Gildernew launches campaign to retain Fermanagh South Tyrone
This is the full text of a speech made by Michelle Gildernew today at the launch of her Westminster election campaign at the Ryandale in the Moy.
“A Chairde agus a chomrádaithe,– friends and family it is an honour for me to be standing in front of such a large crowd of you today – seeking your endorsement and active support for my campaign to hold on to the iconic, republican seat of Fermanagh and South Tyrone.
I want to extend my thanks to those here beside me, (in no particular order of course) MEP Martina Anderson and our leader and party president Gerry Adams for joining us today.
I want to express my thanks to each and every single one of you for making your way here today, from Belfast to Ballinamore, from Derry to Dublin, from Edenery to Emyvale – that is the beauty of Sinn Féin being an all-Ireland party.
And last but not least I want to extend a special thanks to my family; my parents, my brothers and sisters, my husband Jimmy and my 3 beautiful children. They have been with me every step of the way and know too well the sacrifice and privilege it is to be an elected representative.
I have been in elected politics since 1998 and looking around this room there are faces here today that have been with me since 1998, we have unfortunately lost many faces that are sadly missed and we have also gained many new faces that are integral in our steps forward.
Because that is the direction we are going – forward.
This is about the future of our children and grandchildren.
It is about the future of republicanism in this constituency.
It is about the future of this island, which in our lifetime, will be united.
I have held this seat since 2001 and I have worked very effectively as a proud abstentionist MP but I am still extremely humbled and proud to be following in the footsteps of Bobby Sands and Owen Carron – two of the greatest revolutionaries the Republican movement has ever had.
Bobby Sands made the ultimate sacrifice for us - and it was for us – in 1981 when he died after 66 days on hunger strike.
This seat belongs to Bobby Sands, this seat belongs to Sinn Féin, this seat belongs to you.
I have been in elected politics for 19 years, this will be my ninth election, and it both excites and unnerves me every time.
But I assure you I do not take any election for granted, nor do I take any vote for granted.
The 2010 elections, with the margin of four votes, which was ultimately 1 vote, would highlight that we cannot afford to do that.
In no other constituency does the ‘every vote count’ motto carry such relevance.
Eyes from right across the world, not just the north, will be on this constituency in the next eight weeks.
We need to send them a clear, unambiguous message that Fermanagh and South Tyrone is staying Sinn Féin.
And I have no doubt in my mind that we can do it – we did it in 2001 and in 2005, we did it in 2010 and with the strength, power and relevance of our party, we can do it in 2015.
But we can’t do it without each other. We need people power, determination and commitment – all the things that Sinn Féin and the people in this room, are known for.
You have already given up your Sunday to come here today.
So I am asking each and every one of you to play your part in the third election campaign to keep the Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP seat a republican one; one with an MP that fights against austerity,
One with an MP that will not make the rich richer and the poor poorer.
And one with an MP that will swear allegiance to the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone, not to any foreign government but to work for the sovereign right of the people of Ireland to determine their own destiny.
Tom Elliott would like to turn this election into a sectarian headcout but I have news for Tom, Sinn Féin don’t do sectarianism, I don’t do sectarianism and I will continue to represent everyone regardless of creed, colour or sexual orientation.
Tom can make open pacts with his fellow Unionists and silent pacts with those parties whose leadership can’t even remember if they have selected a candidate yet for Fermanagh and South Tyrone but it will not stop the forward growth of Sinn Féin.
Sinn Féin’s three Senators, four MEPs, five MPs, 14 TDs, 29 MLAs, 264 councillors, over 10 thousand members and half a million votes across this island make us the largest party in Ireland. Let us in Fermanagh and Tyrone make that even bigger.
On May 7th with your help I will be part of the largest Sinn Féin team of MPs elected in modern times.
Sinn Féin and Irish Republicanism isn’t about who is elected. It is about us all playing our own part and as Bobby Sands said: ‘Everyone, Republican or otherwise has their own particular part to play. No part is too great or too small, no one is too old or too young to do something.’
I cannot express enough how important this election is.
And Sinn Féin is the only party that can do that. You are the only people that can ensure we do that. I am the one lucky enough chosen by you to be your representative.
On May 7th we need to keep this seat and I hope you will re-elect me as your MP.
Go raibh maith agaibh.”