Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Sinn Féin challenge status quo

17 November, 2004


Sinn Féin Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew speaking at a debate in UCD on the motion that 'That Moderate Parties No Longer Have A Role To Play in Northern Politics' with SDLP leader Mark Durkan and British Secretary of State Paul Murphy has said that Sinn Féin are committed to challenging the status quo.

Ms Gildernew said:

"We do not accept that the majority of Northern nationalists who voted for Sinn Fein in the last election are extremists.

"We do not accept the basic premise of that the Ulster Unionists and SDLP are moderates.

"We support women's rights; we support gay and lesbian rights; we support the rights of the travelling community. We support the rights of disabled people; we support the right to a decent health service regardless of ability to pay We support the right of people to buy a home at a reasonable price; and we support the idea of an equitable taxation scheme where millionaires are made to pay their fair share of the tax burden.

"The reason that our critics like to give the impression that we are just two sets of Extremists fighting it out 'up there' doesn't have anything to do with the North. It is because the establishment fears the growth of Sinn Fein and because it fears real change. And they are right.

"The motion of this debate implies that just a few years ago, there were loads of moderates in the six counties - but just who were these moderates? The Orange Order is one of the lifebloods of Unionism and it can hardly be described as moderate.

"Then there are those other moderates, the British Government. The British Government have portrayed themselves as honest brokers but are they as moderate as they would have us believe? The British state is heavily implicated in state violence and collusion.

"If by moderate you mean keeping the status quo, then Sinn Fein are not moderate. We do want change.

"If moderation is not wanting change then I am no moderate - and I have no problem being a radical, wanting equal opportunities, wanting Unionist councils to end discrimination, wanting playgrounds in Catholic areas as well as Protestant ones, wanting to see an end to police harassment." ENDS

Full text of speech

That This House Believes That Moderate Parties No Longer Have A Role To Play in Northern Politics.

It's a great pleasure to be here tonight.

It is also a pleasure to discuss a motion which, in however a backhanded way, acknowledges the great successes that Sinn Fein has made in the Six Occupied Counties which by the way if we keep growing as a party will soon be that statelets official name before it becomes part of a United Ireland.

We have now more than 200 elected representatives across the island - 4 MPs elected to Westminster, 5 TDs in the Irish Parliament, 2 MEPs to the European Parliment, 24 MLAs in the Six County Assembly and over 250 representatives on local Councils. In terms of the popular vote in the North we have won almost everything but Big Brother, although given that British Securocrats ensure that everything we do, from holding a meeting, to going to the toilet is kept under constant audio and video surveillance I wouldn't rule us out of success in even that arena.

However ladies and gentlemen we do not accept the basic premise of this motion: that the Ulster Unionists and SDLP and of course the Alliance are the only moderates in the Six Counties.

We do not accept that David Trimble, a man who supported the Ulster Workers Council strike, a man who threw himself into the activities of Vanguard, a right wing Unionist pressure group of the Seventies, and a man who danced his way down the Garvaghey Road hand in hand with Ian Paisley, is a moderate while we, we, are the extremists.

We do not accept that majority of Northern nationalists who voted for Sinn Fein in the last election are extremists.

Indeed Sinn Fein's supposed extremism is a strange kind of extremism indeed:

  • We support women's rights
  • We support gay and lesbian rights.
  • We support the rights of the travelling community.
  • We support the rights of disabled people.
  • We support the right to a decent health service regardless of ability to pay
  • We support the right of people to buy a home at a reasonable price
  • We support the idea of an equitable taxation scheme where millionaires are made to pay their fair share of the tax burden
  • And we support the right of people who have fled persecution abroad to find sanctuary here.

If that is extremism then yes ladies and gentlemen we are extreme and I pray to God that you are too!

However it is in our critics interests to portray us as some sort of mirror image of the DUP, to suggest that Gerry Adams is a Catholic version - if you can in fact have such a thing - of Ian Paisley.

This is despite the fact that Dr. Paisley doesn't have what you would call a great record on women's rights, isn't interested in house prices in Stillorgan, loathes homosexuals and despite his title hasn't even done much for sick people.

But the reason that our critics like to give the impression that we are just two sets of Extremists fighting it out "up there" doesn't funnily enough have anything to do with the North. It is largely because of the politics of this state. The southern establishment fears the growth of Sinn Fein in this state - because it fears real change. And they are right ladies and gentlemen. For make no mistake about it the Ireland that we want to pass on to the next generation is not an Ireland that has been shaped by Michael McDowell, ladies and gentlemen.

Nor - and this goes double - is it an Ireland shaped by Paul Murphy or any other British Secretary of state - no matter how nice their accent.

The motion of this debate also implies that just a few years ago, there were loads of moderates in the six counties - but just who were these moderates? The Orange Order is one of the lifebloods of Unionism and it can hardly be described as moderate. In the past few days it has emerged the Orange Order has been linked to an organization whose sole purpose is to buy land to prevent Catholics buying it. Members of the Orange Order believe it is their right to walk down the "Queens Highway" as they call it, but it is not their right to put communities under siege which is what they have been doing. Nor is it right that on the 12th of July the vast majority of Catholics have to clear out of the six counties so that Unionists can dominate the place like they did in the golden days of bigotry. So much for Moderate Unionism.

Then there are those other moderates, the British Government. The British Government have portrayed themselves brilliantly as honest brokers but are they as moderate as they would have us believe? The British state is heavily implicated in state violence and collusion and it's not just bloody Sunday we're talking about here, it's thousands of others, not least the suspicion of collusion in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. Of course I'm not saying that every piece of dirty tricks is ratified in 10 Downing Street, but the fact is that British PM after British PM allowed the Unionist administration of the six counties to continue on it's merry way of discrimination and bigotry towards Catholics in housing, jobs and just about every sphere of life. Many British Prime Ministers were just Pontius Pilates who simply allowed the execution of innocents, but there are others with more to answer.

Christy Moore sings a song called Ordinary Man and just like lots of Ordinary Irishmen he was stopped by the British security forces at a port and held for two hours - as was his driver. I won't speak for Christy Moore he's much more eloquent than I could ever be but I will speak for my constituents who, on a regular basis are stopped on their way to matches or business appointments and held for hours on end, often with the intention of stopping them going to games or meetings.

If by moderate you mean keeping the status quo, then Sinn Fein are not moderate. We do want change, we don't want to see the border blighting lives and we don't want to see continued police harassment.

There are some people in the 26 counties who wish Nationalists in the North would just shut up and get on with our Unionist neighbours. Well we do want to get on with our Unionist neighbours but we won't shut up. The National Statistics Office has just published figures which reveal that both Catholic men and women are twice as likely to be unemployed than their Protestant counterparts. We won't just accept this because it was accepted for so long.

If moderation is not wanting change then I am no moderate - and I have no problem being a radical, wanting equal opportunities, wanting Unionist councils to end discrimination, wanting playgrounds in Catholic areas as well as Protestant ones, wanting to see an end to police harassment. If you want to see change I ask you to vote Sinn Fein in the next elections North and South, vote for the only All-Ireland party in this country."

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