Campaign to return a Sinn Fein TD for Meath begins tonight
Sinn Féin Meath County Councillor and Ard Chomhairle member Joe Reilly was this evening selected as the party's candidate for the forthcoming Meath by-election. Also attending the convention were Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald and party President Gerry Adams MP. Speaking at tonight‚s election convention, which was held in the Newgrange Hotel in Navan, Councillor Reilly said "We are contesting this election to win, to return the first Sinn Fein TD for Meath since Liam Mellows was elected in 1918."
I am honoured to have been selected to stand as your Sinn Fein candidate in the forthcoming Meath by-election.
Sinn Fein has brought a new type of politics to Meath and to Ireland as a whole. We are leading the way in the peace process, we are working hard in our local communities and we are putting forward an alternative vision for a united Ireland based on equality and justice.
Sinn Fein's success in the local and European elections shows that our agenda for change is popular. I want to give a warm welcome to our newly elected MEP for Dublin - Mary Lou McDonald.
In the last decade Sinn Fein has gone from strength to strength in Meath. We now have six councillors and are continuing to expand. Our success in electing Caroline Ni Loinsigh, to Trim Town Council, Anne Gibney to Navan Town Council, Connor Fergusan to Kells Town Council, Michael Gallagher to Meath Co. Council and myself to Meath County and Navan Town Council is testimony that the voters in Co. Meath recognise that Sinn Fein is the only real alternative to the other establishment parties.
We are contesting this election to win, to return the first Sinn Fein TD for Meath since Liam Mellows was elected in 1918. This is a realisable goal. My commitment is to winning
The past decade has been the decade of the peace process in Ireland and the politics of Sinn Fein's peace strategy is to empower people.
But the past decade has also been the decade of tribunals when the corrupt relationship between leading politicians in this state and big business was exposed as never before. Most of the scandals centred on planning. Corrupt politicians, corrupt officials, land speculators and property developers profited from the misery of others and counties such as Meath are now coping with the fall out of this.
Their crimes were not victimless crimes. Every young couple in County Dublin who moved to Meath because they could not afford to live in their area, in their own county are victims of the greed and corruption of some politicians.
Since then of course the wealth of this state has been greater than at any time in its history and I welcome that. But today, despite the wealth created, children and teachers are forced to teach and learn in sub standard schools. Today young couples that have obtained a mortgage are working all hours to keep up payments and are commuting for hours every day due to traffic chaos and poor public transport.
Those who are most in need and who can least afford to pay for housing are left at the end of the line. There are nearly 1,000 people on the local authority housing list in this county and that is an absolute disgrace.
Sinn Fein is working to bring about change now. We are working to build an alternative to the kind of government which can preside over one of the wealthiest economies in the EU, yet fail to provide ordinary citizens with decent public services, in health, in education, transport and housing. That means reforming the tax system, investment in social and affordable housing and having a proper public transport system.
Also let me re-state here tonight my earlier calls for the immediate construction of by-passes for Dunshaughlin, Navan and Kells. Our transport needs must be driven by the needs of the commuter and not by the needs of the public - private partnerships.
I also calling on Minister Dick Roche to abandon plans to drive a motorway through the Skyrne/Tara Valley domain. There is an alternative route that allows for an un-tolled motorway to be built.
As the county with the fastest growing population in the country we need an integrated transport policy that sees a central bus station in Navan, quality bus corridors and the re-opening of the Dublin - Navan rail link.
On health we need to be assured that Our Lady‚ Hospital in Navan will continue to up-graded to the standard that is fitting for a major urban centre with a growing county population.
But the business of making change and delivering for our communities is not easy. There are powerful opponents of change throughout this island. We have to confront them in negotiations and confront them in different institutions across the island.
As Chairperson of the National Elected Representatives Forum I am keenly aware of the amount and important work our representatives do on a daily basis to bring about the change necessary.
Again throughout this campaign, like we have seen in other elections over the years, the opponents of Irish Republicanism will be working flat out to stop our project.
We have to work even harder than them.
We have to knock more doors than them.
We have to engage with more people then them.
We have to encourage more people to join with us.
That is the task for the people in this room.
Experience shows us that republicans focussed on a project are the most powerful force on the island. We are focussed on winning.
Earlier this week I travelled with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, to Downing Street and to Government Buildings in Dublin where we have been involved in a crucial series of negotiations.
We want to see a deal achieved. We want to see the Good Friday Agreement with its all-Ireland architecture implemented and delivering for people throughout the 32 counties. We want to see the DUP come onboard this project.
But we will not allow the two governments to depart from the fundamentals of the Agreement. The people of Ireland have endorsed the Agreement in referenda and the vast majority of the Irish people are still firmly behind it. I respect the mandate of the DUP - but the reality is they represent an anti-Agreement minority and they cannot be allowed to veto or stall progress any further.
Sinn Féin has a substantial electoral mandate. That is why we are in negotiations. The opportunity exists for the people of Meath in the coming months to strengthen our negotiating hand further. Ordinary people can impact on the corridors of power in Dublin, London and Washington - that has been the lesson of the rise of Sinn Féin over the past decade.
Voices and votes for too long taken for granted by the establishment parties north and south have found a home in Sinn Féin, the oldest of all of the Irish political parties.
In what must be one of the most important by-election in years Sinn Fein will be appealing for votes right across the board.
From Ashbourne to Oldcastle, from Ballivor to Laytown we will seeking No 1 and transfer votes from Fianna Fail voters unhappy with this government, from Labour voters who know that Sinn Fein represents their interest in councils, to Fine Gael voters who support the peace process and know that we are the only party capable of ensuring that FF don‚t win the seat. As for the PD voter, Michael and Mary they don‚t have any in Meath.
So as we enter 2005, let us leave here tonight committed to the task ahead. Let the people of Meath elect the first Sinn Féin TD in this, our centenary year.
Go raibh maith agaibh.
Profile of Councillor Joe Reilly
Joe Reilly is a Sinn Féin Councillor for Meath County Council - Navan and Navan Town Council. He is a long standing member of the party's Ard Chomhairle (National Executive) and head of the party's Local Government elected representatives Forum and is keenly involved in our reach out to Unionism.
He was General Secretary of Sinn Féin when in 1988 the party first produced "Scenario for Peace". This document was the foundation stone for the current peace process, which was initiated by Sinn Féin.
He has played a central role in the peace process as a member of Sinn Féin's negotiations team and was involved in recent talks at Downing Street and Government Buildings.
In 1994 he was first elected to Navan Urban District Council. In 1999 he was re-elected to Navan UDC topping the poll and he also took a seat on Meath County Council for the first time. In the 2002 General Election he received 6,042 first preference votes. In this years Local Government elections Sinn Féin increased its representation from one councillor to 6 council seats throughout the county.
As a Meath County Councillor Joe Reilly has campaigned tirelessly on a range of issues affecting the people of the area, including housing, the environment and roads. He is a member of VEC, Navan Civic Trust, Navan Travellers Advisory Committee, the Board of Management of Meath Youth Federation and a member of Our Ladies Hospital Action Committee.