Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Make Fianna Fáil pay at the ballot box - Ó Caoláin

12 April, 2009 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD


Speaking at the annual Easter commemoration in Leitrim this afternoon Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD accused the Fianna Fáil/Green Party Government of once again coming to the rescue of the developers and bankers with the establishment of the National Assets Management Agency.

Deputy Ó Caoláin also used the occasion to make a rallying call to the people of the North West to get behind Sinn Féin’s European election candidate Councillor Padraig MacLochlainn.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, “In their two budgets since last autumn the Fianna Fáil/Green Party Government have penalised working people and those dependent on social welfare while once again letting those who caused this economic crisis off scot free. Worse than that, with their bank guarantee and now with their National Assets Management Agency they have again come to the rescue of the developers and bankers who, with Fianna Fáil, have brought our economy to its knees.

“They are devastating our public health service with cutbacks, driven by a strategy of privatization and centralization, fronted by Health Minister Mary Harney but fully backed by her colleagues in Fianna Fáil and the Green Party.

“Education is also being attacked and the disgraceful cuts to teacher numbers, to special needs supports and to the school building programme, is a betrayal of the children of today and of generations to come.

“The Budget of last week has cut social welfare, with much worse to come later this year. It has taken the last euros from the pockets of working people which will, in turn, lead to commercial death for businesses throughout the State, but especially in rural and small town Ireland.

“The Fianna Fáil-Green Government has failed to bring forward a jobs retention and creation strategy as workers are laid off every day from workplaces large and small. Unemployment figures for the 26 Counties now exceed 11%. The predictions of half a million people on the dole by Christmas must now be regarded as conservative.

“There is tremendous anger among people at what has been done. That anger needs to be turned to politicization or else it will turn to despair and despondency. And that would suit the powers that be very well.

“Sinn Féin is going forward with a message of hope and a will and a determination to bring about real change. We are bringing that message to the people in the local and European elections now just weeks away.

“We must make a rallying call to the people of the North and West constituency from Selton Hill in Leitrim to Spancil Hill in Clare, from Carrickmacross to Castlebar, from Galway Bay to Inishowen. We say:

“Change is possible. Change must happen. Don’t just get angry at Fianna Fáil – make them pay at the ballot box and, better still, elect the best candidate in the field, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn of Sinn Féin.” ENDS

Full text of Deputy Ó Caoláin’s speech follows

Easter Sunday 12 April 2009 Co. Leitrim Easter 1916 Commemoration Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, Sinn Féin Dáil Leader.

A Phoblachtánaigh Chontae Liatroma,

Cuireann sé áthas orm seasamh libh anseo inniu chun omós a thabhairt dóibh siúd uile a fuair bás ar son saoirse mhuintir na hÉireann. Táimíd tar éis éisteacht le Forógra na Poblachta agus ní focail amháin atá ansin dúinn ach spreagadh chun dul ar aghaidh go dtí go mbeidh an Forógra sin curtha i bhfeidhm ina iomlán. Ciallaíonn sé sin Éire saor, Éire aontaithe, Poblacht na hÉireann don bpobal uile.

It is an honour and a privilege to speak here at the graveside of a brave Irish republican, Jack McLoughlin, who suffered internment without trial in the 1940s under De Valera’s Fianna Fáil government and who died shortly after his release. Our commemoration today links that republican and his comrades of the 1940s with the earlier generation who fought the Auxiliaries and the Black and Tans. We assembled today at Selton Hill where, in 1921, six brave Volunteers of the Irish Republican Army made the supreme sacrifice for the Irish Republic proclaimed at Easter 1916.

Leitrim will always remember with pride the martyrs of Selton Hill - Seán Connolly, Seamus Wrynne, Joseph O Beirne, John Reilly, Joseph Reilly and M. E. Baxter.

These men were soldiers of the Irish Republic who joined with their comrades throughout Ireland and, greatly against the odds, took on the might of the British Empire. Their struggle and their sacrifice inspired the Irish people and freedom-loving people throughout the world.

We remember them with pride today as we remember and honour all who have died in the struggle for Irish freedom. We pay tribute to those who died in every phase of the struggle and we make no distinction between the martyrs of 1916 to ’23 and those who died in more recent years including the IRA Volunteers and members of Sinn Féin whose names are on the Republican Roll of Honour.

Sinn Féin is proud to follow in the Republican tradition of the men and women of 1916 and the main aim of our party is to achieve Irish Unity and a Republic embracing all 32 Counties and all the people of Ireland.

Sinn Féin recently established a Task Force on Irish Unity to advance the work of campaigning for the reunification of Ireland. This work is building on the achievements of the Peace Process pioneered by Sinn Féin. These are real achievements which have benefited all the Irish people. They include:

• A partnership Executive in Belfast in which power is shared between republicans and unionists, something that was unimaginable until recent years; • The end of the old Orange state with its discrimination against nationalists and its one-party unionist rule; • The withdrawal of the British Army from the streets and the closure of most of their barracks and spy-posts; • A new police service in place of the sectarian RUC; • Civil rights enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement; • All-Ireland structures involving deeper co-operation between the Executive in Belfast and the Government in Dublin; • Peace across the Six Counties and an end to armed conflict.

This is historic progress. But Sinn Féin wants to go further. We want to see the people of Ireland coming together in peace and establishing a national democracy, finally ending the role of Britain in this country and building a Republic which, in the words of the 1916 Proclamation, “cherishes all the children of the nation equally”.

Sinn Féin’s peace strategy has made progress possible and points the way to further progress. The party has provided an effective strategy, ensuring that the aims of Irish republicans can be advanced by peaceful means. Armed struggle has no place in the Ireland of 2009. Tiny so-called ‘dissident’ groups will fail in their efforts to restart armed conflict. They have nothing to offer and no strategy.

This year marks the 90th anniversary of an Chéad Dáil Éireann and I want to reiterate here the republican commitment I expressed on your behalf and on behalf of republican Ireland in the Mansion House on 20 January last.

“We are all mandated to work, by peaceful and democratic means, to bring about the unity of Ireland. We in Sinn Féin hold that as our central task. We have moved beyond the conflict of decades and have built a peaceful path forward. For us that path leads to a democratic Ireland, a nation built on unity and equality.

“We look forward to the day when the elected representatives of all the people of our country will gather in the national assembly of a United Ireland.”

I said these words at the Oireachtas event in the Mansion House the day before the actual anniversary which, of course, Sinn Féin had booked ahead of the Irish Government, much to their embarrassment.

They were too embarrassed also to read out the words of the Declaration of Independence and the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil. That Programme set out progressive social and economic goals based on the 1916 Proclamation and articulated by Pearse and Connolly.

Its key section stated that the sovereignty of the nation “extends not only to all men and women of the nation, but to all its material possessions; the nation’s soil and its resources, all the wealth and wealth-producing processes within the nation and we reaffirm that all right to private property must be subordinated to the public right and welfare”. It declared “the right of every citizen to an adequate share of the produce of the nation’s labour”.

Is it any wonder that they were afraid to read out these words?

This is a Government that subordinated the rights of the Irish people to the rights of greedy developers and property speculators and corrupt bankers. This is a Government which refused to share the wealth of the Celtic Tiger but ensured that the most wealthy were protected at all times.

This is a Government which, far from safeguarding the nation’s sovereignty over our natural resources, such as Corrib gas, gave those resources away in corrupt deals with multinationals. No tycoons or speculators or corrupt bankers went to the jail during the Celtic Tiger years but the Rossport Five did.

The Democratic Programme also said it was the duty of the government of the Republic to ensure that no child should suffer hunger, cold or homelessness and should be provided with proper education and training. The Programme promised a new scheme of social welfare, replacing the British Poor Law system, and ensuring that the aged and infirm would be “no longer regarded as a burden but rather entitled to the nation’s gratitude and consideration”. The Republic also had the duty to “safeguard the health of the people”.

Is it any wonder that today these words are an embarrassment to the Fianna Fáil-Green government?

In their two budgets since last autumn they have penalised working people and those dependent on social welfare while once again letting those who caused this economic crisis off scot free. Worse than that, with their bank guarantee and now with their National Assets Management Agency they have again come to the rescue of the developers and bankers who, with Fianna Fáil, have brought our economy to its knees.

They are devastating our public health service with cutbacks, driven by a strategy of privatization and centralization, fronted by Health Minister Mary Harney but fully backed by her colleagues in Fianna Fáil and the Green Party.

Education is also being attacked and the disgraceful cuts to teacher numbers, to special needs supports and to the school building programme, is a betrayal of the children of today and of generations to come.

The Budget of last week has cut social welfare, with much worse to come later this year. It has taken the last euros from the pockets of working people which will, in turn, lead to commercial death for businesses throughout the State, but especially in rural and small town Ireland.

The Fianna Fáil-Green Government has failed to bring forward a jobs retention and creation strategy as workers are laid off every day from workplaces large and small. Unemployment figures for the 26 Counties now exceed 11%. The predictions of half a million people on the dole by Christmas must now be regarded as conservative.

Across Ireland we see the results of gross misgovernment under Fianna Fáil for the past 12 years.

Things could have been done differently. We should never lose sight of the fact that we in Sinn Féin, with other progressive voices over the past 12 years, were calling for the wealth of the Celtic Tiger to be shared equitably and managed properly. We called for priority to be given to public services, for investment in health and education and social housing. We called for a fair taxation system and investment in people rather than property.

I am convinced that if that path had been taken the country would not be in this dire economic crisis.

Our analysis was right. We were described at one time as economically illiterate. But look where the so-called economic experts have brought us to now!

And, comrades, our analysis is still right.

In recent months Sinn Féin has brought forward detailed proposals and plans to lead this country out of recession and forward to real and sustainable economic prosperity. Senator Pearse Doherty initiated and saw through to fruition a major report, sponsored by the Oireachtas, pointing the way forward to the rejuvenation of the West of Ireland. Deputy Martin Ferris in a parallel project, charted a future for farming and fisheries and for the retention of community life in rural Ireland.

Our policy for an equitable and efficient public health service, based on universal access for all based on need alone, and which, as Health spokesperson, I was proud to be involved in framing, has for long been the most progressive.

Our Economy spokesperson Deputy Arthur Morgan has published key proposals on public finances and, most crucially, on jobs, aimed at Getting Ireland Back to Work.

So it is clear we have the policies to create positive change. We have the message to inspire and give hope. The key thing now is to get that message to the people and to let it be heard loud and clear. That is the duty of every republican, of every member of Sinn Féin.

There is tremendous anger among people at what has been done. That anger needs to be turned to politicization or else it will turn to despair and despondency. And that would suit the powers that be very well.

Sinn Féin is going forward with a message of hope and a will and a determination to bring about real change. We are bringing that message to the people in the local and European elections now just weeks away.

I commend your Local Government candidates here in Co. Leitrim, sitting Cllrs. Mícheál Colreavy and Martin Kenny, hopefully soon to be joined by Pádraig Fallon and, perhaps, too by another and join you in wishing them all well. I urge everyone to make a mighty effort to ensure that each of them is elected and that they join a strengthened Sinn Féin force of councillors across the 26 Counties this summer.

I make a special appeal to you to make a mighty effort in the European elections. Sinn Féin has a superb candidate in Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.

And, make no mistake, Pádraig can be elected for the North and West constituency on 5 June.

We must make a rallying call to the people of the North and West constituency from Selton Hill in Leitrim to Spancil Hill in Clare, from Carrickmacross to Castlebar, from Galway Bay to Inishowen. We say:

“Change is possible. Change must happen. Don’t just get angry at Fianna Fáil – make them pay at the ballot box and, better still, elect the best candidate in the field, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn of Sinn Féin.”

A chairde, let us succeed in these elections.

Let us build our party.

Let us give real leadership to our communities and to our country.

And let us go forward to the true Republic, the Republic to which you and I and countless others have dedicated so much of their lives to achieve.

Ar aghaidh linn chun saoirse. An Phoblact abu!

Connect with Sinn Féin