Michelle Gldernew's speech to the Ard Fheis 2015 live section

7 March, 2015 - by Michelle Gildernew

We are all Sinn Féin members and while we may have differing views and opinions on issues such as abortion, education, budgets but we are all agreed on this one subject; Irish Unity.

The party would not have been established, we would not have been here and we would not be the fastest growing party on the island of Ireland if it wasn’t for our mutual beliefs in a 32 county independent republic, free from British rule.

The creation of a united Ireland is the primary political objective of Sinn Féin. We are working to make this a reality in our time. There is an onus on all those who advocate national reunification; the 320 individuals that are elected to represent the party across Ireland and Europe, the thousands of members across the world and you, the individuals in this room this morning, to plan and take steps to achieve it

The demand for an end of partition and the reunification of Ireland is a demand for national democracy. It is the way forward to political progress and lasting peace; the way to a prosperous and equal nation. There is a democratic, economic and social imperative to create a unified and independent Irish state

We have consistently urged an island-wide approach in key policy areas, including the economy, health, education, employment, agriculture, culture and the arts and tourism. We have given practical expression to this through the work of our ministers in the Executive and the all-Ireland Ministerial Council established under the Good Friday Agreement.

We need to be strengthening and building upon the all-Ireland aspects of the Agreement such as the “implementation bodies” that have executive functions to apply all-Ireland policies on aspects of Language, Intertrade, Food Safety, Ireland’s Waterways and Tourism. In each of these areas, progress and programmes of work are being advanced through the implementation bodies.

And speaking of the Good Friday Agreement, more than fifteen years has passed since it was endorsed by the vast majority of people on this island. It delivered new power-sharing institutions, put the principle of equality at the centre of politics and established a political process for peaceful, democratic change.

The agreement provided also for constitutional change. The British government veto on change was replaced by an international agreement to legislate for change if it is the will of the majority of people Ireland north and south. The continuation of partition or the alternative of Irish unity is now in the ownership of the people north and south to be expressed in concurrent referendums. We need a Border Poll.

The right to a Border Poll is one of several outstanding issues within the Agreement and other agreements which the British Government needs to act upon. These include the Bill of Rights, the all-Ireland Charter of Rights, Acht na Gaeilge, the North South Consultative Forum and the Civic Forum.

We are calling for an island wide referendum on Irish Unity in the next term of the Assembly and the Dáil.

We would all be better off with a single economic unit on the island rather than two competing economies, one single fully functioning health care system on the island rather than two failing ones, one education system providing our children with the future they deserve and one single identity.

We believe in Irish Unity because we believe it will be better for all people of Ireland and that decisions about Ireland are best taken by the people who care most about Ireland north and south – the people who live and work here and outreach to our Unionist neighbours is crucial.

The status quo is not acceptable; it is not an option. Stalemate is not acceptable; it is not an option. With every election we become larger, stronger and more powerful and to sum it up, I quote Bobby Sands MP ‘They won't break me because the desire for freedom, and the freedom of the Irish people, is in my heart.