Ireland needs genuine republican politics – Adams
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams delivered the main address at this evening’s EU selection convention in the Radisson Hotel, Sligo.
The following is the full text of Deputy Adams’ speech:
I want to welcome you all here this evening.
This meeting isn’t just about selecting a candidate for next year's EU election for this region.
Just as importantly, it is Sinn Féin declaring our intent to ensure that there is a Sinn Féin MEP elected to represent this part of Ireland when that election is held.
This is an entirely realizable and doable prospect.
Sinn Féin has been growing in strength right across this state.
The party has doubled in numbers, with new members joining the party every day.
Sinn Féin’s message of fairness and equality is finding ever-greater resonance among citizens.
Because those qualities are missing in this state today.
When the establishment parties fail to put fairness and equality at the centre of how they govern they fail all our citizens, but in particular they fail our most vulnerable – those who rely most on government to stand by them.
People rightly feel angry and frustrated that there is a deep unfairness in ordinary citizens and hard working families being subject to harsh austerity measures while those who created the financial crisis have emerged unscathed and indeed enjoy ostentatious wealth.
It is wrong and unfair that cancer patients are threatened with the withdrawal of medical cards.
It is wrong and unfair that carers are denied access to respite care.
It is wrong and unfair that health and education are being subject to thousands of small but devastating cuts.
That child benefit is cut or that maternity benefit is taxed.
It is wrong and unfair that billions of taxpayers’ money, that could and should have been invested in job creation, has been used to bail out banks.
It is very clear that for this Fine Gael and Labour government all citizens are not equal.
The Minister and Department have questions to answer on Anglo tapes.
Enda Kenny promised that Fine Gael in government would usher in a new era of transparency and accountability.
He promised that they would do things differently.
He even spoke of a 'democratic revolution'.
Yet for all these great promises, trying to get a straight answer from the current government is like pulling teeth!
For instance, why won't the government simply come clean on the issue of the Anglo tapes?
Why does it take Sinn Féin to submit in the region of 100 queries between Freedom of Information requests and Parliamentary Questions to elicit even the most minimal response containing the least possible information?
We know, from what Alan Dukes has said, that that the Department of Finance was aware of the existence of these tapes. Yet the Minister for Finance denied any knowledge of them.
Then, Michael Noonan, in answer to a Parliamentary Question by Sinn Fein — despite knowing clearly what he was being asked — only said the Department was ‘unaware of the content’ of the tapes.
He had to be pressed further to clarify that the Department did indeed know of the existence of these tapes all along.
And yet, if we are to believe the minister, nobody in his department told him and no one in the department took the time to listen to what was on the tapes!
If true, this is incredible and a serious failing by the department.
We now have to ask — who did the Department of Finance inform about the existence of the tapes?
The minister denies that he was told which begs the question — why wasn’t he told?
Who in the Department of Finance withheld this information?
Was the Fianna Fáil Finance Minister told in 2010?
Did he inform his cabinet colleagues?
Which Fianna Fáil ministers knew of these tapes?
Minister Noonan also continues to deny that the Central Bank was aware of the existence of the tapes.
Alan Dukes said they should have known.
If Alan Dukes is misleading the people that is serious but if the Central Bank is misleading the people that has enormous implications.
This is meant to be the new Central Bank that was to sweep out all the bad practice of previous years.
Yet it is only investigating potential regulatory breaches at Anglo now as a result of the tapes being leaked.
It should have been doing this years ago!
Citizens have been drip-fed the content of the Anglo tapes.
And this only after they were leaked to a newspaper.
Since then citizens, including Sinn Fein’s Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD, have been drip-fed what the Department of Finance and Minister Noonan knew about them.
This is unacceptable.
I believe this government and this minister have questions to answer about what they and he knew and when they knew it.
And the public deserves to get the answers.
I believe that the department’s responses to Sinn Féin’s questions raise further important issues and that the Minister for Finance should make a statement to the Dáil before the recess on who knew what and when within his department and when was he informed and whether the previous Minister for Finance was told of the tapes.
The government also has serious questions to answer about the role, remit and purpose of the so-called ‘public interest directors’ appointed after the bailout of the banks.
In several cases these directors were senior members of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party. Two of them are former Fine Gael and Labour Party leaders.
These people were extremely well paid out of the public purse. On top of their salaries as public interest directors, they also had ministerial and TD pensions.
But what is now abundantly clear is that the current system of public interest directors is not fit for purpose.
The government must address this issue and spell out quickly what it is going to do to ensure that the banks — which only exist because of the injection of huge amounts of taxpayers’ money — are accountable and operating in the public interest.
It is time to stop the delays and get on with a banking inquiry. No more excuses, no more distractions, no more prevaricating.
A Fair Budget
Sinn Féin is demanding that the Fine Gael/Labour Government put fairness at the heart of Budget 2014.
Sinn Féin recently introduced an Equality Budgeting Bill to the Dáil, which if accepted, would have put an obligation on government to protect the most vulnerable.
Though it was their policy in advance of the last election the Labour Party voted against this bill.
Labour turned its back on citizens who expected the Labour party to stand up for them.
I am putting the Taoiseach on notice now that Sinn Féin will use every avenue available to us to oppose a budget that is not based on fairness.
This government has got it wrong.
Labour has got it wrong.
The troika have admitted they got it wrong.
It is time to end austerity.
The effects of Fianna Fáil health cuts in the 1980s were felt for decades. The same will be true for what is now being done to our public services.
Sinn Féin wants people across this country to join with us in resisting these flawed and failed policies.
I believe that most people will accept decisions that are hard and even unpalatable if they are fair.
That is the key test.
An opportunity for change
The EU and Local Government elections north and south next year provide an opportunity for change.
Sinn Féin once again will be the only party fighting these elections on an all-island basis.
We will be putting forward credible, articulate candidates.
In this constituency there are four activists wanting to win your endorsement to represent Sinn Féin for the EU seat.
Each of them would make an excellent representative.
That is a measure of the growth in the party.
The elections will provide an opportunity to put a new voice into the European parliament who will stand up for the interests of the people of this constituency.
On issues like farming and fishing.
On issues like employment and investment.
On issues like European funding to redress the economic damage created by the border.
It is time for a strong voice that will not kow-tow to the elites in Ireland or in Europe.
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson and before her Bairdre de Brun and Mary Lou MacDonald did excellent work.
We now have the opportunity to build on the success of their work.
While this is a time of huge difficulty it is also a time to think and plan and strategise for the future.
The current difficulties should not set a boundary to our aspirations for the future of this island.
As we select our candidate for next year’s European election we think of all those thousands of young people from across this constituency and beyond who will be denied their right to vote because they have been forced to emigrate.
They are forced to leave and then, unlike citizens of other EU states, they are abandoned and denied their say in the future direction of this state.
This is not fair or right.
It is time to act and demonstrate to these emigrants that they remain an integral part of Irish society.
Defending Rural Ireland
The EU constituency for which we are selecting a candidate is a largely rural one.
Last year, along with others, I visited many rural communities blighted by emigration, unemployment and poverty.
Creating jobs is the key to ensuring a future for rural communities.
This government has failed to do this.
People living in rural Ireland also need schools, health services, decent infrastructure, public transport and an end to isolation.
In this regard, the recently announced, planned restructuring of rural transport announced in the last week is a serious concern.
It appears that rural Ireland, and the public transport system that many rural people depend on, is to be subjected to further cuts.
Sinn Féin believes that equality of access and support in sustaining rural communities requires investment including a reliable and decent public transport system.
There should be no cuts to this vital service.
I also note that here in Sligo, the promise by Fine Gael and Labour that Sligo Hospital would be a centre of excellence was reneged upon.
People were told those requiring mammography could access that treatment in Sligo before the end of this year.
This has not been done.
People were told — with a great fanfare — that a new bus would be provided to take women to Galway for such treatment. But this has now been withdrawn.
Health Minister James Reilly should honour his pledge, made on behalf of Fine Gael prior to the last general election, that in the event of Fine Gael assuming government, cancer care services would be returned to Sligo Regional Hospital.
And when we look at building a better future we need to value what we have.
That means saying no to fracking on scenic countryside and productive farmland.
I want to commend my party colleague Michael Colreavy TD for bringing forward legislation that would ban fracking; MEP Martina Anderson for raising this issue in Europe, and our colleague Phil Flannagan in Fermanagh who has also provided leadership on this issue.
Leading the Way
The great tasks facing this generation of Irish citizens is to fix our broken economy, rebuild our society and unite our people and our country.
But we cannot do any of this if we continue to be led by the politics and the politicians who created and contributed to the economic crisis.
Sinn Féin will be the only party standing in the EU elections both North and South.
We are also the only party standing which has a clear and coherent strategy to unite Ireland and all our people.
We are working to create the conditions for a Border poll, as provided for in the Good Friday Agreement — 15 years old this year. A Border Poll is a key part of the process of building a modern and dynamic New Republic on this island – an agreed Ireland achieved by peaceful and democratic means.
While the events in Belfast around the 12th July were deplorable, it is worth pointing out that elsewhere, literally hundreds of Orange marches went without incident.
The root of the violence in Belfast by people who claim to be loyal, lies in the refusal of the Orange leadership to talk to their neighbours and in the inflammatory speeches in the lead up to the Twelfth.
Orange is one of our national colours. We are committed to respect and tolerance of the Orange tradition but sectarianism and incitement to hatred cannot be tolerated.
As usual, when those who incited the trouble have left the scene, the burden is carried by poor, working class neighbourhoods and communities.
The message for the Orange is very simple — talk!
I want to commend those people across the city of Belfast who bravely used their energies to protect young people and to keep the situation as calm as possible.
Fairness is at the core of Sinn Féin’s political approach.
Sinn Féin will continue to put the interests of Irish citizens before those of the banks, developers, the EU or the IMF.
Sinn Féin is preparing to increase our representation in local government and in Europe next year.
That will be more voices, more activists, more representatives dedicated to putting the interests of the people first.
The island of Ireland needs a change of direction.
Sinn Féin has pointed to a better, fairer way forward that is about protecting public services and families on low and middle incomes, fair taxes, investment in jobs, and growing the economy.
The time is right for republican politics.
Go raibh maith agaibh.