a dtagann na mílte daoine anseo gach bliain ar chuairt.

Tá sé fíor-thábhachtach nach ndéanfaimid damáiste don ealaín Éireannach le ciorraithe gan ciall, gan reasún. Tá sé deacair luach a chur ar na healaíona, ach tá sé léirithe go saothraíonn an ealaíon i bhfad níos mó don Stát, idir féilte, taispeántais agus eile, ná a chaitear air.

The arts pay their way, and then more.

But what the arts contribute cannot be measured solely in monetary terms. Participation in the Arts has a holistic value all of its own. We see it in the sparkle in the eye of a child on a stage. Or, in the pride which a local community takes in their homegrown, cultural events. And in the myriad of ways ordinary people interact with the arts and artists.

Culture and the arts do not belong to an elite. They belong to us all. It is incumbent on us as republicans to ensure that funding mechanisms and resources reflect that reality, and that art and culture is easily accessible for every citizen.

May I take this opportunity to commend our Minister for Arts, Culture and Leisure in the Assembly, Caral Ní Chuilin, for her great work in all the areas for which she is responsible.

She faces significant challenges, in particular from political opponents hostile to the Irish language. She has however, proven herself to be equal to these challenges.

Treaslaím leis an scéim Líofa 2015 ach go háirithe, agus molaim í mar go bhfuil sí ag Gaelú aicme daoine, nár mealladh go dtí seo.

A chairde, tá mé cinnte gur thug sibh faoi deara, go bhfuilimd faoi láthair i mbun Gaelú an pháirtí. Is mór an sásamh a thugann sé dom eagrán faoi leith don Phoblacht - lán ghaelach - a fheiceáil timpeall na hArd Fheise, ócáidí imeallacha ag tarlú le linn na deireadh seachtaine, úsáid na Gaeilge ón árdán agus dár ndóigh Oifigeach Náisiúnta Gaeilge nuacheaptha ag an bpairtí, rud nach bhfuil ag aon phairtí eile sa tír, Liadh Ní Riada, agus í mbun a cuid oibre go cumasach, cáiréiseach. Tá go leor obair ar siúl, ag is féidir linn a rá go bhfuilimid mar an pháirtí is Gaelaí sa tír.

Ach, tá neart eile le deánamh againn, agus iarraim oraibh leanúint le bhur n-iarrachtaí nuair atá an deireadh seachtaine seo thart.

The language has made huge strides in recent times, as we see with Bernard Dunne’s Bród Club, and the positive census figures. Despite this, the Dublin Government seems laconic, indifferent, and worse - at times belligerent to the language.

The Twenty Year Language Strategy is taking on the status of a fiction classic, as the committees tasked with its delivery talk, but don’t act, and objective after objective falls unachieved. The goodwill of all political parties and of the language community is being tested.

Tá an Rialtas tar éis díriú ar neamhspleáchas an Choimisinéir Teanga a bhaint uaidh, in aineoinn an obair den scoth atá dhá dheánamh aige, ar bhealach trédhearcach, agus éifeachtach. Tá an cinneadh seo dhá dheánamh in aineoinn nach bhfuil bhfuil pingin le sábhail as an gcur chuige seo. Agus tá an Roinn Oideachas freisin ag déanamh scrios ar an oideachas tré Ghaeilge.

Taimid faoi láthair ag fanacht ar an mBille nua Gaeltachta, ach tuigtear dhúinn go cuirfear deireadh le toghadh Bhord an Údaráis an, rud a bhainfeadh de dhaonlathas na heagraíochta. Tá moltaí dearfacha déanta againne áfach, maidir le hathbhreithniú ar an Samhail Nua Maoinithe do na heagrais Ghaeilge.

The Government pays a lot of lip service to our national language. As Republicans, we are committed to challenging the Government, and to ensuring that they do not renege on their duty to the Irish people.

Tá an Ghaeilge tábhachtach don phobal agus tá an phobal tábhachtach don Ghaeilge Caithfear sin a neartú agus a bhuanú do na glunta atá romhainn agus beidh Sinn Féin i lár an aonaigh sin.

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