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Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy has said Sinn Féin negotiators will meet with the other parties and the British and Irish governments in the coming days. 

Conor Murphy said: 

"Ahead of the Stormont talks getting underway again tomorrow Sinn Féin has been in contact with the other parties asking for meetings. 

"We will meet the party leaders tomorrow and then meet the British and Irish governments on Thursday. 

"We will be discussing outstanding issues as well as the impact of the decision by Theresa May to call a snap Westminster election on June 8. 

"Sinn Féin remains committed to seeing the political institutions up and running but that can only happen if they are based on equality, integrity and respect." 

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has said a decision to provide ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital to the Sisters of Charity is deeply insulting and hurtful to the survivors of institutional abuse.

Teachta O’Reilly also questioned whether or not it is appropriate to put any organisation with a strict religious ethos in charge of our National Maternity Hospital given the current political climate and the potential for changes to our laws.

Teachta O’Reilly said;

“Clearly the state has not learned the lessons of the past in outsourcing vital public services to religious orders.

“This move is an insult and deeply hurtful to survivors of institutional abuse and is yet another example of the government passing the buck in its responsibilities to healthcare. 

“The fact that the sisters of charity will be gifted our national maternity hospital after their steadfast refusal to honour obligations to survivors and victims beggars belief.

“Did anybody stop and think of the hurt this will cause, or the impact this decision will have on victims of abuse of this very religious order?

“I am also seriously concerned about the idea that any religious organisation with a strict religious ethos would be put in charge of our National Maternity Hospital given the current political climate and the potential for change in our laws.

“The minister for health must step in here and use common sense. This move is insensitive and outrageous and must be stopped before work begins. 

“It is the responsibility of the government to provide a functioning health service that does not discriminate on the basis of who you are, how much money you have or indeed what religion you are.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has said that Theresa May's announcement of her intention to call a snap Westminster General Election is further evidence, if it was needed, that the concerns and needs of people in the North of Ireland do not register on the British Government agenda.

He added however, that Irish republicans must seize the opportunity, provided by the election, to further to build political progress towards a referendum on Irish unity.

Matt Carthy said:

“Today's announcement by the British Prime Minister Teresa May of her intention to call a snap Westminster General Election is further evidence, if it was needed, that the concerns and needs of people in the North of Ireland do not register on the British Government agenda.

“Sinn Féin said at the weekend that the British Government will always put its own interests above any others and, at this time, that means the concerns of a very reactionary Tory Right Wing.

“Brexit has highlighted, in stark terms, the undemocratic, unnatural and unjust nature of Partition.

“Brexit and the recent Assembly election which by saw the end of a permanent unionist political majority, have changed the context of the argument for a United Ireland.

“Despite the narrow political motivation behind the calling of a Westminster election, Irish republicans must seize the opportunity to further to build political progress towards a referendum on Irish unity.

“It is an opportunity to reject the Tory political agenda, to re-assert the North’s vote to remain within the EU, and to advance the cause of a shared inclusive and United Ireland."

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has said support is building for Sinn Féin and Irish unity every day. 

Speaking at an Easter commemoration in north Belfast today, Gerry Kelly said: 

"We remain guided by the noble ideals of the 1916 leaders. But we struggle in the context of 2017.

"We are now in a phase of nation building. That requires building the political clout to bring about fundamental change.

"At Stormont we are ready to continue the talks again however, if others fail to live up to their commitments then the people must have their say in another election. We don’t want an Assembly election but if it becomes necessary then we will be ready.

"In the period ahead we must build to win a Unity referendum. We cannot do it alone. To win we must demonstrate that equality for all will be at the core of any government involving Sinn Féin.

"The stronger we are, the closer our goal, of a free, independent and United Ireland, will come." 

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Sinn Féin is continuing its campaign for an Irish National Health Service with a series of engagements today in Co. Clare, concluding with a public meeting ‘Save our Health Service’ tonight at 7:30 in the Old Ground Hotel, Ennis.

Speaking in Ennis, Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly said:

“For the last number of weeks, we have taken our campaign for an Irish National Health Service on the road and have already visited Donegal, Mayo, Sligo, Westmeath, Cork and Limerick.

“We are spending today in Ennis and will be conducting a series of engagements including with the INMO, Clare Crusaders, Shandoc campaigners, SIPTU disability workers and other individuals.

“We will conclude with a public meeting ‘Save our Health Service’ tonight at 7:30 in the Old Ground Hotel, Ennis.

“Sinn Féin is campaigning for an Irish National Health Service and an end to the chaos in our hospitals. We want to hear from as broad a range of voices as possible. I would encourage people in Ennis to come out and make their voices heard at our public meeting tonight.” 

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Speaking today, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald TD said that in the midst of the snap election in Britain, Taoiseach Enda Kenny must stand up for Irish interests in the EU negotiation surrounding Brexit .

Deputy McDonald continued by saying that Sinn Féin will fight the coming election to secure special status for the North within the EU and so ensure that there will be no EU frontier across Ireland.

The Dublin-Central TD said:

“Today, the British Tory party called a snap election to consolidate their negotiations position on Brexit

“Throughout this process, the Tory party has set the pace. They called the referendum and they have pushed ahead to impose an EU frontier across Ireland.

“The impact of Brexit will be disastrous for communities, for our economy, and for public services across Ireland.

“The British Government have ignored the Irish Government and the votes of the people and the needs of our economy.

“Through all this, Enda Kenny has failed to stand up for our national interest and failed to safeguard the Good Friday and subsequent agreements

“In the draft EU council negotiation guidelines, Spain secured greater leverage with regard to Gibraltar than the Taoiseach achieved for Ireland and our agreements.

“Sinn Féin will fight the coming election to secure special status for the North within the EU and so ensure that there will be no EU frontier across Ireland.

“The Taoiseach must also stand up for the north to be designated special status within the EU and for the Good Friday Agreement in the coming European Council meeting and with any incoming British Government.” 

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has reports today that Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin believes scrapping the USC makes no sense are an admission that his manifesto for last year’s general election was based on a populist and irresponsible fiscal policy.

Speaking today Deputy Doherty said:

“I welcome this admission by Micheal Martin that Fianna Fáil’s manifesto was based on a populist and irresponsible commitment to abolish 90% of the revenue generated by the USC. 

“His comments in the Irish Examiner today are proof that, like Fine Gael, Fianna Fail tried to peddle the myth that quality public services could be delivered while hacking away at the tax base.

“This was done simply to win votes on a promise of cutting taxes.

“Only last year Fianna Fáil stood on an election platform that would have cut €2.64bn of the USC. Sinn Féin said that was not possible while making the investment necessary to tackle the crises in our public services.

“By 2021 the USC will be delivering €5.2bn of funding to our infrastructure and public spending. The ideological commitment of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to abolish that income never made sense. Abolishing the USC would soak up 40% of the available space over the coming years.

“I welcome Fianna Fail’s move away from this populist and irresponsible policy but, as we have seen on water charges and other issues, Fianna Fáil cannot be trusted.

“Had Fianna Fáil been elected to government, and they very nearly were, the damage done by Fine Gael’s reckless agenda would have been matched by Fianna Fáil.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Leader in the North Michelle O’Neill said the Westminster election will be an opportunity for voters to oppose Brexit and reject Tory cuts and austerity.

Michelle O’Neill said:

“Sinn Féin opposed Brexit because it will be disastrous for the people of Ireland, our economy and our public services. 

"The people of the North clearly voted to see their future in the European Union in the referendum last June. We have been blatantly ignored by Theresa May since. 

“The Tory Party’s reckless Brexit agenda offers nothing to the people of the North who are being dragged out of the EU against our will.

“The Tory party and their polices have been rejected by the people in the north in the past, and will be again in this election. 

"Sinn Féin is ready to contest this election and it will be an opportunity for voters to oppose Brexit and reject Tory cuts and austerity.

“It is an opportunity to progress designated status for the North within the EU and for a future based on equality, respect, integrity and unity.”

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe TD, has sent his solidarity to the over 1,000 Palestinians prisoners on hunger strike and called on the Israeli authorities to urgently abide by their just demands.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“Some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are currently on hunger strike. They are protesting against the inhumane and degrading treatment that they experience daily. They are also protesting against the torture and medical negligence that they face and which threatens their lives every day.

“The prisoners’ demands include the installation of a public telephone in all prisons to allow them communication with relatives, the resumption of bi-monthly family visits, increasing the duration of the visits, and allowing prisoners to take photographs with their families.

“Other demands include installing air conditions in prisons, restoring kitchens, allowing detainees to keep books, newspapers and clothes, as well as ending the policies of administrative detention and solitary confinement. Administrative detention is basically internment on remand and 500 Palestinians are currently imprisoned without trial under this inhumane system.

“I want to send my solidarity to all the Palestinian prisoners’ currently on hunger strike and I am calling on the Israeli authorities to urgently address and agree to the reasonable and humane reforms that they are demanding.”

Crowe continued:

“According to Addameer, the human rights and prisoners group NGO, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned or detained by Israel in the last 50 years. There is hardly a single family in Palestine that has not endured the suffering caused by the imprisonment of one or several of its members.

“Today, Israel continues to detain about 6,500 Palestinians. These include children, women, parliamentarians, activists, journalists, human rights defenders, academics, political figures, militants, bystanders, and family members of prisoners.

“Israel needs to stop its mass detention of Palestinians, and abide by international and human rights law. Its inhumane treatment of prisoners and its vindictive prisons policy will not, and clearly has not, break the Palestinian demand for freedom and self-determination.” 

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Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson on Education and Skills Carol Nolan, has today welcomed the Minister Richard Bruton’s attention on school costs but warned that capitation must be restored to all schools as a matter of priority.

Speaking ahead of the ASTI and TUI conferences, Deputy Nolan said:

“Sinn Féin has consistently highlighted the need for back to school costs to be addressed and our alternative budget and manifesto sets out a range of proposals such as the full restoration of capitation, ending voluntary contributions, increased funding for the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance and increased funding to school book schemes and school meals.

“While I welcome the attention of the Minister on this issue, I am concerned that his approach may mean that schools will lose out on critical funding.

“Capitation rates to schools were cut by 11% by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour and these must be restored to all schools as a matter of urgency.

“The Minister had an opportunity to restore the capitation rate in the last budget and did not do so and many will fear that linking capitation to school costs is simply another means to avoid increasing the capitation to some schools.

“This approach will also introduce an element of inconsistency of funding with some schools potentially receiving more state funding than others.

“I welcome the fact that the Department of Education will issue its first ever, and long overdue, circular on the issue of school costs in the coming days.

“However, there is a clear need to address the issue of school uniforms and voluntary contributions on a statutory basis in order to ensure consistency across the board for all schools.

“Despite statements to the contrary, the Parent and Student Charter Bill will not require schools to prepare and publish a school uniform policy for example nor will it seek to reduce the reliance of schools on voluntary contributions.

“Sinn Féin is currently preparing legislation on this matter and we intend to publish it at the earliest opportunity.” 

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Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Public Expenditure and Reform David Cullinane said today that the issue of pay justice for teachers needs to be tackled in any post-Lansdowne Road agreement.

Deputy Cullinane said:

“Last November, I said that the deal proposed by Government to ASTI would not resolve the issue of equal pay for equal work and that it would further entrench inequality.

“This is a clear source of disruption in the classroom and I simply do not understand why the Government refuses to accept the principle of equal work for equal pay.

“Nobody wants strikes in the classroom. Similarly, nobody wants inequality in the classroom.

“The Government needs to work with the ASTI to address the actual issues that are driving this dispute; equal work for equal pay and a clear roadmap towards a return to a single-tier pay structure in the public sector.

“This issue will not go away and the Government needs to face up to that fact sooner rather than later.” 

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Sinn Féin's Oliver McMullan has condemned arson attacks on a number of cars in Larne in recent days and called for more community policing in the area. 

Oliver McMullan said: 

"These arson attack on cars in Larne are nothing but criminality and must be condemned. 

"This situation cannot be tolerated. 

"Community policing was removed from Larne and it left a void that has been filled by criminality. 

"Larne needs community policing in order to address situation immediately. I am calling for an urgent meeting with the local PSNI commanders to discuss these concerns." 

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Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile has welcomed remarks by Minister Charlie Flanagan today that the Irish government will explore financial support and options to assist the developing of hourly rail links between Belfast and Dublin.

Commenting on today's interview with Flanagan, Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile said;

"Sinn Féin has for a long time been championing the need for improved rail and other infrastructural connections between Ireland's two main cities.

“An hourly rail link between Dublin and Belfast makes economic, social and practical sense. There are increasing demands from within the business, retail and tourism sectors for this much needed and no doubt transformative service to be developed.

“At a time when the unwanted repercussions of Brexit threatens the economy of Ireland, North and South, I look forward to engaging with the Minister collaboratively to explore how all stakeholders can come together to help drive this much needed initiative forward."

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Sinn Féin MLA for Mid Ulster Linda Dillon has slammed those behind a racist attack in Coalisland last night.

Speaking today Ms Dillon said:

“I condemn outright the racist attack against two members of the Latvian community last night in Coalisland.

“The Latvian community, and indeed those from other countries who have chosen to make Coalisland their their home, are an integral part of our community and are very welcome.

“Those responsible for this attack are a disgrace.

“We will not tolerate attacks against anyone due to their nationality, the language they speak or any other reason for that matter. There can be no place whatsoever for racism in our society. 

"I would encourage anyone with information on this attack to contact the PSNI."

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald has expressed concern at the comments of the outgoing Executive Director at Glen (The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network), Áine Duggan, about financial irregularities at the charity organisation.

Speaking today Teachta McDonald said this is an issue she will be raising at the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee.

Teachta McDonald said;

“Reports of financial transactions in excess of €60,000 not being reported in the management accounts are very concerning.

“This is a body that is financed with taxpayers’ money and therefore there is a level of transparency and clarity expected from it.

“I am aware of the tremendous work that Glen does in the LGBT community and we would all like to see that continued and expanded.

“But we cannot have a situation in which there is uncertainty about elements of the organisations finances.

“This is an issue that will need to be examined by the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee and I intend to raise it there when the Dáil returns after the Easter break.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Leader in the North Michelle O’Neill MLA has delivered the main oration at today’s Easter Commemoration in Dublin.

During the course of her remarks Ms O’Neill said Ireland’s political landscape, North and South, will change dramatically as a result of Brexit.

She said the issue has brought the issue of Irish reunification firmly back on the politicala agenda.

Ms O’Neill said;

“The Brexit referendum result has swept away many of the previous political assumptions about the constitutional, political and economic status quo in Ireland.

“Ireland’s political landscape, North and South, will change dramatically – and this poses a severe threat to the Good Friday Agreement and the political and economic future of the island. 

“This has brought the issue of Irish reunification firmly back on to the political agenda.   

“The people of the North clearly voted to see their future in the European Union in the referendum last June.  Those who voted remain came from all walks of life. They were nationalists, unionists, republicans and others.

“They did so not because the EU is such a great institution, but because it is in their best interests politically, socially and economically and because they did not want to see any strengthening of the border in Ireland. 

“The British government's reckless Brexit agenda offers nothing to the people of the north who are being dragged out against our will. 

“The Brexit referendum was driven by the narrow, right-wing interests of the most hardline elements of the British Tory party and the far right of UKIP. These parties have never shown any regard for the North of Ireland or our people. 

“Since the referendum, Theresa May and her government have done nothing to indicate this has changed. In fact they have blatantly ignored the democratic will of the majority of the people of the north. 

“Sinn Féin called for the Dublin Government to establish an all-Ireland forum to discuss the impact of Brexit and where successful in securing that.

“But what Enda Kenny must now do is stop standing by and start to take serious his moral duty and political responsibility to act in the national interest of all Irish citizens.

“He needs to make it clear that his government will formally adopt the case for designated special status for the North within the EU as a negotiating position when he enters the Brexit negotiations.”

Full text of Michelle O'Neill's speech

A chairde agus a chomrádaithe,

I want to thank Sinn Féin Báile áth Cliath for the invitation to address you all here today in this historic and sacred place of Glasnevin cemetery.

It is great to see such a great crowd gathered to pay respect and to honour our patriot dead.

I especially want to welcome the families and friends of our patriot dead here today.

Fáilte mhór riomh gach duine.

Easter 1916 was so hugely significant in both Irish and republican history because it captured not only the public imagination, but also the spirit of generations since, who have for over a century of revolutionary struggle worked, fought and died for Irish freedom.

Last year’s centenary of 1916 was a massive success.

Political, cultural, historical organisations and communities stretched themselves to organise what were successful events to celebrate the Leaders and the rank and file volunteers and the organisations that participated in the Rising of 1916.

For Sinn Féin this was at the heart of all that we did in Ireland and across the globe, particularly in North America and Britain – and I want to thank everyone involved from Dublin Sinn Féin who helped make the year the great success that it was.

You will recall that it was here in Glasnevin back in August 2015 where we showcased through pageantry and politics what we had in store for the centenary year to follow, with a spectacular re-enactment of the Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa funeral.

This saw scores of thousands travel from across Ireland and further to participate.

I have fond memories from that day of our dear friend and comrade Martin McGuinness taking part in period dress and enjoying the sun with everyone else.

TRIBUTE TO MARTIN McGUINNESS

His death on 21st March has come as a huge shock and loss to the party and his comrades, the people of Ireland and of course his wife Bernie and close family circle.

Martin McGuinness was a towering pillar of strength and his commitment and determination never once faltered over forty years of struggle.

His leadership alongside that of Gerry Adams, and our collective leadership has brought us to the position of political strength that we are in today as the biggest party on this island and the leaders of progressive political change, north and south. 

I had the personal honour of serving alongside Martin as an MLA for Mid-Ulster and as Minister for 5 years under his stewardship.

I want to pay tribute to Martin and to the family which he was devoted to and which stood behind him through all those difficult years. To them he was a husband, father and grandfather.

The Republic that was envisaged by the leaders of 1916 and the Proclamation was at the core of his political beliefs – as it is ours.

SIGNIFICANCE OF 1916

101 years ago Irish women and men from the four corners of Ireland – nationalists, republicans, socialists, trade unionists, gaelgeoirí, feminists – were gathering together in rooms in this city and across this country and beyond in Britain and the USA to plan the overthrow of the British empire in Ireland.

They envisaged a new Republic, where the people would be sovereign as citizens, not subjects; where people have fundamental political, cultural, social and economic rights, not arbitrary privileges; where there is equality, not elitism; where there is peace and unity, not partition and division.

On Easter Monday April 24th 1916 Pádraig Pearse marched with a small number of comrades to the General Post Office and read aloud the Proclamation of a new Republic.

A few hundred, poorly equipped Irish men and women took on the might of the largest empire in history.

After six days of heroic resistance by the republicans the centre of Dublin was in ruins.

Hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned and seeking to avoid further death and destruction, the leaders of the Provisional Government met for the last time in 16 Moore Street and ordered a surrender.

The leaders were court martialled and fifteen were executed over the following two weeks.

Roger Casement was later hanged in London.

The British hoped that by the speed of their actions and the scale of the executions that the flame of Irish freedom would be extinguished in Ireland, and for good.

But, as we know their actions had the opposite effect, spearheading a century of struggle which has shaped Irish politics from then until now 101 years later.

The 1916 Easter Rising was a declaration of freedom heard all around the world.

The patriots of 1916 believed that a better Ireland is possible.

So do we.

And to achieve it – to win their freedom – to win our freedom - they put everything on the line - including their own lives.

The Irish revolutionary period was followed by a counter-revolution and Civil War.

Thousands more died and were imprisoned.

The revolution was defeated.

Narrow, conservative, elitist, sectarian regimes were established north and south.

In the north the unionist regime imposed decades of political and religious discrimination, repression and conservatism.

In this state there was the horror of institutional abuse in the Magdalene laundries, in the Reformatory and Industrial Schools and in other institutions.

Poverty, emigration and inequality were rampant – as was censorship in the arts and politics.

The old, British imperial administration was replaced by new, native Irish political and economic elites.

A century on Irish republicans continue to strive towards the New Republic as imagined by the Citizen Army and Irish Volunteers of 1913 and Cumann na mBan in 1914, the Leaders of the Easter Rising in 1916, the First Dáil and the Democratic Programme of 1919 and the modern day republican icons of 1981.

ENDING PARTITION

The ending of partition, a British government disengagement from the North and the restoration to the Irish people of the right to exercise self-sovereignty, independence and national self-determination remain the only political solution for everyone on this island concerned with its future.

Over the past two decades the island of Ireland has been transformed as a result of the Irish peace process of which the Good Friday Agreement is its foundation stone.

It provides for a peaceful and democratic way to end partition and to unite Ireland.

When the Good Friday Agreement was signed 19 years ago on April 10, 1998 it offered hope of a new future.

It recognised that the constitutional and political conditions of the North had to fundamentally change and that no longer could the British/unionist state deny nationalists equality of opportunity, parity of esteem, recognition of our Irish national identity or political power.

It also offered a democratic alternative to political conflict.

And while without doubt much progress has been achieved, almost 20 years on, we have yet to realise the potential of the Good Friday Agreement.

On March 2nd the Assembly election was brought to a head by the lack of respect and arrogance of the the DUP towards Sinn Féin as their partners in Government.

The DUP sought to set aside the principles of equality and respect.

The serial allegations of financial scandals undermined public confidence in the institutions. The DUP insulted broad nationalism, Irish language speakers, ethnic minorities and our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

The British government have repeatedly refused to honour previous agreements and sought to continue the cover-up of their dirty war.

The Irish government have failed in their duty and responsibility as joint guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement to stand up to the British Government or the DUP, therefore allowing the hard-won political dispensation to be threatened and undermined.

It was not acceptable to Sinn Féin and Martin McGuinness acted.

Martin made it clear there could be no return to the status quo or business as usual and there would be zero tolerance of incompetence, arrogance and inequality.

We fought a second election and significantly increased our mandate.

On the basis of this mandate we have entered political talks to re-establish the Executive on the principles of equality, respect and integrity and to have the agreements fully implemented.

Let me be clear - Sinn Féin are only interested in participating in the power sharing institutions if they deliver for all of our citizens and operate on the basis of equality and respect.

Agreements made must be honoured.

Commitments given must be delivered.

Partnership government must mean exactly that.

The Good Friday Agreement isn’t dead but the political process is certainly broken.

It can be fixed and that is what Sinn Féin is determined to achieve.

It is now time to at last deliver on the unfinished business and face towards the future rather than live in the past. It is about the politics of hope over fear, and for nationalists and republicans the time is now.

TWENTY-SIX COUNTY POLITICS OF PAST YEAR

In the South, Enda Kenny became Taoiseach only through the support of Mícheál Martin who has supported a Fine Gael minority Government.

It continues to limp from one crisis to another week by week.

This cosy consensus of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil has turned a blind eye to the scandals in the Garda Síochána and NAMA.

They stand for zero accountability and the avoidance of responsibility.

True to form they take the side of the landlords against the tenants, the bosses against the strikers.

They have failed to end the crises in housing and health care.

The only thing they have succeeded in is avoiding an election.

The people should have their say and the opportunity at the ballot box to tell both Enda Kenny and Mícháel Martin that their game is up – the people see through it and they want change.

BREXIT

The Brexit referendum result has swept away many of the previous political assumptions about the constitutional, political and economic status quo in Ireland.

Ireland’s political landscape, North and South, will change dramatically – and this poses a severe threat to the Good Friday Agreement and the political and economic future of the island.

This has brought the issue of Irish reunification firmly back on to the political agenda.  

A new conversation about the future is underway.

The people of the North clearly voted to see their future in the European Union in the referendum last June.

Those who voted remain came from all walks of life. They were nationalists, unionists, republicans and others.

They did so not because the EU is such a great institution, but because it is in their best interests politically, socially and economically and because they did not want to see any strengthening of the border in Ireland.

The British government's reckless Brexit agenda offers nothing to the people of the north who are being dragged out against our will.

The Brexit referendum was driven by the narrow, right-wing interests of the most hardline elements of the British Tory party and the far right of UKIP. These parties have never shown any regard for the North of Ireland or our people.

Since the referendum, Theresa May and her government have done nothing to indicate this has changed. In fact they have blatantly ignored the democratic will of the majority of the people of the north.

The Tory party, with no mandate in the north is attempting to ride roughshod over the views of the people of the north with their undemocratic Brexit agenda.

Sinn Féin called for the Dublin Government to establish an all-Ireland forum to discuss the impact of Brexit and were successful in securing that.

But what Enda Kenny must now do is stop standing by and start to take serious his  moral duty and political responsibility to act in the national interest of all Irish citizens.

He needs to make it clear that his government will formally adopt the case for designated special status for the North within the EU as a negotiating position when he enters the Brexit negotiations.

Across the north, particularly in border areas, thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest against the British government's Brexit agenda.

Sinn Féin believes that the only credible approach is for the north to receive designated special status within the EU.

In order to secure designated special status people need to mobilise, make their views known, and build support to ensure their democratic will is recognised.

Conclusion

We are entering a defining period in Irish political history.

The opportunities for real change are within our grasp.

The old certainties are gone.

The grip of the old parties is loosening.

The perpetual unionist majority has ended.

Europe is in a state of flux.

It is a time for big ideas. 

Now is the time to build a new Ireland.

We want to deliver a real Republic.

Sinn Féin wants a society based on equality and fairness. 

We want to be in government both parts of Ireland in order to serve the Irish people and to deliver a Real Republic.

To finish the business of 1916 and the great challenge of the Proclamation in uniting all the people of this island, whatever their background or tradition, in equality and mutual respect together.

Go raibh maith agaibh go léir.

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald delivered the main oration at the Easter Commemoration in Derry this afternoon.

During the course of her speech Teachta McDonald said Irish Republicans need to prepare for Irish reunification now and that an honest conversation about a new Ireland should take place.

Teachta McDonald said;

"Ireland is in a time of great challenge and change.

“We need to prepare for Irish reunification now. We need a debate, honest conversations about a new Ireland.

“We need to listen, to understand, to accommodate all of our people, in all our diversity in the new Ireland.

“An Ireland that is Orange and Green, black and white, settled and traveller, Gay and straight.

“An Ireland that protects the many and not just the privileged few.

“An Ireland that remembers and celebrates the past – the history made at the General Post Office in Dublin or on the banks of the Boyne - an Ireland that courageously, fearlessly faces the future.

“Our strength is in unity, in making common cause with everyone who believes in a new political order in Ireland, grounded in equality."

ENDS

Full text of Teachta McDonald’s speech follows:

Táim fíor-bhródúil a bheith anseo i nDoire agus muid ag céiliúradh Éirí amach na Cásaca 1916.

Is cúis bhróid ollmhór é domsa a bheith anseo mar phoblachtach agus gabhaimse mo bhuíochas leis na laochra a throid ar son na saoirse.

Táim bródúil chomh maith as ucht na cairde agus na comrádaithe atá againn sa chathair seo.

Easter is a very special time for Irish Republicans. It is a time to remember, commemorate and celebrate the heroism and vision of generations of Republican women and men.

More than a hundred years on the Rising against the British Empire remains a testimony to the triumph of human hope over oppression.

That those men and women took on, against all the odds, the might of what was called the greatest empire the world had ever seen; 

That those women and men stood prepared to sacrifice all to win freedom; 

That those same visionaries took a stand knowing they faced battle, imprisonment and death; 

That these things happened, and that we are the inheritors of such a brave tradition is our profound fortune and honour. 

It is often said that we stand on the shoulders of giants.  We do.

And from that privileged position, as successors to, inheritors of the dream of a free and equal Ireland, we proclaim the message of liberation and love, of freedom and fraternity this Easter Sunday here in the proud city of Derry.

Unrepentant Fenians, irredeemable believers in the cause of Ireland  and in the equality of our people.

Our great leader and friend lies here now.

Martin McGuinness, whose heart came alive and kept faith with the Bogside.

Martin McGuinnes, a faithful son of Ireland.

Martin McGuinness who fought, who made peace and who will never be forgotten.

Martin lead from the front, he took risks for freedom and risks to build the peace.

We are stronger because of him, braver because of him, closer to reconciliation and freedom. 

The only fitting tribute to his great leadership is for us to lead on, to mobilise, to organise, to take a chance, to stretch ourselves and to match our dreams with ambition. 

We can live in a united, free Ireland. We can live in a socially just, equal Ireland.

I believe we will.  Martin believed we would.  We will prove him right.

We promise to meet the challenges of our time with the grit and graciousness that were the mark of our Martin.

We stand in solidarity with Bernie and his beloved clann as we lament his passing and honour his life and legacy.

Irish unity has never been so openly and widely considered as it is now.

The constitutional earthquake of Brexit has forced the debate to new levels and with a new urgency.

The people of the North of Ireland voted to remain in the EU. The people have not consented to Brexit.

Ireland will not be the collateral damage in a Tory power play. We will not accept the disruption of our social and economic life or the sabotaging of the Good Friday Agreement.

We will not tolerate a ‘hard border’ on our island.

We do not accept any border in Ireland.

Our respect for our unionist brothers and sisters, for our loyalist citizens, for those who cherish their British identity is matched by our absolute rejection of the British jurisdiction in Ireland which has blighted our past and threatens our future.

The Tories, Theresa May et al, must realise that their writ does not run in Ireland.

This is not Finchley.

They have no support in Ireland, in any community.

They are hostile to Ireland. They have inflicted austerity, poverty and marginalisation on the people of the North of Ireland.

James Brokenshire’s recent visit to Daisy Hill hospital only served to remind us of the fact.

We take no lectures from him or any Tory on the protection of public services. 

They are wholly indifferent to the welfare of our people – Orange or Green.

Their agenda threatens to pauperise our farmers, our communities, our businesses and is rejected by our people, Orange and Green and every shade between. 

The Taoiseach and the Dublin Government must represent all of Ireland, all of our people. 

They have a responsibility to the people of Creggan and the Fountain just as surely as they do to people of Cabra and Fermoy.

We have argued for special status for the North within the EU. That position has the support of the Dáil. It has the support of the majority of members elected to the Assembly. 

An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny must argue for and secure that special status.

He must stand up and be counted, he cannot stand idly by. 

We have fought two elections since we met last Easter. The political landscape is changed profoundly in the wake of the last election. Unionism has lost its majority at Stormont for the first time.

Electoral fortunes, as we know, rise and fall, but the loss of that majority position is significant.

It ends the generations old assumption of who held power and exercised power, since partition.

The insider, old guard, class has been challenged and chastened.

There is a new majority for social and economic progress, for a new political dispensation with respect, equality and integrity at its core.

I want to commend everyone who campaigned in that election. We are very proud to have returned Elishia McCallion and Raymond McCartney to represent the people of Foyle. 

I want also to acknowledge the leadership of Michele O’Neill in that campaign, she is a woman of substance and determination.  

One of us, mná na hÉireann, the most unmanageable of revolutionaries!!

The combination of the RHI scandal and the refusal of the DUP and the two Governments to honour agreements made conspired to bring down the Executive and triggered the election in March.

That same combination of negative politics has kept agreement beyond our reach and the institutions down.

That is very disappointing and unacceptable.

Those who hanker for the past, who cannot remove their sectarian blinkers, who have no vision or ambition for our future, cannot prevail.

It must be understood that we stand firm - that we are resolute, that we shall overcome the negative, discriminatory tactics of those parties who cannot accept that the past and second class citizenship are gone, never to return. 

The issues at the heart of the talks are not Orange or Green. We have not come forward with a Sinn Féin shopping list of demands.

We insist only that agreements made are implemented.

We insist simply that the rights of citizens are respected, that civil liberties and respect for identity are not suppressed or withheld on the say so of any party.

We will not tolerate discrimination against any section of our people; we will stand up and fight for all. What we win we will win for everyone.

The right to marry is a fundamental human right.  It cannot be denied. It will not be denied. Our LGBTQ citizens are not second class. They will not sit at the back of the bus.

The Irish language and identity will not be demeaned or disrespected. 

The Irish language is not a political weapon. Gaeilge belongs to every person who wishes to speak it, to live through it, to rejoice in its lyricism, its poetry, its music.

Arlen Foster should meet with Gaelgóirí. When she does she should make clear that she and the DUP will support and deliver Acht na Gaeilge. That would be a good days work and an act of real leadership.

Tá scéal mhuintir na hÉireann fite fuaite leis an nGaeilge. Insíonn sí dúinn cé muid, cad as a tháinig muid agus cá bhfuil ár dtrial. Is fearrde muid an Gheailge. Ná bíodh eagla ar aon duine roimh chultúr na nGael atá oscailte agus fáiltiúil do gach aon duine eile. Tá súil agam go bhfuil tuiscint níos fearr ag an phobal Aontachtach ar an nGaeilge anois. Gabhaim buíochas leis na daoine ar fad a sheas an fód ar son na Gaeilge go háirithe an Dream Dearg - bhí sé iontach na daoine óga a fheiceáil ag éileamh a gceart. Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí amach ar na sráideanna!

The past, the suffering and loss in the course of our conflict is not a political football or the play thing of those who wish to score points against another.

Manus Deery, at fifteen years old, lost his life to the bullet of a British soldier on the streets of Derry.  He was an innocent victim. He died in 1972. His family waited for forty five years for a new inquest. Forty five years to have his innocence vindicated.

Shame on those who allowed his family to suffer. 

Shame on those who allow so, many other families to  suffer, to wait and wait.

The Chief Justice has called for resources, for money to be made available for Coroner’s courts and inquests. 

Those monies must be released without delay – no preconditions, no excuses, no more waiting. 

British claims of ‘national security’ concerns are simply excuses to exonerate the British state from facing the past, collusion and Britain’s dirty war in Ireland.

The truth won’t go away. The victims and survivors won’t go away. 

The past and truth recovery will test all of us.

We are ready for the challenge. Others now need to step up, stop frustrating progress and implement the agreed mechanisms. 

Victims and survivors deserve nothing less. 

We have engaged extensively and in good faith in talks with all of the political parties and the two Governments since the election. 

We will continue to meet, to talk, to seek resolutions. 

We want to find agreement. We will work hard to reach agreement.

If that does not prove possible then we will return to the people in a fresh election.

Direct rule is not an option. 

The people are in charge, they have delivered an unmistakable mandate for progress and change, for good government and for the implementation of longstanding commitments.

Let none imagine that the people can be faced down or frustrated in those aims. 

Ireland is in a time of great challenge and change.

We need to prepare for Irish reunification now. We need a debate, honest conversations about a new Ireland.

We need to listen, to understand, to accommodate all of our people, in all our diversity in the new Ireland.

An Ireland that is Orange and Green, black and white, settled and traveller, Gay and straight.

An Ireland that protects the many and not just the privileged few.

That remembers and celebrates the past – the history made at the General Post Office in Dublin or on the banks of the Boyne - an Ireland that courageously, fearlessly faces the future.

Our strength is in unity, in making common cause with everyone who believes in a new political order in Ireland, grounded in equality.

Mar sin a chairde imeoimid as an áit seo lán le muinín, misneach agus neart. Tá a lán fós le déanamh. Táimid ag faire ar an todhchaí chun sin a dheanamh caithfimid breathnú siar agus a chinntiú nach ndéanfar na rudaí céanna arís - an éagóir, an ghéarchúis agus an críochdheighilt. Beidh Sinn Féin i mbun cainteanna ar bhur son - ar son na saoirse, cearta daoanna agus meas ar gach duine. 

Our patriot dead, the heroes of 1916 and of every generation made history with a clarity of purpose and a determination to succeed.

Today at the gravesides of our patriot dead, we pledge again to keep faith, to honour them, to finish the journey, to end partition. 

That is the task.

Now it is our turn, our time to write the next chapter. 

We cannot be found wanting. 

We will not be found wanting.

Bígí linn agus feicfimid éirí na gealaí.

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy delivered the main address at the Easter Rising Commemoration in Cork City today.

He told the large crowd that events at home abroad, not least the recent Northern election, heralded major political change in Ireland.

He said the challenge for republicans is to influence and manage this change, to build support for Irish unity and to win a referendum on the issue.

Matt Carthy said:

“Brexit has highlighted, in stark terms, the undemocratic, unnatural and unjust nature of partition. One thing is clearer than ever - Partition’s time is over!

“The North has been transformed in recent years, and that transformation is ongoing. It is no longer the Orange state.

“Many of the certainties held for so long by the old unionist political establishment are gone. These changes will continue and are irreversible.

“In this context, I believe that it is essential that those who advocate unity, lay out their vision of what a united Ireland might look like.

“Changing political circumstances in Europe, Britain and Ireland are creating fresh opportunities for new relationships between the two historic traditions on the island of Ireland.

“I believe that there are people from the unionist community, particularly among a younger generation, who are willing to explore new opportunities to create a shared society.

“I also believe that the appeal of being part of a new, reimagined and outward-looking Ireland will prove ever more attractive to such people.

“Significant demographic changes are occurring in the North, the effects of which are already being felt.

“Political ideology, based solely on opposition to Irish unity, is unsustainable in the long term.

“People in the North need real answers to everyday social and economic problems and, as the North changes, wrapping everything up in the Union Jack will prove an increasingly threadbare position.

“The British identity of many people in the North can and will be accommodated and in a united Ireland.

“Sinn Féin's Towards a United Ireland discussion document aims to stimulate debate on this issue and I encourage all republicans to familiarise themselves with the ideas in it.

“We have called on other parties who claim to support Irish unity to publish their own ideas.

“It is imperative too that the Irish Government prepares a real plan for unity. 

“Sinn Féin has advocated the development of an all-party group in the Oireachtas to bring forward a Green Paper on Irish Unity.”

Stating that Sinn Féin was not arguing for a mere grafting of the North onto the current political, cultural and economic status quo of the South, he said:

“We want to see the creation of a new Ireland with equal rights and equal opportunities for all, and where citizens have rights – including the right to a job, to a home, and a decent standard of healthcare and education.

“For 80-odd years now Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have dominated politics in this State.

“Both parties turned their backs on the people of the North, but they also subjected ordinary people in the South to inequality, economic failure and mass emigration.

“The Irish state is not the republic envisaged by those who wrote the Proclamation.

“The 1916 Leaders had a vision for a real republic – a republic of justice, equality and fairness – a republic for all the people of this island.

“That is in direct contradiction to the policies being pursued by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

“Here at Easter, is important to remember that the ideals of equality and social justice at the heart of the 1916 Proclamation are required in Ireland as much today as they ever were.

“A genuine republic would never allow homelessness to reach emergency proportions.

“A real Republic would never tolerate the scandal and indignities witnessed in our hospital A&E wards.

“An authentic Republic would not facilitate the huge levels of disadvantage and inequality which currently exist in this society.

“A real republican government would not seek to privatise our transport services and throw public sector workers onto the scrap heap.”

Carthy said that Sinn Féin in 2017 represented the greatest challenge yet to those who have ruled the Southern state since Partition, and he continued:

“Our opponents know this and they fear it. That is why they, and their cheerleaders in the establishment media, attack us so regularly and with such venom.

“They know that the stronger Sinn Féin gets, and the more that people respond to our message, the sooner the power and privilege enjoyed for so long by the elites in this state, will be ended.

“Unlike Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin has a vision, grounded in genuine republican values.

“Our vision is that of Tone, Connolly and Sands. It is the vision of Martin McGuinness.”

He said opportunities for real and far- reaching political change are within grasp, old political certainties were gone and the grip of old parties is loosening.

“In the North, the perpetual unionist majority has ended. In the South, conservative pillars of society which have sustained inequality, corruption and injustice for so long are being exposed like never before. Meanwhile Europe is in a state of political flux.

“Now is the time to seize opportunities to build a new Ireland - an Ireland that will be a fitting tribute to our patriot dead.

He concluded:

“As we remember our patriot dead today, let us be clear - a united Ireland and an egalitarian republic is the only fitting monument to their sacrifices.

“And let me be equally clear that the Sinn Féin leadership of 2017 is as determined to achieve those objectives as were our comrades who went before us.”

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Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty said today that change was coming north and south and that Irish Unity is very much on the political agenda.

Speaking at the 2017 Easter Commemoration held in Belfast today Pearse Doherty said:

“Both north and south the message is the same: change is coming.

“The challenge now for republicans is to manage this change, and to build support for Irish unity. 

“If Brexit has achieved anything, it’s that is has only further highlighted the undemocratic and counter-productive nature of partition. It is wrong; it is unjust; its time is coming to an end. 

“Irish Unity is now very much on the agenda. But if we are to build support for unity, then we must build a place for all citizens.

“Unification cannot be about simply joining two parts of Ireland together. It must be more than repainting the post boxes. It must be an opportunity to build anew. 

“Our vision for Ireland is not that of Fine Gael’s or Fianna Fáil’s: a Free-State of golden circles, conservative elites and cronyism. 

“Nor is it a place for the sectarianism and disrespect of some elements of unionism.

“Ours is the vision of Tone and Emmett ; Connolly and Pearse; of Bobby Sands, Mairéad Farrell and Martin McGuinness. 

“We want a prosperous, united, and inclusive Ireland.  We can secure and win a unity referendum.

“To win a Unity Referendum, we must demonstrate that a united Ireland will deliver economically for everyone. That citizens are better of in a state without barriers to trade, without a border, inside Europe and safe in the knowledge that all our people have a prosperous future.

“To win a Unity Referendum, we must demonstrate that equality will be at the core of how we govern ourselves. 

“There can be no place for poverty and inequality in a Republic.  There can be no place for the crises of homelessness and health.

“To win a Unity Referendum, we must demonstrate that all citizens have rights, and that all people are to be respected. We want a progressive Ireland, whose citizens are not only imaginative but generous in spirit.

“That means that the British identity, which is held by a sizeable swathe of our people, too must be protected and respected in a unified Ireland.”

Full text of Pearse Doherty TD’s speech at the 2017 Easter Commemoration at Milltown Cemetery, Belfast, 16th April.  

A chairde,

Ar dtús, ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh achan duine atá inár gcuideachta inniú ar an talamh bheannaithe seo, chun comóradh a dhéanamh ar na hÓglaigh misniúla uilig a thug dá saol agus dá saoirse ar son na hÉireann. 

Cuirim fáilte faoi leith roimh teaghlaigh na n-Óglaigh ná maireann atá linn inniu. Tá fáilte mhór roimh.

Comrades, I want to welcome you all here as we gather today to remember our patriot dead, the generations of brave Irish men and women who sacrificed life and liberty in the name of Ireland. 

Belfast is a city with a proud Republican legacy. Its history is one of rebellion; of struggle; and of unyielding sacrifice.

 It’s a city that has long played host to resistance, from United Irishmen Henry Joy McCracken and Wolfe Tone at Cavehill; to the movements of Connolly, Markievicz, and the founding of Na Fianna.

It’s a city that the likes of Mairéad Farrell, Bobby Sands and Kieran Doherty to name but a few, have been proud to call home.

It’s city that has never been afraid to take on the weight of an Empire; and it’s a city to whose countless brave sons and daughters we owe much.

For many of them, this is their final resting place and today, Easter Sunday, in the company of their families and friends, we honour them.

Easter is a special time in the Republican calendar it is a time when we remember, when we commemorate and we  celebrate the lives of those brave volunteers who died in the cause of Irish freedom. 

I salute the memory the men and women of Oglaigh na hÉireann who gave their lives to the cause of Irish freedom, to the cause of equality, and of Irish unity. 

This year - like all years – we have lost comrades along the way. We grieve for them; we remember them; and we pay homage to their legacy.

Among them, our friend and comrade, Martin McGuinness. 

On 21st March this year, Bernie and the McGuinness family lost a husband, a father, and grandfather. Derry lost a son. Ireland lost a patriot.

Needless to say, Martin was a Republican to his core: an inspirational leader whose achievements have not just been recognised here at home, but right across the globe as well.

While his passing is an unspeakable loss to Republicanism, his legacy shall forever remain with us. 

We are stronger because of Martin McGuinness. Our country is a better place because of the time he spent with us. 

And today we are closer to an Irish Republic because of his actions, his courage and his leadership.   

No one can, nor indeed ever will come close to replacing Martin McGuinness however, it is now up to us to complete his work. 

So while we mourn his passing and rightly celebrate his life, it is now the job of each of us as Republicans to organise, mobilise and to follow his example. This is the only fitting tribute  to Martin McGuinness.

Only last year we celebrated the 100th anniversary of that most momentous event - the 1916 Easter Rising.  

For reasons that are obvious to all of us gathered here this afternoon, it was an anniversary that official Ireland wanted to ignore. 

In spite of those efforts, the people, the ordinary men, women and children of Ireland, did not forget. 

It was a year where we came together. Where citizens from across our island came out to honour our patriots: those whose selflessness, courage and unyielding dedication to the Republican cause would go on to change the course of Irish history forever.

Actions which – as we know today – would go on to empower a people, inspire a nation and bring a once all conquering, all powerful Empire to its knees.

Today, as we rekindle the promise of the Proclamation and remember our dead, we rededicate ourselves to their cause. 

2016 was a year of huge significance for Republicans everywhere, and events arising from it continue to permeate these changing times in which we find ourselves.

Since then, here in the north we have fought and witnessed two elections and a referendum both come and go.

In the referendum on EU membership, the majority of people in the north of Ireland voted to remain within the European Union.

The British Tory party, setting aside that democratic vote, has choose to ignore the wishes of the people.

In doing so, they are seeking to abandon the principle of consent; to set aside the Good Friday Agreement, and impose an EU frontier across our island.

Meanwhile, the Irish government is doing what Irish governments do best, they are standing idly by and watching from the sidelines, clinging to the pretence that it has a special relationship with their British counterparts.  

We know however that the Westminster establishment will always put their interests, and that of the Tory right wing, first.

To them, Ireland is simply nothing more than collateral damage.

They wish to raise the drawbridge, shut the door, and embrace a world of isolationism, animosity and trademark Tory arrogance.

We cannot and will not allow that to happen. Far from cutting ourselves off from the rest of the world, we seek to be at the heart of it. 

The Government down south too needs to stand with the people of Ireland and ensure that the North is designated special status within the European Union.

They need to recognise that the people of the north are part of the Irish nation. Let us therefore send out a similar message to the Tories and the Taoiseach that, there can be no deepening of partition on this island. 

Let me also commend all who were involved in the campaign for presidential rights for Irish citizens here in the North and in particular the work that was done by Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donghaile since his election to the Seanad last year, who has ensured that this issue was at the centre of political debate over the last period. 

The decision to extend voting rights in Presidential elections to the people of the North and the diaspora has shown that where the right political will exists then real and meaningful change can happen.

We need not but only look to the Assembly elections just gone to witness hues of that very message.

In what was a truly historic election for Sinn Féin, the people of the north stood up against those same sinister forces which, like Brexit, conspire to go against the will of the people.

For the DUP’s part, they sought to rubbish the principles of equality, respect and parity of esteem. Red Sky, NAMA and the RHI scandal eroded public confidence in the institutions.

Unrepentant, they choose to insult Republicans, belittle Irish language speakers, discriminate against ethnic minorities, and marginalise our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

But none of it was acceptable to Sinn Féin. It would not be tolerated, and so Martin McGuinness acted. 

Making it clear that there could be no return to the status quo, we fought a second election and significantly increased our mandate. 

Here in Belfast alone, Sinn Féin did what was considered all but impossible in the West of the city by winning four out of the five seats, while also topping the polls in north and south Belfast.

In a city once considered to be the capital of a unionist state created for a unionist people, there are now more MLAs from a nationalist background elected than unionist.

And it’s on our strengthened mandate that we have entered talks to establish the Executive, while keeping to the fore the principles of equality, respect, and integrity.

We want the institutions back up and running. Six weeks on however, the DUP and British Government continue to refuse to listen to the people. They have failed to change their approach and to honour the agreements of the past, and so the talks have not progressed.

And while discussions remain ongoing, Sinn Féin will not abdicate from our responsibilities. 

We believe that the political institutions must deliver for all in society however, we need what has been agreed in the past to be implemented.

The Irish Government therefore needs to stand over its role as co-equal guarantors, instead of sitting back as the British Government refuses to honour its commitments.

Our position remains unchanged. Sinn Féin will continue to defend the rights of citizens; to advance peace on our island, and to pursue institutions which enjoy the full and unwavering confidence of the people.

Likewise, the journey towards a society of equal rights and fairness is a destination which has still to be arrived at in the south.

The present cosy partnership between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil is one which continues to turn a blind eye to the scandals in An Garda Síochána and NAMA to name but a few.

Together, both parties have zero accountability, credibility or integrity. They stand with the elites, while ignoring the masses.

And while the crises in housing and health rumble on, the only thing they’ve succeeded in doing to date is to avoid an early election. 

Well, to Enda Kenny and Mícheál Martin I say, the people see through you. Your time is almost up. It’s time to let the people have their say. 

If the last election here in the north has taught us anything, it’s that Sinn Féin has no fear of an election.

Because comrades, both north and south the message is the same: change is coming.

The challenge now for republicans is to manage this change, and to build support for Irish unity. 

If Brexit has achieved anything, it’s that is has only further highlighted the undemocratic and counter-productive nature of partition. It is wrong; it is unjust; its time is coming to an end. 

Irish Unity is now very much on the agenda. But if we are to build support for unity, then we must build a place for all citizens.

Unification cannot be about simply joining two parts of Ireland together. It must be more than repainting the post boxes. It must be an opportunity to build anew. 

Our vision for Ireland is not that of Fine Gael’s or Fianna Fáil’s: a Free-State of golden circles, conservative elites and cronyism. 

Nor is it a place for the sectarianism and disrespect of some elements of unionism.

Ours is the vision of Tone and Emmett ; Connolly and Pearse; of Bobby Sands, Mairéad Farrell and Martin McGuinness. 

We want a prosperous, united, and inclusive Ireland.  We can secure and win a unity referendum

To win a Unity Referendum, we must demonstrate that a united Ireland will deliver economically for everyone. That citizens are better of in a state without barriers to trade, without a border, inside Europe and safe in the knowledge that all our people have a prosperous future.

To win a Unity Referendum, we must demonstrate that equality will be at the core of how we govern ourselves. 

There can be no place for poverty and inequality in a Republic.  There can be no place for the crises of homelessness and health.

To win a Unity Referendum, we must demonstrate that all citizens have rights, and that all people are to be respected. We want a progressive Ireland, whose citizens are not only imaginative but generous in spirit.

That means that the British identity, which is held by a sizeable swathe of our people, too must be protected and respected in a unified Ireland. 

Ultimately a chairde,if we are to win the argument on Irish unity, then we cannot do it through acting alone. 

As a party we have to grow. We must recruit new members, train new activists, and build new progressive alliances. There can be no short cuts. 

That is the nature of struggle. While we are now bigger than at any time in our recent past, there is still much more to do.

Real change is however within our grasp. The old certainties are gone. The grip of the old parties is loosening. The conservative pillars have been exposed for the corruption they espouse. The perpetual unionist majority has ended, while the world is in a state of flux. 

Now is the time to build a new Ireland; a country that will honour its patriot dead, a nation for all, equal and sovereign. 

Until that ideal is achieved comrades our struggle continues. It continues until we have created an Ireland in which justice and equality reign true.

It continues until we have an Ireland in which the principles and core teachings of the Proclamation are not just simply revered but are a reality. 

And it continues until we have an Ireland in which all our citizens, as children of the nation, are cherished equally.

Ultimately, our struggle and the struggle of Martin McGuinness’, continues until the Ireland which our patriot dead envisaged is made real – One Ireland united, indivisible, destined to be free…

Go Raibh Míle Maith Agaibh…

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD speaking in Carrickmore, County Tyrone today at the annual Easter Commemoration said that the Assembly election has brought about seismic political change including an end to the unionist majority in the Assembly. 

The Sinn Féin leader said that if the current DUP approach continues “that will only guarantee that there will be no DUP First Minister and no return to the status quo at Stormont”.

Commenting on the challenges for Unionism Gerry Adams said:

“The future well-being of our unionist neighbours is a matter of deep concern for us. Sinn Féin wants the unity of Orange and Green based on equality. That is the challenge facing the new leader of the UUP, and of the DUP leadership. 

Arlene Foster needs to reflect over this Easter time on whether she wants to reinforce unionist separation, segregation, from the rest of us or whether she seizes the opportunity to bring unionism in a new direction to respect diversity and end division. The alternative will not work.

The old do-as-little as possible tactics of them and us deepens sectarianism and discord. This obliges unionism to continuously depend on English governments to reward its failure to agree joint actions to build a rights-based future for everyone based on equality. That position has passed its sell-by-date.

So, the DUP leader can cast about for some ‘counter balance’ – some quid pro quo – to legitimate progressive measures which benefit everyone. She will achieve absolutely nothing but continued division if she thinks she can build a strategy on such a flawed approach…

A new generous unionist approach will be embraced and met with flaithiúlacht (generosity) from Sinn Féin and other progressives. However if what we have seen from the DUP in recent times continues that will only guarantee that there will be no DUP First Minister and no return to the status quo at Stormont.

So DUP and UUP it’s over to you. Sinn Fein is up for the challenge. We extend the hand of friendship as we commit ourselves again to complete the work of previous generations, the work of those we remember, the work of our leader Martin McGuinness.”

Gerry Adams also called for an election in the event of no progress in the talks. He said:

“The current talks process has paused. But let me be very clear it is the British government’s intransigence on legacy issues, and the DUP’s rejection of the principles of equality, parity of esteem and of rights, that have made it more difficult to reach a deal. Sinn Féin wants a deal. But if there is no deal then there has to be an election.

The role and responsibility of the Irish government must be to assert that an election is the only legal course open to the British government, if the current talks fail to elect an Executive.

In this context the progressive parties in the Assembly should not fear an election. It will be an opportunity to strengthen those parties that are for a Bill of Rights; who want a Civic Forum – who believe in marriage equality – and who support an Irish Language Act… the rights of victims of the conflict. They cannot be left out or left behind. None of these rights threaten anyone. Except for the bigots and naysayers and begrudgers.”

Commenting on the situation in the South the Sinn Féin leader said:

“Republicans need to understand that Sinn Féin cannot contest a general election to our full potential in the South unless we are very clear that we want to be in government.

That means a step change in our thinking. It means creating an active culture that moves Sinn Féin into and prepares us for being in government on republican terms. So, building a mass political movement for positive change across this island remains an urgent task for all our activists.”

Gerry Adams also spoke on the issue of Brexit:

“Brexit presents the greatest threat to the people of this island at this time. Without doubt Brexit on English terms will see the imposition of a hard economic border on the island of Ireland.

Brexit also threatens to rip the Good Friday Agreement asunder. This places a huge onus on the Irish government to uphold the democratic vote in the North to remain. It also requires the Taoiseach to actively campaign for the North to have a special designated status within the EU. This is the only way to protect Irish interests within the EU. So far the Taoiseach has failed to do this.”

On the issue of Irish Unity Gerry Adams said:

“Alongside our campaigning and outreach activity we are currently exploring the possibility of establishing a Dáil Committee on Irish Unity. This could bring forward proposals for what a United Ireland might look like, and how the Irish state needs to plan for reunification across all areas of the economy and society.

There is also a need to discuss a referendum on Irish unity as set out in the Good Friday Agreement – a need to agree on how this can be held and how it will be won. Of course that will require the support of other parties and independents in Leinster House and Sinn Féin looks forward to discussing this with everyone there. We will also continue our endeavours to persuade unionism of the merits of an agreed Ireland.”

Full text of Gerry Adams’ speech:

A chairde agus a chomrádaithe,
Ar dtús baire, ba mhaith liom fáilte mór a chur roimh gach aon duine anseo.

Nineteen years ago today, just two days after the end of our discussions on the Good Friday Agreement, I was here in Carrickmore for the Easter Commemoration.

Like today Tyrone republicans were present to honour the patriot dead from this historic county.

We were also paying our respects to all of those down through the centuries who have given their lives in pursuit of Irish freedom and independence.

Cuimhnímid orthu uilig an bhliain seo.

Your neighbours, your family members, friends and comrades, brave men and women who stood strong for the future and against injustice and oppression.

I want to welcome all of you here today to this holy place on this historic date.

I especially want to welcome the families and friends of our patriot dead.

Tá muid fíor bhuíoch daoibhse go léir.

I also want to remember those comrades who died in the last 12 months due to age and ill health.

I can’t mention everyone but I’m sure you will forgive me if I mention my friend and comrade Stan Corrigan who laid the wreath here last year.

Inniu cuirimid ár gcomhbhrón chucu uilig agus chuig a gclanna.

Like those in Dublin in Easter 1916 who rose against the British Empire, and proclaimed the Irish Republic, the men and women of Tyrone, and other parts of the North of our generation, took on the formidable military might of the British state after the pogroms of 1969.

With courage and determination, our family members, our friends, neighbours and comrades challenged one of the best-equipped armies in the world.

Over almost three decades they fought it to a standstill.

Martin McGuinness

Among that number was Martin McGuinness.

Like those we honour today Martin was a freedom fighter, a political activist, a peace maker, an Irish republican who believed that the course we have charted will achieve Irish reunification.

Nineteen years ago when I last stood at this commemoration Sinn Féin held just two Westminster seats. 

One in west Belfast - the other in Mid Ulster.

We had one Dáil seat.

Today we have 23 TDs, seven Seanadóirí, four MPs, four MEPs, 27 MLAs, and 250 Councillors. 

We now receive more votes than any other party on this island.

Sin mar a d'fhás Sinn Féin ar fud an oileáin.

It is by growing this political strength that we will be able to exercise greater influence, and shape the political agenda in both states on this island.

By using this political strength intelligently and strategically we can advance our republican objectives.

This is our strategy for change.

Martin McGuinness understood this and worked hard to achieve it.

Sinn Féin and Irish republicanism is stronger today because of him. 

But if Martin were here he would be the first to tell us we cannot sit on our hands.

Ni féidir linne bheith rómhuiníneach.

We have to get bigger, stronger, better organised.

We have a lot of work still to do.

So, as I said at Martin’s graveside, don’t mourn him, celebrate his life. 

So too with our patriot dead, celebrate their lives. But most important of all organise and mobilise.

That is the only fitting legacy for Martin and for all of those whose lives we honour today.

Tyrone

Through all of the years of war and politics and building the peace the republican base in Tyrone and across this island has never let us down.

The people never let us down.

They didn’t let us down in 1998 or in 2017.

Like another Carrickmore republican, Joe McGarrity 100 years earlier, Tyrone republicans have confidence in our struggle.

It is no accident that our new leader in the North, Michelle O’Neill is a Tyrone woman.

The Orange State is gone

Of course, none of us are naive.

We know today that there are those in the British system, and within the leaderships of Unionism, who resent the significant progress that has been made.

That has been the pattern of the political process for the last 20 years.

It is the pattern of the current negotiations.

But this year the context is dramatically different.

The RHI scandal, and the allegations from within the DUP of corruption and fraud, and the arrogant refusal of that party to honour previous commitments, led Martin to resign as Deputy First Minister.

In doing so he sacked Arlene Foster.

The Assembly election that followed has brought about seismic political change.

The Unionist electoral majority is gone.

The Unionist majority in the Assembly is gone.

The Orange state is gone also.

Who got rid of it?

You, and tens of thousands more like you.

But Sinn Féin has not come this far just to come this far.

Rights threaten no one

We now have the potential to build progressive political alliances with other parties to tackle the inequalities in our society.

Of course, unionism can regroup, on a negative axis.

Unionists are still the majority in the North.

Their leaders could reverse their recent electoral setbacks.

 Already there is talk of another unionist electoral pact.

Unionism could also embrace a more inclusive way forward.

The current talks process has paused.

But let me be very clear it is the British government’s intransigence on legacy issues, and the DUP’s rejection of the principles of equality, parity of esteem and of rights, that have made it more difficult to reach a deal.

Sinn Féin wants a deal.

But if there is no deal then there has to be an election.

The role and responsibility of the Irish government must be to assert that an election is the only legal course open to the British government, if the current talks fail to elect an Executive.

In this context the progressive parties in the Assembly should not fear an election.

It will be an opportunity to strengthen those parties that are for a Bill of Rights; who want a Civic Forum – who believe in marriage equality – and who support an Irish Language Act.

And that’s what this is all about, rights for everyone, based on equality.

Women’s rights; religious rights; the right to be free from sectarianism and poverty, the rights of victims of the conflict.

They cannot be left out or left behind.

None of these rights threaten anyone.

Except for the bigots and naysayers and begrudgers.

Making politics in the South

Meantime Enda Kenny is hanging on as the Taoiseach of a minority government simply because Fianna Fáil is not yet ready for a general election.

But as we have seen in recent days with the controversy around water charges and the crisis in policing and justice, an election could happen at any time.

Is é Sinn Féin an fíor fhreasúra sa Dáil.

Sinn Féin is challenging the government over the crises in Health and Housing, the sell-off of NAMA’s northern loan book, and on the Garda scandals and water charges.

The partnership government of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil is about protecting the status quo.

They take the side of the landlords against tenants, the bosses against the strikers – the elites against the citizens.

This has to change.

But Republicans need to understand that Sinn Féin cannot contest a general election in the South unless we are very clear that we want to be in government.

That means a step change in our thinking.

It means creating an active culture that moves Sinn Féin into and prepares us for being in government on republican terms.

So, building a mass political movement for positive change across this island remains an urgent task for all our activists.

Brexit

Brexit presents the greatest threat to the people of this island at this time.

Without doubt Brexit on English terms will see the imposition of a hard economic border on the island of Ireland.

While Sinn Féin has many concerns about the EU and its lack of equality and accountability, we are against Brexit for the North.

Cosnóidh sé jabanna.

It will impact badly on agriculture and the agri-food industry.

Brexit also threatens to rip the Good Friday Agreement asunder. 

This places a huge onus on the Irish government to uphold the democratic vote in the North to remain. 

It also requires the Taoiseach to actively campaign for the North to have a special designated status within the EU.

This is the only way to protect Irish interests within the EU.

So far the Taoiseach has failed to do this.

Irish Unity makes sense

The cause of uniting Ireland is not the property of any one grouping or party.

Sin seasamh leanúnach Shinn Féin go dtí an lá atá inniu ann.

Alongside our campaigning and outreach activity we are currently exploring the possibility of establishing a Dáil Committee on Irish Unity.

This could bring forward proposals for what a United Ireland might look like, and how the Irish state needs to plan for reunification across all areas of the economy and society.

There is also a need to discuss a referendum on Irish unity as set out in the Good Friday Agreement – a need to agree on how this can be held and how it will be won.

Of course that will require the support of other parties and independents in Leinster House and Sinn Féin looks forward to discussing this with everyone there.

We will also endeavour to persuade unionism of the merits of an agreed Ireland.

To inform that discussion Sinn Fein is also working on a follow-up paper to our recently published 'Towards a United Ireland' document that we launched last November.

It will lay out the benefits of Irish Unity across a range of areas, including enterprise, health, education, agriculture, energy, infrastructure and taxation on a short/medium and long-term basis.

The financial cost of a United Ireland

In 2015 economist Michael Burke produced a paper: The Economic Case for Irish Unity. 

His conclusion was, and I quote, that: “Quite simply put, the whole population of Ireland would benefit economically from reunification.” 

More recently Professor Kurt Huebner of Vancouver University produced his paper: Modeling Irish Unification.

It estimated a potential 35.6 billion euro boost in the first eight years of unification.

Reimagine Ireland

So, as Irish republicans we need to re-imagine Ireland.

We must ensure that it is more than just the two states coming together.

We don’t want a 32 county version of the Northern or Southern states.

Is gá Éire nua bheith againne!

A new dispensation that reflects our genius and diversity, our dignity and our strengths as an island people. 

A new Ireland that embraces and reflects the traditions of our unionist neighbours.

A new Ireland based on their aspirations and beliefs and identity, alongside all other aspirations and beliefs and identities.

It is a new Ireland that each of us has to advocate for.

Every single one of us at this commemoration must become a persuader for unity.

That especially means talking to those of your neighbours, your friends, your families, to persuade them of the merits of unity.

And if we want to succeed we cannot do it alone.

That is why Sinn Féin is developing an ambitious ten-year plan to grow the party.

To build new progressive alliances.

Níl aon aicearra ann do seo.

The opportunities for real change are within our grasp.

The old certainties are gone. 

The grip of the old parties is loosening. North and South.

The Challenge for Unionism

The future well-being of our unionist neighbours is a matter of deep concern for us.

Sinn Féin wants the unity of Orange and Green based on equality.

That is the challenge facing the new leader of the UUP, and of the DUP leadership.

Arlene Foster needs to reflect over this Easter time on whether she wants to reinforce unionist separation, segregation, from the rest of us or whether she seizes the opportunity to bring unionism in a new direction to respect diversity and end division.

The alternative will not work.

The old do-as-little as possible tactics of them and us deepen sectarianism and discord.

This obliges unionism to continuously depend on English governments to reward its failure to agree joint actions to build a rights-based future for everyone based on equality.

That position has passed its sell-by-date.

So, the DUP leader can cast about for some ‘counter balance’ – some quid pro quo - to legitimate progressive measures which benefit everyone.

She will achieve absolutely nothing but continued division if she thinks she can build a strategy on such a flawed approach.

Easter is a time for renewal. For redemption. For rebirth.

A new generous unionist approach will be embraced and met with flaithiúlacht from Sinn Féin and other progressives.

However if what we have seen from the DUP in recent times continues that will only guarantee that there will be no DUP First Minister and no return to the status quo at Stormont.

So DUP and UUP it’s over to you.

Sinn Féin is up for the challenge.

We extend the hand of friendship as we commit ourselves again to complete the work of previous generations, the work of those we remember, the work of our leader Martin McGuinness. 

Bígí linn.

Ar aghaidh linn le chéile.
Join the Rising.

Up the Republic - An Phoblacht abú.

Connect with Sinn Féin

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