Gerry Adams Presidential Address Ard Fheis 2009
“A sense of hope and purpose”
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A sense of hope and purpose
Today hundreds of thousands of people have marched in this city to defend jobs; to defend public services; to defend our standard of living, and to express their opposition to the policies of the Irish government. This Ard Fheis salutes and supports these efforts.
We also want to extend congratulations and best wishes to SIPTU which celebrates 100 years of organising for fairness at work and justice in society. From its early beginnings with Connolly, Larkin and the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, SIPTU has made an enormous contribution to Irish society and to the well being of workers and their families.
Comhghairdheas. Tá muid agus lucht oibre na hÉireann buíoch daoibh as an méid atá déanta agaibh. Ag an uair deacair seo tá sibhse de dhíth go mór mór ar mhuintir ár dtíre. Ádh mór oraibh uilig. Agus ná déanaigi dearmad. Bígí láidir agus beidh cumhacht agaibh.
Our economy is in a mess. Global circumstances may have contributed but the decisions and policies of the Fianna Fáil/Green Party government, and its predecessors, and the greed and dishonesty of some bankers, developers and speculators, have shaped this crisis and left Irish workers and their families desperately vulnerable to its effects.
Businesses are closing at an alarming rate and hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs.These are the ordinary men and women who helped to build the Celtic Tiger economy. These are the people with families to rear and often with elderly relatives to care for.
This government protects its wealthy friends and targets the sick, the elderly and children.
This government has failed the people. It has opted to pick their pockets and to mug lower and middle-income earners.
The Government should go
At the same time the Government is giving billions of euros to the banks with almost no strings attached. It is spending public money; the people’s money, to bail out its property developer friends in Anglo-Irish Bank, despite the way Anglo Irish and Irish Life & Permanent cooked their books.
And the Minister for Finance never bothered to read the relevant documents before sinking tax-payers money into a financial cesspit. Or at least that’s what he tells the rest of us.
Little wonder that this state is again being linked internationally to corruption, cronyism and cosy cartels.
The Minister for Finance should do his patriotic duty. He should go. But he should not go on his own. Mr. Lenihan should be joined by his friends. The people cannot afford them. This Government should go also.
Woody Guthrie once wrote. ‘Some rob you with a six gun, some with a fountain pen’.
Criminality of any kind is unacceptable. All categories of gangsters or banksters must face the full rigours of the law.
Agus caithfidh muidne agus caithfidh pobal uile na hÉireann cruthú nach sinne amháin na daoine a bheas thíos leis an tubaiste seo. Caithfidh muid cinntiú go mbeidh na daoine santacha a chruthaigh an deacracht seo go mbeidh siadsan ag íoc as anois. Go dtí seo d’éalaigh siad saor.
Gun crime. Drug crime. Blue collar crime. And white collar crime must be confronted.
That means that banking executives and others, must be rigorously investigated if they have broken the law and like everyone who behaves illegally they must be brought before the courts.
In the boom times Sinn Féin urged for investment in public services and in policies that would build for the future. We argued and we insist that the economy should serve the public good. Sinn Féin warned of the consequences of ill conceived government policies. These policies and the economy they sustain serve private greed.
Our warnings were ignored.
Le cupla bliain anuas nuair a tharraing muid aire ar an phrácás bhí ár gcairde sna meáin ag spochadh asainn. Dúirt na polaiteoirí eile nár thuig muid cúrsaí airgeadais! Cá bhfuil na fir glice seo anois?
There is a lot of talk nowadays about a golden circle. Some senior politicians and commentators behave as if they have just discovered this. Sinn Féin has been warning about our two tier society for years.
We have made the case again and again that the golden circles of the 1980s never went away. They simply regrouped. And successive governments ruled in their interests and squandered the wealth created by Irish workers.
The boom times presented a historic opportunity:
• to deliver universal first class health services
• to invest in new schools, social housing and public transport links
• to tackle disadvantage, poverty and inequality
• And to build the infrastructure required to ensure the future stability of the Irish economy
The government chose to do none of these things.
So, following years of unprecedented exchequer surpluses the Irish people are left with:
• Waiting lists for essential hospital treatments and queues in A&E departments.
• Thousands of children being taught in pre-fabs while the government withdraws special teacher support from those with special needs.
We are left with a housing list that grows longer while thousands of unsold housing units fill empty sites across the country. We are left with the withdrawal of over ten per cent of bus services from our capital city - and this on the watch of a Green Party minister!
Lest the electorate forget.
Fianna Fáil in the last election made outlandish promises they knew they couldn’t keep.
Lest the electorate forget.
Fine Gael made the same implausible promises as Fianna Fáil.
Tá rud éigin lófa fán chóras airgeadais, ní amháin ar an oileán seo ach ar fud an domhain iarthar. Ach tá cúrsaí níos measa anseo, b’fhéidir mar gheall ar an stair atá againn agus an bochtanas a chonaic muid rómhaith le tríocha bliain anuas.
Sinn Féin Proposes
Unlike other parties Sinn Féin set out proposals around job creation and the housing market that would have ensured a softer landing. We proposed tax reform that would have given the state more resources to cope with the economic downturn. Even now, if these policies are implemented they could still help turn the economy around.
• establishing a three year job creation strategy, including support for small businesses;
• creating jobs by investing particularly in schools, rail infrastructure, in our environment and in our rural and fishing communities and disadvantaged communities;
• it means growing our indigenous export market
• it means ensuring that bank credit is available to sustain small and medium businesses.
• And it means, and this is crucial, preventing the repossession of people’s homes by the banks.
We also need to confront the culture of greed represented by the golden circle of highly placed individuals and groups in Irish society.
Bobby Sands lashed those who exploit and enrich themselves on the backs of citizens.
He wrote in his prison diary, on the 11th day of his hunger strike ‘there is no equality in a society that stands upon the economic and political bog, where only the strongest make it good or survive.’
Bobby was right.
Not one cent of public money should go into the pockets of privateers. That means an end to the hospital co-location policy where rich investors are handed valuable public land and given tax breaks to charge people for medical treatment.
Tá shin millteanach dona agus mí cheart. Níl sé cothrom agus tá réitigh agus stráteisí ag Sinn Féin ar an ghéarchéim seo. Cuirfidh muid stad air.
There should also be an end to the huge salaries and expenses given to high ranking public servants, politicians and the other high rollers who have milked the system for many years.
I include all government Ministers in this.
Let’s take the Minister of Health as an example. Her remuneration is 230,000 euros annually; this is as much as the President of the Republic of France and more than the British Prime Minister. HSE chief Brendan Drumm has a salary of 320,000 euros, plus an annual bonus of 80,000 euros. Which means we pay him more than the people of the USA pay their President. And there’s more. Bank CEO’s taking home three million euros a year; Heads of state companies on well over half a million euros. It’s obscene. It must stop.
The super rich still hide their millions through a variety of tax loopholes. These tax shelters must be closed immediately. The billionaires who make their profits in this state must pay their taxes in this state. Same as other citizens.Simple as that.
Some, including people sympathetic to our politics but worn down by conservative forces, dismiss our vision as impossible.
It will never happen they say. They feel angry but powerless.
Twenty years ago, understandably enough, they probably thought peace was impossible. But peace is possible. We have proved that. Everything is possible my friends. What is needed is political will, determination, tenacity and organization and strategies.
Progress in the North
Look at the North.
There the DUP is working with us – this is a party established to block civil rights reform, a party which opposed power sharing and the Good Friday Agreement. The DUP is now working all-Ireland institutions.
But this is not to say that everything is rosy. No one should be under any illusions. Working with the DUP is very difficult and very challenging. Holding that party to its commitments and ensuring that the equality agenda of the Good Friday and St Andrews Agreements are delivered is hard work.
But Unionist politicians now know that if they wish to exercise political power they can only do so in partnership with the rest of us.It is a battle a day, every day, over education, the environment, Acht na Gaeilge and much more.
But we have made progress in the transfer of powers on policing and justice, in tackling fuel poverty; in securing additional funding for economic investment and for tackling rural poverty, and in deferring water charges.
Tá muid ag obair chun clár Gaeilge iomlán a bhrú chun tosaigh sa tuaisceart. Ina measc:
• Tá ceist na nGaelscoileanna;
• Tá maoiniú do tograí teanga agus pobal; níl go leor ann ach tá Sinn Féin ag deanamh ár ndiceall níos mó a fháil.
Agus bith cinnte faoi Acht na Gaeilge.Beidh Acht na Gaeilge ann.
Caitríona Ruane is carrying out the most far reaching and fundamental reform of the north’s education system in 60 years.
Look at last year’s figures for children transferring from primary school to grammar schools: On the Falls 44. On the Shankill 10. On the Malone Road 214.
We want all children to do as well as the young people on the Malone Road. These figures are for Belfast but the story is the same throughout the six counties.
We are going to change that because all children deserve equality of access to education and we support our Minister in the necessary work to ensure that every child fulfills his or her potential. Her reforms are about educational excellence, including academic excellence for all our young people.
Along with our dedicated team of Ministers and MLAs and party activists, Martin McGuinness and our other representatives have made a real and positive difference in peoples lives. But there is still enormous work to be done.
The enthusiasm, energy and discipline of Sinn Féin ministers like Michelle Gildernew in Agriculture, Conor Murphy in Regional Development, Caitriona Ruane in Education, and Gerry Kelly demonstrate a commitment to this process and a determination to make it work.
Engaging with Unionists
For our part we fully understand the need to persuade unionists of the desirability of a shared, united Ireland.
Tá stráitéis againn.
Tá plean againn ach ní féidir an obair seo a dhéanamh gan cairde agus comhghuallaithe ag seasamh linn agus ag cuidiú linn.
Republicans and democrats believe that the union with Britain is a nonsense, even in these more enlightened times. Under the union, unionists make up fewer that 2% of the Kingdom. They would constitute 20% of the New Republic. They would be citizens, not mere subjects. They would have rights, not concessions. They would belong. They would be welcome. We have to persuade them of that. So too does the Irish government.
The British government also has its obligations. The democratic imperative demands. They must be based on the ending of British jurisdiction on this island. For our part we are the nation builders.
Our responsibility is to ensure that unionists are comfortable and secure in a new Ireland. It is their Ireland also. So it must be a shared Ireland, an integrated Ireland, an Ireland in which unionists have equal ownership.
Achieving a United Ireland
An Ireland based on citizens rights. In this spirit, I have recently called for a national conversation on how these goals can be achieved. But building a United Ireland needs more than this. It means more than a change of flags. We need to build this party everywhere. And we need to make political alliances.
We also need to build support internationally. There are tens of millions of people across the world who can trace their lineage back to Ireland. There is considerable good will in the USA for a United Ireland. We have to mobilize and organise with all of these friends and potential friends to advance our goals.
This summer Sinn Féin will host two major conferences in the USA and next year a conference in Britain. Our intention is to engage with the Irish diaspora and to marshal its political strength in support of a United Ireland.
An all-Ireland economy
But Irish unity is not just a dearly held republican and democratic aspiration - it is an economic imperative. On this island there is now a considerable market of some six million people. Since the Good Friday Agreement, trade between North and South has steadily increased. Firms on both sides of the border do business with each other on a daily basis. Hundreds of thousands of people live in one jurisdiction while they shop, study or work in the other. Progress towards creating a truly all-Ireland economy is being made through:
• The newly developed All Ireland Energy Market.
• Through Tourism Ireland - an all-Ireland body promoting Ireland abroad.
• And through InterTrade Ireland which since 2003 has benefited over 1,300 businesses and created hundreds of jobs.
The development of the Dublin-to-Belfast Motorway and the Monaghan-to-Derry dual carriageway are prime examples of the joined up thinking that our country and our economy needs.
However, much more needs to be done.
Differences in VAT, Corporation Tax, Excise Duties and Currency create barriers to economic development on both sides of the border, and cost millions in tax revenue. The removal of such impediments will create efficiencies, employment, wealth and opportunity across this island. Sinn Féin proposes and we will campaign for:
• An All Ireland Economic Committee from the Dáil and the Assembly tasked with harmonizing taxes across this island
• A joint north south Ministerial approach to promote our international food brand.
• An all-Ireland agricultural body to implement all standards that safeguard the reputation of Irish agricultural produce.
• We propose a new body bringing together universities, constituted on a similar basis to InterTrade Ireland, to act as an engine for growth in the ‘knowledge economy.’
All of these would be good for all our people, including the unionist people in the north. It makes sense, including common sense. Partition makes no sense.
Sinn Féin’s status as the only all-Ireland political party will be practically demonstrated in June when we will contest every European seat on this island. But the challenge is even greater than that. Local Government elections will also take place in the south on the same day and there will be two bye-elections in Dublin.
These contests provide challenges and opportunities for republicans.
It is not enough for us to criticise governments or the conservative parties. In the Oireachtas Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Arthur Morgan and Aengus Ó Snodaigh have also brought forward constructive propositions. Senator Pearse Doherty and Martin Ferris TD have both published comprehensive reports on social and economic development in the West of Ireland, and on the future viability of agriculture and fisheries in that region.
We are bringing all these ideas to the people. We need to listen to their ideas also.
All over this island people in the voluntary and community sector, including sporting organisations, residents associations, credit unions and carers, are the glue holding our communities together.
They are the real experts. We need to listen to them and support them.
We also need to support those who campaign for positive change whether against incinerators or the desecration of sacred places or the public ownership of our natural resources, or for a greener, cleaner environment. There are groups from the Liffey Valley to Rathlin Island, from Moyross to Dominick Street, O’Devaney Gardens and West Mayo campaigning for a better life for their communities.
We have some of these campaigners here today. Céad míle fáilte romhaibh.
I want to particularly extend a céad mile failte to representatives from NEPP who are campaigning against proposed overhead cables going through Counties Cavan, Monaghan, Meath, Armagh and Tyrone. This party assures you all of our support.
Mar a dúirt mé tapaigí an deis labhairt agus éisteacht le daoine faoi na rudaí atá tabhachtach dóibh. Agus déanfaidh muid sin. Ar fud na tíre beidh Sinn Féin ag obair libh.
Sinn Féin are not Euro sceptics. We are for a European union of equal states; a Europe of democracy and transparency; a social Europe.
We objected to the last Lisbon Treaty because, unlike others, we read it. And we realised that it represented a dilution of democracy, an assault on workers’ rights, a more militarized Europe, a more centralised bureaucracy in Brussels and a transfer of power from the smaller member states to the larger ones.
The electorate agreed with us.
But all the signs are that the “Yes” camp will attempt to foist the same flawed treaty on the people. They will try to link the current economic difficulties to last year’s Treaty rejection. But such arguments are spurious and dishonest.
Ní bheidh muidne sásta seasamh siar agus ligint don rialtas dalladh mullóg a chur orainn ná ar an phobal. Dúirt an pobal cheana nach raibh siad sásta leis an Conradh Lisbon. Caithfidh an rialtas Conradh nua a fháil. Gan sin beidh muid ag rá níl arís.
It is an insult to ask citizens to consider the same Treaty again.
A new Treaty is needed. A new Treaty for new times.
This is what Sinn Féin will campaign for.
And we will base our campaign on what we consider to be in the best interests of the Irish people and the people of Europe.
I welcome the election of Mary Lou McDonald as the new Leas Uachtarán of Sinn Fein. Declan Kearney is our new Cathaoirleach, Dawn Doyle is our new Ard Runaí Secretary and Maurice Quinlivan is one of our Cisteoirí. I also commend the older, if I may use that term, members of our National Officer Board and I want to congratulate all the members of the newly elected Ard Chomhairle
I especially want, on my own behalf and your behalf to extend a big thanks to our friend Pat Doherty for his long years of service as Leas Uachtarán. He will continue to play a leading role in this party and in this struggle. I wish Pat and Mary, all the best for the future.
Thanks also to Treasa Quinn and Margaret Kelly our outgoing Cisteoirí who are taking up new roles in the party.
Since last year’s Ard Fheis across the globe there have been dramatic events that will have an undoubted effect on all of us. I welcome the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States. As the first black American President he carries the dreams and hopes of many of his people and others throughout the globe.
Tá dea-thoil an domhain uilig ag dul leis ach tá brú mór air agus dóchas iontach ag brath air fosta.
The attack by Israeli Government on the people of Gaza in the weeks before President Obama’s inauguration was a despicable act of terror.
It was an assault on innocent women and children in a community of just 1.5 million already starved of medical supplies and essential foodstuffs and effectively imprisoned in an area the size of county Louth.
D’amharc muid ar an teilifís agus léigh muid inár nuachtáin fán chosmhuintir i nGaza agus d’fhulaing muid leo. Tá muid cinnte de go dtig réiteach a fháil ar an choimhlinct sa réigiún má bhíonn an toil ann.
The only solution that can work in the Middle East is one based on justice, which recognizes that the Palestinian people must have a homeland that is viable and sustainable.I welcome the representative of the Palestinian people, Dr Assad Abdul Rahman to this Ard Fheis. Our MEP Bairbre de Brún will visit Palestine next week. Mary Lou McDonald MEP is scheduled to go there later this year. They will bring our republican solidarity to that beleaguered people.
I also welcome Dr Ebrahim Ebrahim, Head of International Relations of the ANC, and extend our best wishes to Madiba.
And a warm welcome also to Kattalin Madariaga, MP in the Basque autonomous parliament.
And of course, Noel Corrillo, the Cuban Ambassador to Ireland.Cuba celebrates the 50th anniversary of its revolution this year. We in Sinn Fein send our warmest greetings to the people of Cuba and to Fidel and we wish him well. Beir Bua companero.
A National Revival
These are hard times for Ireland. Though people in other places, as we have seen, have harder times. But in hard times we are especially called upon to come forward. To be positive.
Now is the time for another great national revival of our language and arts, our culture. Now is the time to build national morale. To ensure that the Irish language flourishes.
Tá obair maith ag dul ar aghaidh sa pháirtí le cur chun cinn na Gaeilge, go háirthe leis na cumainn gaelacha.Ach tá a lán le déanamh go fóill.
I commend everyone who has contributed in any way to the survival of our native language in the Gaeltacht areas.In the wider language movement. And throughout the Irish language education sector.
Tá sár obair déanta againn. Tá an teanga beo mar tá sibhse ag obair ar son cúis na Gaeilge. Tá muid buíoch daoibhse go léir.
Let me also commend An Cumann Lúthchleas Gael who celebrate 125 years of excellence this year. Let me in particular extend best wishes to my own county, County Antrim, for the summer season. All sports are good, but I’m sure everyone would agree that even after 125 years the GAA is still one of the most important and dynamic institutions on this island. The founders of Cumann Lúthchleas Gael could not have envisaged how it would develop. But I’m sure they would be proud of everything that has been achieved.
And we also should take pride in, and salute, the achievements of the GAA.
An Chéad Dáil
This year marks the 90th anniversary of An Chéad Dáil Éireann - the first and only freely elected parliament of all the Irish people.
Bhailigh muid le chéile sa chathair seo ceithre seachtain ó shin – sa Teach Ardmhéara do cheiliúrú ar an Chéad Dáil, nócha bliain ó shin. Oíche speisialta a bhí ann má bhí tú ábalta fáil isteach! Bhí an áit plodaithe.
Sinn Féin is guided by the ideals of public service and patriotism of those who assembled in Dublin’s Mansion House in January 1919.The First Dáil Éireann set out a visionary Democratic Programme of social and economic goals based on equality. It is as relevant to the crisis in Ireland today as it was 90 years ago.
The Democratic Programme declared that Irish society would be governed “in accordance with the principles of Liberty, Equality and Justice for all”. And it committed the Republic “to make provision for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the children” and to ensure that “no child shall suffer hunger or cold from lack of food, clothing, or shelter”. The Democratic Programme also declared “the right of every citizen to an adequate share of the produce of the nation’s labour” and that the Republic has a duty to “safeguard the health of the people”. And it promised that the aged and infirm would “no longer be regarded as a burden but rather entitled to the nation’s gratitude and consideration”.
It is little wonder the government forgot to book the Mansion House for the 90th anniversary on January 21st. The First Dáil was not about political elites, gombeen men, golden circles or cosy cartels.
It was a genuine and collective national effort to improve the lives of our people and the fortunes of our country. This was patriotism in action. This is the type of patriotism that must enthuse and reinvigorate the Irish nation now.
Genuine republican values and republican politics have never been so relevant or so necessary as they are today.
A New Alliance for Change
This great country and its people are at another historic crossroads. We have decisions to make about the core values of our society; about how we as an island people wish to live our lives.
Sinn Féin says that our society needs core values based on social justice, fairness, equality and decency. Ireland needs the determination and commitment that achieved peace out of conflict.
There can be an egalitarian alternative to the politics of greed, inefficiency, waste and corruption. These have been the hallmarks of governments in this country for too long. Their arrogance should be a call to action for the people of Ireland.
A call to revitalise the social movements and for our young people to engage in meaningful and fulfilling political activity. It is a call for a new phase of citizenship and a new generation of peaceful political struggle. I believe the time is right for a new alliance of all people and parties that want real and fundamental change.
Tá raon nua deiseanna ag oscailt dúinn. Agus ní mór dúinn bheith reidh.
The dominance in this State of two large conservative parties can be brought to an end if a new alignment in Irish politics, north and south can be created. The replacement of the current coalition at some future election by another coalition with Fine Gael as the main party would be like replacing Tweedledum with Tweedledee.
In my view the Labour Party has a duty not to prop up either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. Instead Labour should explore with us and others the potential for co-operation in the future.
I invite all these potential allies to come together to forge a stronger, more united progressive and democratic movement for our country - one that aims to meet the needs of all citizens.
I include parties like Labour, the Greens if they can survive the fall out from their participation in this right wing government; other smaller parties ; the trade unions; the community organisations that are on the front line in the struggle for equality; Gaelgeoiri; rural agencies and organisations, including farming bodies and fishing communities; women’s groups; the students, youth organisations and those who speak for the disabled, the poor, the unemployed, the homeless and the marginalised in our society.
Sinn Féin is ready to join with all of those who want real change and who recognise that the road to real change requires unity of purpose, of ideas and of energy.
A Sense of Hope and Purpose
Of course, the forces of reaction, of conservatism, of cynicism are strong. But that should not put us off.
A lesser people would have collapsed centuries ago under the yoke of colonialism or famine or division and endless wars. The people of Ireland did not collapse. This island’s greatest asset is the genius and incorruptibility of our people. That is where the hope lies.
The people of Ireland are a decent people. We are a fair people. We are generous. We don’t have to put up with second class citizenship. Or a two tier society. We don’t have to tolerate a golden circle of privilege and advantage. We can change it.
If we believe. If we have hope. If we work together. If we draw upon our strengths. If we really want fairness and decency and equality. We can change our society. Peacefully and democratically. That is what Ireland wants today. Ireland needs citizens to step forward. To make a commitment.
To share and create a common purpose based upon our rights as citizens. And our pride and confidence in Ireland and in our people. That is what Ireland needs today.
And that is Sinn Féin’s commitment. Mary Lou put it well last night. The day of mé féin politics have failed. Now is the time for the politics of Sinn Féin. Bígí linn. An Phoblacht Abú