Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Adams - Politics of exclusion will not work

10 March, 2004


Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking at public meeting in Ballymun this afternoon said "The government don‚t want to talk about hospital closures, the lack of affordable housing, sub standard schools or a crumbling peace process. They don't want to talk about endless lists of broken promises. And they most certainly don't want to talk about the future of this country.

"What they are very focused on are the upcoming Local Government and European Union elections. What they are very focused on is the threat posed to their interests and the interests of those they serve by Sinn Féin's agenda for change.

"In my view the Irish government is actively considering the exclusion of Sinn Féin from the political process in the north as an option. It is actively considering going back to the old agenda, the failed policies and attitudes of the past. This, like the current negative politics, the negative campaigning, is wrong.

"The Irish government has a crucial role to play. Whatever our differences, and there are differences on social and economic and health and education and environment and many other issues, our collective responsibility is to work together to make the process of building peace and stability a success.

"Progress requires as an absolute minimum an Irish government fulfilling its role as a co-guarantor of the Agreement, defending the rights and entitlement of citizens.

"At this time there is little evidence of this and there appears to be no real inclination by the Dublin government to resolve the current difficulties before the elections.

"Let there also be no doubt that the disposition of the Coalition government and its refusal to act on its obligations is deeply worrying.

"So, I want to make a direct appeal to Fianna Fáil members and supporters and to nationalists and republicans the length and breadth of this island, to join with us in reasserting the primacy of the peace process. "ENDS

Full Text

I am delighted to be here in Ballymun.

The Ballymun community is a fine example of what Sinn Féin is about.

We believe in community empowerment, in working in partnership with people so that together we bring about real change and real improvement in their daily lives.

Here in Ballymun people came together to represent their own interests, to fight campaigns on behalf of the community against the closure of essential services, for a community law centre, against drug pushers and most of all, against neglect.

The Ballymun Regeneration has its origins in the Ballymun Community Coalition and the Housing Task Force they founded almost twenty years ago. It is from these modest beginnings that the largest urban renewal scheme in Europe has come. It is an ambitious project, but as everyone in this room knows only too well, the regeneration has run into problem, after problem.

A new health centre in the €60 million Ballymun civic centre has remained unoccupied for a year at an estimated cost of €3.5 million because health authorities have not sanctioned the fitting out costs. The Minister for Housing and the Health and Safety Authority are in disagreement about the way to deal with asbestos contaminated plaster and tiling.

Elsewhere, the last seven years has seen an unprecedented assault on communities across Ireland with the Government's decision to slash Community Employment Schemes. In 1997, when the Coalition Government was elected there were almost 40,000 CE participants. Seven years later and the number is 25,000, a reduction of almost 40%. Almost one thousand CE Schemes have disappeared.

These cutbacks have devastated community projects and services across the state. Home helps, meals-on-wheels, childcare, environmental and heritage projects have all suffered.

The value of these schemes to communities is immense, and nothing has been put in place to replace them. CE Schemes, and other programmes like it, are an example of the role the State can play in empowering communities, in providing them with the skills, resources and personnel to make a difference, whether it is in Ballymun, Ballyfermot, or Ballymurphy.

And it doesn‚t stop there. Instead of building the services that our people need, instead of developing strategies to end poverty, provide decent affordable housing and improving health care, the coalition government have used the wealth of the last decade to reward the wealthy and to feather the nests of their friends in big business.

Since 1997 Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy has pursued an agenda of inequality with relish. He recently extended tax breaks for developers of multi-storey car-parks while rural communities are denied public transport.

He extended tax breaks for developers of hotels, holiday camps and holiday cottages while 50,000 family housing units languish on waiting lists and local authorities are deprived of funding to provide social housing.

He also extended tax giveaways to developers of private hospitals and private sports injuries clinics. While Minister McCreevy throws money at the lucrative private health business our public health system is in a state of continuing crisis.

But the government doesn‚t want to debate these matters. In fact they want to talk about anything and everything but these matters. Consequently, we had the extraordinary scenes at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis where Minister after Minister lined up to attack Sinn Féin!

They didn‚t want to talk about hospital closures, the lack of affordable housing, sub standard schools or a crumbling peace process. They didn‚t want to talk about endless lists of broken promises. And they most certainly didn‚t want to talk about the future of this country. What they were very focused on are the upcoming Local Government and European Union elections. What they are very focused on is the threat posed to their interests and the interests of those they serve by Sinn Féin‚s agenda for change.

Justice Minister McDowell has been fixated by this. Towards the end of last year after Minister McDowell made serious allegations about Sinn Féin I spoke to him on the margins of a meeting in Downing Street. He offered to meet with me and I subsequently made arrangements with one of his senior officials. That meeting never happened despite a number of efforts by me.

In the meantime the Minister has continued with his cynical, unsubstantiated attacks on our party. On Sunday he used particularly offensive language. Watching and listening to all of this I had a very acute sense of déjà vu. It was as if the clock had been turned back ten years - 15 years ˆand longer. It was the politics of the 1970‚s, 80‚s and early 90‚s resurrected! The old politics of conflict and division. Gone are the concepts of inclusivity, of dialogue, of seeking agreement and of working together.

In my view the Irish government is actively considering the exclusion of Sinn Féin from the political process in the north as an option. It is actively considering going back to the old agenda, the failed policies and attitudes of the past. This, like the current negative politics, the negative campaigning, is wrong.

It is destructive and it betrays an absence of real political debate on the part of the establishment. And it is something that Sinn Féin will not engage in.

We want to talk about what is happening in this country, we want to debate our ideas for getting the peace process back on track and for fundamentally changing Irish society. We want to talk about the future ˆ a better future for all the people of this island.

We want to see the cynicism, which is rampant in southern politics and which is in danger of taking over Irish politics come to an end.

Every day ordinary people are making a difference ˆ every day people the length and breadth of this country are involved in work in our communities, workplaces, schools, sporting clubs and much, much more.

This is real patriotism.

So I want to step back from all of this frenzy of spin and invective.

I want others to do the same.

Irish Republicans want to see the peace process work. We want to see an end to conflict on our island. We want to see the political institutions re-instituted. We want to see the Good Friday Agreement implemented. We want a untied, free and independent Ireland.

We know as the lead nationalist party in the north and the largest pro-Agreement party, that there are huge responsibilities on us and we are up to the task.

But we cannot achieve this alone.

The Irish government has a crucial role to play. Whatever our differences, and there are differences on social and economic and health and education and environment and many other issues, our collective responsibility is to work together to make the process of building peace and stability a success.

Progress requires as an absolute minimum an Irish government fulfilling its role as a co-guarantor of the Agreement, defending the rights and entitlement of citizens.

At this time there is little evidence of this and there appears to be no real inclination by the Dublin government to resolve the current difficulties before the elections.

Let there also be no doubt that the disposition of the Coalition government and its refusal to act on its obligations is deeply worrying.

So, I want to make a direct appeal to Fianna Fáil members and supporters and to nationalists and republicans the length and breadth of this island, to join with us in reasserting the primacy of the peace process.

The peace process is more important than any party or any election.

The progress we have achieved, together, in the last decade have been hard won and must be protected as we try to move beyond the current difficulties.

So in the coming months Sinn Féin will continue to try and make advances in the negotiations.

And Irish republicans will continue to put forward viable, positive and constructive alternative policies to those of the coalition.

I am confident that the electorate will not be conned or fooled by the negative campaigning of our opponents.

And when all the votes have been counted and the electoral dust has settled Sinn Féin will get on with the job of pushing ahead with our vision of a new beginning for all the people of this island.

One in which there will be no more conflict and division; no more inequality and poverty and where every citizen is valued.

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