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Sinn Féin by-election campaign launched in Kells this evening

12 March, 2013 - by Pearse Doherty TD

Sinn Féin’s by-election campaign was launched in the Headfort Arms Hotel in Kells this evening.

Speaking at the launch the party’s Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD said his party’s candidate Darren O’Rourke is a man with new ideas, who is not part of the cosy cartel of the cuts parties – Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour.

Darren O’Rourke said Sinn Fein is the only party that has a vision and a plan to create a better Ireland for all of our people.

Both speeches are below.

Pearse Doherty

A chairde,

It’s my pleasure to welcome you all here tonight to Darren O’Rourke’s official Meath East by-election campaign launch.

A lot of people don’t think elections can change anything. A lot of people believe that their vote doesn’t count for anything because they feel — ‘sure they’re all the same’. More and more people are losing faith with the democratic process. Fewer and fewer people are turning out to vote at election time. And can you blame them?

Decades of crony politics dominated by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have left us with a political system where who you know matters more than what you know. Where more decisions are made in the Dáil bar than the Dáil chamber. Where golden handshakes are the order of the day and where corrupt bankers receive million euro payoffs.

A lot of people think there’s no point in voting because elections can’t change things. By-elections are seen as even more irrelevant to people’s lives. I disagree.

Just over two years ago. A by-election changed the course of politics in this state and paved the way for a General Election which would see the government parties of the day almost wiped out.

That by-election was demanded by people who were denied their democratic right to vote due to an outdated political class determined to cling to power despite plunging support.

It took a constitutional challenge in the High Court to drag that government to the point where they were forced to hold the election.

That by-election was in Donegal South West — my constituency. The result of that election rocked the establishment and ultimately caused a snap general election, which saw Fianna Fáil decimated across this state.

Sinn Féin topped the poll in that election and received the overwhelming backing of the people of Donegal South West.

Michelle Gildernew in Fermanagh/South Tyrone retained her seat in the 2010 Westminster election by four votes. It took just four votes for Michelle to retain her seat in the face of a bitter sectarian campaign.

Those four votes changed the course of political history.

So you see, one election can make history and has the potential to enact real change in society.

In Darren O’Rourke we have a candidate with vision, empathy and a passion for change. Born and bred in Kells, Darren represents everything that is good about rural communities.

But most importantly Darren is a man with new ideas, who is not part of the cosy cartel of the cuts parties – Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour.

The Fianna Fáil candidate talks a lot about change. He claims that he is putting forward “alternative policies”, that he has an alternative to the current government’s cuts agenda.

What he fails to mention is that he was a Fianna Fáil TD during the time that party was in government.

Remember the bank guarantee? Thomas Byrne was there.

Remember the IMF coming to town? Thomas Byrne was there.

Remember the tribunals? Thomas Byrne was there.

The dig-outs from the lads? Thomas Byrne was there too.

Yes “Bertie’s Man in Meath East” certainly got around during his time as a Fianna Fáil government backbencher.

There were a lot of people back then who really could have benefited from Thomas Byrne’s alternative vision. Alas it seems this alternative vision is newly acquired and I’m willing to bet it will be very short lived.

Back in the real world people are hungry for change. Mortgage distress has hit the people of this constituency particularly hard. People who bought their homes in the height of the boom, now in negative equity, will this week receive letters through their door demanding payment of a draconian property tax.

This is a tax that was negotiated by Fianna Fáil and now implemented by Fine Gael and the Labour Party.

The government is using bully-boy tactics to force people into paying this tax which is not linked to income and does not take account of peoples’ ability to pay.

The reality, as we all know, is that people simply can’t take anymore. Unemployment is still soaring. Emigration is at famine era levels. Public services have been cut beyond all recognition.

What we also know is that austerity is not working. If it was, surely the country would be out of recession by now. God knows we have had enough austerity budgets.

The truth is that this government, like the last, is more about pandering to vested interests than about bringing about real change in how the country is run.

Sinn Féin is the real alternative to the status quo. We have produced alternative budgets that are costed and credited by leading economic analysts.

Sinn Féin has an alternative way forward that does not include forcing those on low incomes to carry the burden for the years of economic mismanagement by successive governments.

Sinn Féin has shown that there is a better, fairer way forward. We have shown that there is an alternative to the cosy consensus of cuts represented by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour.

Darren O’Rourke is a young, new candidate with new ideas and a new way of approaching politics.

It is easy to pass off a by-election as a flash in the pan election with no real consequence. We have proven that is not true.

It only takes one election, one voice, one vision to make a change.

Sinn Féin has that vision and Darren O’Rourke is that voice.

Darren O’Rourke

I want to thank each and every one of you who have travelled here for this convention. I am honoured to be the Sinn Fein candidate in this by election for East Meath.

This election gives each and every one of us and our supporters an opportunity to persuade people of the merits of our politics.

Ireland has never needed it more.

Ireland has never needed Sinn Féin more.

Sinn Fein is the only party that has a vision and a plan to create a better Ireland for all of our people.

The single biggest focus facing this country is the jobs crisis. Thousands of our young people are emigrating. Many may never return.

The government has been in power for two years and is reaching its mid- point. The policies of the government have held down growth, and lengthened the unemployment crisis.

Unemployment has remained over 14% since then Government came to power. The only thing preventing it from further increasing has been emigration.

The story for youth unemployment is even worse with the rate at 27.7%. This Government is failing the country’s young people by standing idly by as they are forced to emigrate to the US, to Europe or to Australia or New Zealand.

Yet rather than tackle this problem head on the Government has continued the austerity programme for Fianna Fail: Cuts, cuts and more cuts.

Over the past year 30,000 jobs have been lost in the public sector; these include nurses, doctors, and teachers’ posts.

Not alone do these cuts add to the dole queues or the queues in airport departure lounges but they deprive communities of vital services.

We’ve heard a lot of rhetoric from the Government on jobs but very little real delivery.

Sinn Fein would prioritise tackling the jobs crisis. We would invest in stimulus and job creation. We have produced detailed and costed plans.

The fundamental difference between Sinn Féin and all the other parties – Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour – is that we want to create change. Change is what we are about. Change for the better and change for everyone.

People voted for change in 2011 but they didn’t get it. Fine Gael and Labour are continuing to implement the failed austerity policies of Fianna Fáil.

Take the Family Home Tax, right across this state people are receiving letters from Revenue this week setting out how much in additional tax they will have to pay.

This was a tax that Fianna Fail signed us up to in their four year plan before the Troika entered the frame.

Fine Gael told people before the last election (p59 of their manifesto) that a tax on the Family Home was unfair. But that’s exactly what they are implementing.

Fianna Fáil’s tax, an unfair tax, one that takes no account of ability to pay, no account of those in negative equity, no account of those in mortgage distress and no account of the thousands already paid in Stamp Duty.

There was an alternative. They could have introduced a wealth tax. Instead they have decided to hit the same section of society who have been hit every time before.

The same people who are hit by cuts to Child Benefit, increases in PRSI, increases in Motor Tax, increase in VAT are all being hit once more.

People have been hit hard by the impact of austerity. Many of them simply can’t afford another cut.

There isn’t a town, a village, a parish, or indeed a sports club in this constituency that hasn’t been affected. Meath East, more than most places, is ravaged by mortgage distress and negative equity. Individuals, couples, and families are crucified with personal debt and they’re suffering in silence. Many are embarrassed and ashamed.

They shouldn’t be.

This by election offers those families, those communities who have been let down by this Government to make a stand.

To vote for a real alternative.

Sinn Féin believes that there is a fairer and a faster way to bring our economy to recovery.

Our focus is creating jobs and stopping the tide of emigration.
This will help us recover faster than focussing on the deficit alone and that is why in October 2012 we produced a jobs action plan.

We do want the deficit reduced - but it can be done with fair taxation and cutting spending waste, not targeting families and frontline services. And we want our debt dealt with - not just by pushing it down the road, but by lifting the banking portion of it off our shoulders.

We are the only party with a plan.

The government and Fianna Fáil are making it up as they go along.

We’re aware of the people in severe mortgage distress and also the people who are distressed and paying their mortgages – the people who service their mortgage but have no money left for anything else.

The mortgage crisis has to be dealt with now. There are just over 180,000 families in mortgage distress. About 150 additional families fall into mortgage distress every day.

The Government needs to intervene to help those people.

Sinn Fein has proposed a new service, a ‘Mortgage Restructuring Panel’ which will allow for independent assessment of mortgage distress cases and the enforcement of findings including debt write-down, debt for equity swaps and mortgage to rent options.
We would remove the veto that the Government have given to the banks.

There should be no repossessions in genuine cases of mortgage distress.

People being thrown out of their family homes will not solve this crisis.

This by-election campaign provides us with a golden opportunity to stand up for those people.

To offer then a real alternative.

To put forward the Sinn Féin alternative, to convince people of our position and to gain their support. We need to let them know that we understand the challenges they face. That we will stand up for their interests and fight hard to ensure they and their children have a future with hope.

The potential Sinn Féin vote in Meat East is huge. There is a large percentage of floating and undecided voters. There is a mood for change.

Our task is to convince people they’re better off with Sinn Féin.

Once again I’m honoured and humbled by your vote of confidence in me. I understand the task ahead and I am 100% committed to it.

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