Adams calls for the establishment of a special forum for Dublin
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP this morning speaking to the Dublin Chamber of Commerce in the Burlington Hotel proposed the the establishment of a special forum for Dublin - comprising of Dublins 48 TDs, the elected representatives of the four councils, the Chamber of Commerce, the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, housing, local community and other groups from civic society - to sit down together to discuss, debate and ultimately plan a sustainable and fair future for all the people in this city. He said this forum could develop an integrated approach and to oversee the implementation of measures to make Dublin a better place."
Talking about the peace process Mr. Adams said "Sinn Fein is involved in this peace process by choice. We do not expect to be rewarded for doing what is the right thing. For doing what I consider to be our duty. But if penalising Sinn Fein is the value which the Taoiseach places on our contribution to the process then I am gravely disappointed. I cannot see how the move away from the Good Friday Agreement by the Irish government for short-term electoral purposes can be tolerated.
I am seeking urgent and separate discussions with the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister. "ENDS
Full text of speech - A Better Future - Gerry Adams MP
Can I begin my remarks this morning by saying that I am a politician not a businessman so I look at the economy, not just in terms of the creation of wealth but how that wealth can be used for the benefit of everyone. I welcome the opportunity to speak to you about Sinn Féin's political platform and to increase our engagement with you to make this a better country.
Let me begin by talking about Sinn Féin or more importantly about Irish republicanism.
Equality, Empowerment and Inclusivity
Sinn Féin is a republican party. We are the only all-Ireland party. Through the Assembly, the Dáil and the all-Ireland bodies, Sinn Féin has successfully promoted economic development in an all-Ireland context. Our goal is to see a united Ireland, which delivers real social and economic change.
The core value of republicanism is equality; it is about peoples rights and entitlements, including economic rights.
It is about empowering citizens; about creating conditions where people can use their talents and energy. It is about community and inclusivity.
So, for example, in my own constituency of West Belfast I am a very strong advocate of integrated strategies which have local businesses, the private sector, the community and voluntary sector, government departments and other agencies working together to bring about shared goals and objectives.
This is a strategy that is now just beginning to pay dividends and which is closely linked to the ongoing peace process. In many ways the 1990s were the starting point for all of this - the IRA cessations, the all Ireland developments, the political institutions in the Six Counties. We were taking back control over our own futures.
Of course the 1990s were also a time of enormous economic growth in this state. During this time, more and more businesses emerged, more jobs were created and life improved for many people - although there are many questions about quality of life issues and the widening gap between rich and poor.
There is a fundamental issue of how we use the wealth we now enjoy. Is it for the benefit of everyone or for an elite?
The peace process played a critical role at a critical time in enhancing the opportunities for economic uplift. It changed how people looked at Ireland, it changed politics and it opened up many opportunities not least for the border regions and in terms of the Dublin Belfast economic corridor. But this progress cannot be taken for granted.
Process in Crisis
For eighteen months the political institutions have been suspended and the difficulties caused by the ongoing political vacuum are there for everyone to see. Recent events, including the penalising of Sinn Féin by the two governments, is an absolute disgrace. I am referring of course to yesterdays report by the so-called Independent Monitoring Commission.
You may not have the opportunity to read this report but in essence this puppet Commission accepts that Sinn Fein is not in a position to determine the policies or operational strategies of the IRA, and then goes on to punish Sinn Fein over allegations from British security agencies that the IRA had engaged in some activities.
There is no way that this approach will advance the search for a lasting peace. It makes no sense. Sinn Fein is involved in this peace process by choice. We do not expect to be rewarded for doing what is the right thing. For doing what I consider to be our duty. But if penalising Sinn Fein is the value which the Taoiseach places on our contribution to the process then I am gravely disappointed. I cannot see how the move away from the Good Friday Agreement by the Irish government for short-term electoral purposes can be tolerated.
I am seeking urgent and separate discussions with the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister.
Republicans want this process to work. We have invested hugely in it and taken enormous risks. Our commitment is to see the Good Friday Agreement implemented but the only way these difficulties will be resolved is if the governments re-engage properly with the peace process in a way which respects the rights of everyone involved and in the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
The peace process is too important and all of us, including the business community if and when you get the chance, need to make it clear that the only way forward has to be on the basis of the Good Friday Agreement.
There can be no tolerance for criminality or other activity and let's be clear about this such allegations are a smokescreen for a serious effort to prevent the growth of the Sinn Fein party.
You don't have to support Sinn Fein to support the peace process. The process is bigger than any political party or any politician.
Business - Planning for the Future
As business people in Dublin, you have had your own experiences of the last ten years of what the peace process has meant and the impact of economic growth. And you do need to find a way to voice your views on this issue.
There have been many positives. There are approximately 40,000 businesses in Dublin and you know that over 90% of service-based companies are dependent on the households of the city and the larger exporting businesses for their livelihood. 96% of these businesses employ less than 50 people.
However the most important and overlooked statistic is that these businesses and their workers productivity have been the engine of employment creation and growth in the city for decades before the Celtic Tiger boom and are still here, with nearly 600,000 people at work in the city today.
How much investment does central government make into those 600,000 jobs?
IDA, Enterprise Ireland and other agencies have client companies that employ only 297,000 people. It seems that when it comes to economic development, there is a two-tier structure in action, one in which the business community in Dublin is clearly in second place.
Yes we have enterprise boards and other agencies, but this is piecemeal compared to what should, and could be done to develop business in the city.
- Sinn Fein wants to see one agency dealing with all the indigenous businesses in Ireland.
- We want to see the same level of investment and aid made available to local businesses as is available to multi nationals.
- Clearly Dublin needs to be served by and properly represented on such an agency.
You know that this government promotes itself as the friend of business. You also know what it is capable, or not capable of.
Take for example the issue of transport in Dublin. The city‚s transport infrastructure is creaking under a misguided car based strategy, formulated more that twenty years ago.
It doesn't help that we have two conflicting strategies as the councils struggle to manage daily car traffic while playing catch up with public transport provision.
There are, thankfully, more buses than ever before on our streets - yet there are not enough bus lanes and corridors to make bus travel effective, there are only 13 functioning corridors. At the same time much of the focus and considerable scarce funds are being sunk into an over-budget and over-time LUAS.
The people who are suffering most in all of this are ordinary households who need to travel to work, to school, to the shops every day and the businesses who have suffered loss of revenue because of the gridlock or endless building work outside their premises.
Let me ask you this morning, what consultation was there with the business community over the roll out of LUAS, and not just about the traffic chaos caused, but the loss to business generally and particularly along the routes?
Has central government consulted with you about the plans to privatise Dublin Bus?
Will you really be better off in ten years time if an unaccountable transnational transport company is running Dublin Bus?
What discussion was there with you, the representatives of Dublin retail and commercial business, over the closure of the DART at weekends for perhaps more than a year?
If you the representatives of the most powerful interest groups in the city are being excluded from consultation and decision-making what do you think is the experience of those on the very margins of society, who are caught up in a day to day struggle for housing and health services?
The Chamber‚s vision describes Dublin‚s potential as being "a great world city, a leading centre for new economy industries, an exciting tourism destination, a seamless transport system, a great place to live, a fun city, a place we are proud of".
Are you really being allowed to exercise your rights and responsibilities in making an input into building the future of Dublin so that it realises this potential?
Sinn Fein's vision for local government
I know for many of you that local government, its funding and effectiveness, is of paramount importance. This is especially so where the businesses you represent fund nearly 25% of the current local authority budget and where increases in commercial rates in the past decade have been double the cumulative inflation rate over the same period. This is clearly wrong and unjust.
What it also does though is point up the injustice and ineffectiveness of local government throughout the island.
Sinn Fein wants a system where there is more democracy, more participation, more involvement of all those in society and most importantly where more powers and funding are wrested from central government towards the local communities.
Currently less than 10% of spending is controlled by local authorities, compared to an EU average of 40% with the figure rising to 75% in states like Denmark.
We want powers and funding taken from Leinster House and returned to the regions. This is what real decentralization means. We want to start a real debate on funding local government in the context of wholesale reform of what is the most unjust tax regime in Europe.
Sinn Fein believes that there should be comprehensive reform of local government funding as part of such an over haul. This needs to involve business people, trade unions, community and other groups as well as the government and its agencies.
All of this requires all of us working together.
I am often asked if Sinn Fein would increase business taxes when we are in government?
We believe that every one should pay taxes and that this should be on a fair basis. The government makes a big issue of tax cuts but at the same time businesses, particularly small businesses are being crucified by insurance costs and service charges.
Sinn Fein opposed the cutting of corporation tax to 12.5 % especially when minimum wage workers were in the tax net. So we are not in principle opposed to higher taxes though we have no plans to increase them.
Instead we want the comprehensive reform and overhaul I have outlined above. We also believe that tax cuts should be incentive driven. That would mean making low corporation tax linked, for example, to good environmental practices or providing childcare facilities or investing in worker training and education or developing new products.
We believe that there should be long term clarity on business taxes. This is crucial.
That makes good sense for business. It also makes for a better economy.
A Special Forum for Dublin
I said at the beginning that Sinn Fein doesn't have all the answers to all these issues. But we have a willingness to learn, to engage and to be inclusive.
I have been coming to Dublin for over 40 years, since the first time Down won an All Ireland back about 1961. At that time this city was a smaller more intimate collection of wee small villages. I have been here in the terrible years of recession. I worked with local communities in the late 1970s particularly against the drugs scourge, when I came out of Long Kesh.
I have always had a great fondness and familiarity with Dublin, not least because I can do normal things here like going to the pictures, or theatre or concerts or shopping that I don‚t do so easily in my own city. So I delighted in how this city, not least because of the efforts of business people, pulled itself out off recession and into prosperity.
Of course, I am ultra conscious that this is a tale of two cities. Of poverty alongside wealth. Of a housing crisis. A real problem of law and order or the lack of it. I know many whose quality of life is reduced by stress, encouraged by gridlock and the madness of city life. I too have spent hours in traffic jams.
So I want to end by proposing that a special forum be convened to look at all these issues.
I propose that Dublins 48 TDs, the elected representatives of the four councils, the Chamber of Commerce, the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, housing, local community and other groups from civic society sit down together to discuss, debate and ultimately plan a sustainable and fair future for all the people in this city.
We could all commit to bring together such a forum to develop an integrated approach and to oversee the implementation of measures to make the Chamber of Commerce's vision of Dublin a reality.
No successful business could prosper by being run in the disjointed way that Dublin is run. Let's change that.
Finally I want to say that I believe that we share some common ground, especially in the recognition that we all have a responsibility to do what we can together to meet the many economic and social needs we face.
Let's take this step and make the next decade one that can deliver a better Dublin for all.
Go raibh maith agaibh.