Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD - Public Sector Reform & Political Reform
Reform and change were the buzzwords of the last general election two years ago. The current government secured a record mandate on the promise of a democratic revolution, no less.
Fairness, they proclaimed, was to be at the heart of this revolutionary enterprise.
We now know that the promises made in the course of that election were made to be broken; That, after all, is what you do in a campaign according to Minister Pat Rabbitte.
The rhetoric of reform has amounted to very little and the promise of change is squandered on a daily basis.
As for the commitment to fairness, well that’s the greatest let down of all.
Women and children, families and workers have fared badly under this government.
A government that sits complacently as unemployment and emigration remain the fate of hundreds of thousands of our people.
A government that says it understands how so many people struggle and yet heaps more hardship on those same families.
Cuts in child benefit, cuts to carers, in respite support, in home help hours, a tax on the family home, charges for water, hikes in third level fees – these have replaced the reform agenda which was promised.
Austerity has trumped reform and business as usual has killed off any chance of real change under this government.
Public services have been systematically undermined through a combination of cutbacks and tens of thousands of workers have been cut from the system.
While the tactic of pitting public against private sector workers, conceived of by Fianna Fáil, has been sharpened by this government which now operates a divide and conquer strategy amongst public sector employees.
Cynical politics from a cynical lot.
Selling off state assets – like Coilte and Bord Gais Energy is not the stuff of reform.
Filling state boards with political cronies is not the stuff of reform.
Impoverishing low and middle income public servants and Croke Park 2 are not the stuff of reform.
The establishment of the Constitutional convention, while welcome has been limited in its scope. Citizens giving so generously of their time could and should have been given the opportunity to consider more fundamental change.
The need for a charter of citizen’s rights, the need for a new constitutional framework to serve the new and emerging Ireland a framework to move this country to a rights based society.
The convention meets this weekend to consider the issue of Marriage Equality. Sinn Féin believes in the equality of all citizens and strongly supports the right of all citizens, irrespective of sexual orientation, to full legal marriage. This Ard Fheis wishes the convention well in its deliberations.
We need a democratic revolution, nothing is surer – but it won’t be delivered by this government.
It will take Republican politics, Sinn Féin policies to do that.
This Ard Fheis meets in Mayo, the home County of Michael Davitt. There was a man who understood democratic revolution; Who championed the small holder, the citizen, who took on powerful vested interest; who fought injustice.
It is those qualities of grit, of vision, determination and commitment which are required to build the new Republic.
Women must have their full place in this democratic revolution. Our underrepresentation in public life must be addressed, once and for all. The talent, energy and experience that women bring to political decision making and change must be realised.
We can wait no more.
There’ll be no revolution without us. History tells us that.
There will be no equality or unity without us.
Irish men and Irish women together, le chéile, we can build a democratic revolution, a democratic united Ireland. We want the Republic and we won’t settle for anything less.