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Dáil 90 - A Debate on the Past and Future of Dáil Éireann

6 March, 2009 - by Pat Sheehan

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP MLA will this afternoon participate in the Dublin Book Festival in City Hall Dublin. The debate is entitled Dáil 90: A debate on the Past and Future of Dáil Éireann.

The following is an edited version of Mr. Adams remarks:

“Ninety years ago An Chéad Dáil Éireann met in the Mansion House for its inaugural meeting, the first ever democratically elected assembly of the Irish people.

“This weekend we celebrate Lá Idirnáisiúnta na mBan, International Women’s Day, and it is very fitting to recall that An Chéad Dáil Éireann also came out of the struggle of women for the vote.

“The First Dáil was an all-Ireland Dáil. It represented the democratic will of the Irish people but it was thwarted by the British government.

“We still do not have an all-Ireland Dáil. The future of the Dáil that I want to see is that it will truly be Dáil Éireann, the national legislature of an Ireland that does not stop at Dundalk or Monaghan or Letterkenny.

“So in this 90th anniversary we all need to re-focus on the question of Irish reunification, the ending of the role of the British government in Ireland and the coming together of the people of Ireland in a national conversation about how best we can share this island.”

Speaking about the current economic crisis Mr. Adams argued for the need for a “coming together of people on the left of Irish politics. This would include Sinn Féin, the Labour Party, other smaller left parties, trade unions, community organisations and other NGOs.

“Crucially such a new alliance would need to become far greater than the sum of its parts.

“It would not be enough just to create a more coherent left opposition in the Dáil and push the two conservative parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, together. That could become a recipe for the left being in permanent opposition.

“What is needed is a much greater project. For a truly new Dáil Éireann we need to build a grassroots movement for progressive change and social justice across this country, which the left parties and groups in alliance would help to mobilise, but which would take on a dynamic of its own.

“I believe there is the potential for such a transformation because many more people are becoming politicised by the current crisis. There is an opening up to ideas and alternatives and a realisation that bad political decisions and bad economic decisions are now deeply affecting people in their daily lives with job losses, pay cuts and cuts in public services.

“At times like this there is also great fear and anger. There is the danger that for many this can turn into despondency, hopelessness, apathy and racism. And there have always been those who would seek to exploit such feelings.

“We need to show people there is a better way. The left in general needs to do a better job in presenting its case and mobilising support. We need to set aside petty differences and see the bigger picture.

“Above all we need to give people a sense of their own potential to work together for change.” ENDS

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