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Cllr. Therese Ruane open’s Sinn Féin’s Ard Fheis 2013

12 April, 2013

Bhur gcéad míle fáilte chuig Ard Fheis Sinn Féin 2013.

Fáilte go Caislean an Bharraigh, go Maigh Eo – the home of Michael Davitt, Ernie O’Malley, Frank Stagg and Michael Gaughan, Kathleen Lynn, Seán Mac Bride, Seán Mc Neela and many more … we have a proud republican tradition in this county and we build on that legacy today as we host the first Ard Fheis in Connaught.

In recent years Sinn Féin in Connacht has seen significant growth agus is deis iontach a bheidh anseo le borradh a chuir faoi Sinn Féin san Iarthar agus an pháirtí a neartú sna ceantair tuaithe.

This truly is an historic occasion and I acknowledge the hard work of people here in Castlebar, in Mayo, throughout the province and the Ard Fheis Committees in organising this event. A truly mammoth task and we're very proud and happy to say that this is officially the biggest (and best we hope) Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in history.

Last Monday, Mary Lou McDonald on behalf of Sinn Féin attended a civic reception from Castlebar Town Council and that generosity of spirit and welcome is replicated throughout the town of Castlebar to all delegates.

Mar chomhairleoir an baile seo, Is mór an onóir domsa an Ard Fheis 2013 a oscailt anseo i mo bhaile dúchas. Is ócáid stairiúil é seo, an chéad ard fheis riamh in Iarthar na hEireann agus tá súil agam go mbainfidh sibh tairbhe agus taitneamh as an deireadh seachtaine.

Of course, our main purpose here is for political discussion and debate. The economic crisis, Sinn Féin’s alternative to the FineGael/Labour/Fianna Fáil ‘consensus for cuts’, Irish unity and rural regeneration will top the agenda over the next two days.

Delegates will debate 252 motions on topics including the economy, health, education, public sector and political reform, the family home tax, water charges, agriculture, farming and fishing … The Ard Fheis will also discuss Sinn Féin’s strategy for Irish unity and the campaign for a Border Poll.

This being the first Ard Fheis in Connaught, there will be a special focus on issues affecting rural communities. Rural Ireland is under attack and Sinn Féin is leading the fight back. Sinn Féin’s rural Ireland campaign was launched here last year agus beidh tuairisc le Sinn Féin faoi athbheochan Tuaithe na hÉireann dhá phlé i rith na deireadh seachtaine.

Issues of rural regeneration, sell-off of our natural resources, language and Gaeltacht affairs will be central to the debates, all of which will be live-streamed on the internet.

As well policy debates, there will be workshops and fringe events on 'Women Changing the World', ‘Reclaiming our Natural Resources’, ‘Ballymurphy Massacre’, ‘The Campaign to Save Moore St.’ a political briefing on Burma. Beidh taispeántais ealaíne agus liteartha ann freisin, chomh maith le seastáin ó suas le céad eagraíocht agus grúpa pobail. Míle buíochas to Mayo County Council for loaning the exhibitions on Michael Davitt and Mayo 1798 to this Ard Fheis.

We thank the media who will spread the Sinn Féin messages from this Ard Fheis. Míle buíochas to the TF Royal Theatre so helpful and obliging in the organisation of this event.

Finally, I encourage each and every one of you to engage with the debates, visit the exhibitions, meet with the exhibitors, participate in the fringe events and enjoy a weekend of healthy debate, politics, history and of course … the hospitality and the craic here in Castlebar over the weekend.

Bíodh deireadh seachtaine taitneamhach agaibh go léir agus tar ar ais go luath. We extend a céad míle fáilte to our international guests from Britain, Palestine, South Africa, Basque Country, Catalunia who will be addressing this Ard Fheis.

We hope and expect this to be a great Ard Fheis, an Chéad Ard Fheis i gCúíge Chonnacht, a Sinn Féin Ard Fheis to remember … I think of Ernie O’Malley, a republican, hunger striker, Sinn Féin TD, writer and a native of Castlebar, when he said: I had given allegiance to a certain ideal of freedom as personified by the Irish Republic. It had not been realised except in the mind.

That Republic, imagined by Ernie O’Malley and Republicans down through the ages has still not been realised and I hope that when we leave here after this weekend that Sinn Féin and the Republican movement will be one step closer towards realising that republic, not just in our minds and hearts, but in reality, right across this island.

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