Alex Maskey MLA - Opening address to Sinn Féin Ard Fheis 2011
A chairde, it is an absolute honour for me to formally open this year’s Sinn Féin Ard Fheis here in Belfast. Indeed I want to welcome all of you to my own constituency of South Belfast.
Throughout this weekend we have delegates and visitors from all parts of Ireland and honoured guests in solidarity from the Basque Country, Palestine United States and South Africa and this evening we are delighted to hear directly from Reverend David Latimer.
On behalf of every Republican in this city - Cead Mile Failte.
Once again Republicans are making history. Who would have thought, not that long ago, it would have been possible to hold a Sinn Féin Ard Fheis here in the North never mind in the heart of the city of Belfast, but here we are.
This indeed is another sign of the growing strength and confidence of modern day Republicanism led by this proud party.
From the United Irishmen in 1798 to the present day Belfast has made an enormous contribution to the Republican struggle for justice, equality and freedom and of course that struggle continues unabated and with much work yet to be done.
We have made monumental sacrifices and I want to pay tribute to all
patriots who gave their all in this noble cause for Freedom.
This year of course we have commemorated the 30th anniversary of the deaths on hunger strike of comrades Bobby Sands, Joe McDonnell and Kieran Doherty, Fiann John Dempsey who died hours after Joe McDonnell.
From this wonderful Waterfront Hall we can literally see Belfast City
Hall, that once renowned bastion of unionist bigotry where in 1983 we had just one councillor elected, where Nationalists and Republicans were excluded from even the most token of civic positions.
Today we enjoy the largest political mandate from the good people of this city – a hard won mandate at that. We see the surrounding neighbourhoods of the Market and Short Strand which have all too often been the victims of state repression and sectarianism, yet the people stood strong and defiant. Today I think of all those from within these hard-pressed communities who have recently passed away but who would rejoice at the holding of this Ard Fheis in the heart of our city.
40 years ago in 1971 this city was engulfed in the throws of
Internment which saw the attempted suppression of all things
progressive and Republican but what a failure and at such a cost.
Today Republicans are proud of our history and proud of our record of seeking to end this long conflict and begin the journey of national
reconciliation with our unionist neighbours.
Our support for unionist working class communities is genuine and strong while others have abandoned them.
The work of this party never ceases and this Ard Fheis will debate,
strategise and re-commit to tackle the many issues as diverse as
victims, suicide prevention, the economy, education and health, Irish language, the scourge of sectarianism and racism, International solidarity and support for the people of Palestine and of course Irish reunification.
Leading All-Ireland politics by example our TDs, MPs, MLAs Senators,
MEP, councillors, Ministers and thousands of activists will discuss
all these matters on an All-Ireland basis in discharge of our substantial National mandate.
In strength, confidence and solidarity comrades savor this historic occasion but take forward the serious business at hand and have a truly successful Ard Fheis.