Speech of Pearse Doherty TD to open the Sinn Féin Summer School, Baile Mhuirne, Co Corcaigh
I would like to welcome everyone here, to Sinn Féin’s 4th annual summer school and to Baile Mhuirne, is a fitting setting for our school. Rich in history and culture, this beautiful part of the world is where Sean Ó Riada penned the haunting airs of Mná na hÉireann and Róisín Dubh.
It is also an area steeped in republican history with the site of the famous Kilmichael ambush just down the road. The rolling hills and countryside hid many a volunteer during the Tan and Civil Wars as portrayed in the film The Wind that Shakes the Barley, part of which was filmed not too far from here.
As we gather here this weekend, people across this country are still reeling in horror at the revelations in the Anglo tapes which clearly have demonstrate the contempt of those of the banking elite for the citizens of this country.
These tapes reveal a concerted effort by Anglo executives to defraud the Irish state. People are rightly seething with anger and want these people to be held to account.
They want to know why some of these people were allowed to keep their jobs and inflated salaries after the state bailed out the banks and at a time when struggling families, who never did a thing to create the crisis, were subject to brutal austerity measures.
The need for radical political change to make this a fairer country, to break with the past and to make Ireland better place to live in, has never been clearer.
The time has never been opportune or the mood of the people more prepared to confront head-on the vested interests who bankrupted this state and to ensure that never again can a privileged elite dictate the future of this country and the welfare of our citizens.
Together, the people of Ireland have the ability to create a better Ireland. But if we are to make progress we need to start a dialogue about what form a better Ireland should take. About how, even in times of economic difficulty we can start laying the foundations for a better fairer society that vindicates the rights of citizens.
A whole generation of young people has been forced out of Ireland because of the actions of bankers, developers and the policies of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael led governments
Tomorrow we will discuss the issue emigration and panelists will address of question of whether the approach since the foundation of the state has amounted to 90 years of complacency.
And while the economic crisis, the recklessness of bankers and failures of government are depressing, there are inspirational voices that makes us realise what we could achieve if set our minds to it.
People like Joanne O’Riordan who will speak this evening and who continually inspires by her ability to overcome obstacles and challenge all us to do better. To put no limits on what we can achieve, and to ensure that everyone has the equal ability to achieve their potential.
That is the spirit of the real Ireland. That is the sprit we need to rebuild this country from the ashes of the economic collapse. We need to restore values of community, of citizenship, of the common welfare being at the centre of political concerns.
Tomorrow morning we will look at the question of Irish unity and discuss the obstacles that remain to bringing all our people together — in an agreed way — to transcend partition.
Fifteen years on from the commitment in the Good Friday Agreement to a referendum on the re-unification of Ireland, Sinn Féin has said that we would like to see a date set for such a poll in the lifetime of the next Assembly.
Basil McCrea MLA will debate this issue with Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald. We are delighted that Basil is joined at the Summer School by a number of members of his newly formed party including party chairwoman Tina McKenzie and hope that this is the beginning of a greater debate about how we can work together to build a better Ireland.
I want to take this opportunity to commend the people of Crossmaglen in South Armagh and Creggan Upper in North Louth who recently ran a People’s Referendum on the question of Irish Unity.
They succeeded in creating a debate in their local area on this issue and conducted the poll in a professional manner, with supporters and opponents of unity taking the time to participate in the vote.
They were inspired by people such Alfred Bosch who spoke at last year’s summer school about his experience in leading the Catalan People’s Referenda on Independence.
Tomorrow we will also look at the role of the media and examine whether the issue of ownership of the media and the developments of media monopolies is bad for democracy.
While it is the case that it is because of the media that we have come to learn in recent days of the sheer breathtaking arrogance of bankers in Anglo, we also need to ask critical questions.
Looking back to 2007 and 2008 we have to ask whether the media did its jobs in examining what was happening in government, in the economy and in the banks? Did the financial dependence of the many broadsheets in particular on property advertising influence how they dealt with these issues? These are important questions.
When we talk about achieving social and political change we should not forget the important role that the arts can play and have played in Ireland in the past and across the world at various stages.
Professor Kevin Rockett will address us. He will look back at the groundbreaking silent films that examined the struggle for Irish Independence that were made in the run up to 1916 by the Film Company of Ireland, closely aligned to the Irish independence movement.
Street artist Will St Leger will look at the role of arts in achieving social and political change and Orla Kelly would look forward at the important issue of children education and why creativity matters.
I hope that you all thoroughly enjoy this year’s Summer School, that you fully participate in the discussions and come away from this event with a new perspective on the issues discussed.
Go raibh mile maith agaibh go léir.