Gerry Adams addresses Sinn Féin Cúige Uladh AGM
Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams addressed the AGM of the Party's Cúige Uladh on Saturday 2nd February in the Clanree Hotel, Letterkenny, Donegal.
Hundreds of Sinn Féin delegates from throughout the nine counties of Ulster attended the event. Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson and Donegal Councillor Pádraig Mac Lochlainn also spoke at the event
In his remarks Mr. Adams stressed the importance of the party's work to build Sinn Féin.
"We are endeavouring, to the best of our ability, in the Councils; in the Assembly; in Leinster House; in Údarás na Gaeltachta, and in the European Parliament, to ensure that our representatives are pursuing the correct policies, in keeping with our manifesto commitments and our republican objectives.
"In addition we are very aware of the need to ensure that the republican constituency, and our own organisation, understands what we are doing.
"And we are equally conscious of the imperative to communicate what we are doing and our vision of republicanism in the 21st century, and its relevance to everyday life, to the widest section of people and in a coherent and effective manner."
The Sinn Féin leader emphasised that the party is "not anti-business. We are pro-business".
Mr. Adams said:
"Neither are we a high tax party. Although, we are against the super profits being made by multi-nationals, and the big banks, like the obscene $31.3bn profit announced this week by Shell.
"To tackle this a special tax should be applied to profits over a reasonable percentage.
"Sinn Féin understands the need for a strong economy to provide the essential health and education and other services that citizens have a right to expect in the 21st century. Building the economy is therefore a major priority for our party.
"That means developing a new working relationship between our party and those who are trying to build their businesses and economic projects; particularly in the indigenous small and medium sized business sector and the trade union movement.
"Sinn Féin also actively supports workers rights, including the right to a fair wage, decent conditions of employment and the right to be part of a trade union.
"We need to work together to deliver the next generation of jobs that will drive the economy forward and sustain economic prosperity."
Referring to the Assembly debate last week on the Programme for Government, the Budget, and the Investment Package Mr. Adams spoke of the progress that was made, the attitude of the SDLP and the imperative of securing 'economic sovereignty'.
"The electorate here in the south is starting to wake up to the way it which it was conned in the recent election.
"But unless we build a credible campaigning alternative for them to support it will be difficult to make the progress necessary to fully tackle inequalities in our society.
"An important part of this is the progress made last week in the northern Assembly where we secured agreement on the Programme for Government, the Budget, and the Investment Package.
"This was a very significant achievement which was widely welcomed. On the other hand the negative attitude of the SDLP was not. The SDLP's deranged behaviour in the Assembly is proof that it hasn't recovered from the electoral setback it received last March. It has no coherent leadership and no coherent politics and it obvious that its leadership lives in a little world of its own.
"Back in the real world Sinn Féin takes satisfaction from the fact that the Programme for Government, the Budget, and the Investment Package were equality proofed.
"That means that government policy and the money it spends are being scrutinised to ensure that they are being applied and used in the best interests of all citizens.
"This is the first time this has ever happened. And it is entirely due to the determined approach of the Sinn Féin Ministers and our Assembly team.
"However we are very mindful that this is only the first Programme for Government, Budget, and Investment Package of this Executive.
"And we know that there are many problems of disadvantage and poverty, in particular child poverty, in urban and rural areas; there is serious underfunding in our health and education services; in the environment; on cultural rights; in infrastructure; in our agricultural industry and economy; in housing provision, and across many other issues.
"We don't have enough money to do what we would like. The reality is that we have to work within an inadequate block grant from the British Government.
"It is a significant problem that taxation and public expenditure policies are determined in London. The fact is we are on the edge of British Exchequer concerns. That is self-evident in the inadequate block grant, the absence of any meaningful financial peace dividend, as well as London's refusal to accept the need for a lowering of corporation tax.
"No British Chancellor - no British government - has ever worried about the impact of their policies on people living in East Belfast, or North Antrim or the Shankill.
"Lack of economic sovereignty is something that the Assembly and Executive, and unionism in particular, will have to face up to in the time ahead. The current financial structures do not work for citizens in the north. We need greater fiscal independence and an increase in the block grant if we are to deliver high-quality public services, and have a bigger, better, more effective, more efficient and prosperous economy.
"That means the Executive and the Assembly presenting the British Government with a united position which seeks greater economic sovereignty in the time ahead. It also means all of us, including unionists, building on the economic and business links that exist on this island.
"I am convinced that sustainable social and economic progress will only occur in the context of a single-island economy. And irrespective of our other differences, none of the parties in the Assembly underestimates the potential for greater prosperity that the all-Ireland political institutions, agencies and bodies can bring in times ahead."
Gerry Adams also set out some of the calendar of work ahead of party activists, including our party Ard Fheis in four weeks, the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, and a second run of Townhall Meetings that are scheduled for April.
"At the end of this month we will be holding our Ard Fheis. In addition, April 10th is the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. To mark that landmark date Sinn Fein will be organising another series of Townhall meetings in April.
"These events will provide us with an opportunity to reflect on the positive gains made in the last 10 years; the positive work that has been done on policing and justice since last January; and to outline our Sinn Féin vision for the road ahead and the achievement of our republican goals.
"These meetings will also provide Sinn Fein with an opportunity to report on our stewardship and to explain our strategy and goals for the time ahead. Later in the year we plan to do another series of Townhall meetings throughout the South.
"This year we also celebrate the 40th anniversary of the civil rights campaign taking to the streets. So, as in 1988 when we marked the 20th anniversary of the Civil Rights campaign, Sinn Féin will be organising a series of events, including public meetings, marches, and debates to commemorate NICRA s unique and important contribution to the last 40 years.
"The Cúige will also be involved in the next few months in the campaign against the Lisbon Treaty. Sinn Féin will be the only significant party campaigning against the Lisbon Treaty referendum. It will be a tough and difficult campaign. But I believe that Sinn Féin will be standing with the majority of people on this island who share our concerns about the direction of the EU."
Concluding Mr. Adams said;
"We have a lot of work ahead of us - all part of the jigsaw of activities and strategies which are about building this party; building our electoral support; advancing our republican goals; and building the future.
"To succeed we have to take the republican message of hope and change, of progress and equality, to every village and town and city; to every street and parish; to every corner of this island; and to every citizen.
"Today we can take great confidence from the reality that republicanism is bigger and more popular than in generations; and is ready to achieve what those previous generations only dreamed of. This is our time to change the course of Irish history." ENDS