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We live in an Ireland that is deeply divided - McDonald

22 April, 2016 - by Mary Lou McDonald TD

Mary Lou McDonald TD Keynote Ard Fheis Speech

Full speech below:

This weekend we mark the centenary of the Easter Rising.

We meet here in the city that was at the epicentre of the fight against British rule in Ireland one hundred years ago.

It was in neighbourhoods not far from here that the pauperised working class, living in run down tenements, took a stand. 

In 1913 workers stood for themselves, their dignity; their rights and were locked out by the bosses.

It was on the streets around here that James Connolly raised his Citizen’s Army.

The story of the Rising is etched into the fabric of this city – from the founding of the Irish volunteers in Parnell Square, to the smuggling of guns at Howth, to the capture of strongholds around the city from the GPO to Bolands Mill, to the Rebels last stand at Moore street and the execution of the leaders in Kilmainham jail. 

So welcome to this city, welcome to Dublin – the city that fought the empire.

The rebels, against all odds, against what was deemed ‘the greatest empire’ the world had ever seen, struck for our freedom, in full confidence of victory.

Today we acknowledge their courage, their spirit and their absolute determination.

It is now our turn, in our time, to rally to the cause of the Republic, to stand for the Republic again.

The proclamation of the Republic sets out the vision and promise of a free, and equal Ireland, a truly democratic Ireland.

A Republic based on religious and civil liberty, equal citizenship, placing the democratic and unfettered control of Irish destinies in the hands of the people.

The proclamation is the foundation document of the Republic and remains the mission statement of Irish Republicans to this day. 

So where stands the Republic in 2016?

What happened to the dream of a free and equal Ireland?

One hundred years on we live in an Ireland that enjoys only partial freedom.

We live in an Ireland that is deeply divided between the haves and the have nots.

We live in an Ireland that was partitioned and designed by those in control to favour those in control.

An Ireland in which almost 2000 children call a B&B or hotel room home;

Where everyday families face the courts and banks and vulture funds who threaten to take the roof over their heads;

Where countless families will today, tomorrow and the next day worry and struggle to meet their household bills and get by;

We live in an Ireland that remains partitioned. 

The border scars the landscape of Ireland and disrupts and distorts our economic and social development.

It is a legacy issue from the 1920s. 

Imposed not by consent but by threat of immediate war and maintained on the watch of successive indifferent governments. 

It will be removed not by threat or coercion but by agreement, by persuasion, by positive Republican activism, by reigniting and reawakening the spirit of the United Irishmen and women, the spirit of the Easter Rebels, the spirit of Bobby Sands.

The laughter of our children, our children cherished equally will be the mark of our success, the measure of a Republic worthy of the name.

Built on our glorious diversity – an equal society for every citizen, women and men, citizens of all abilities and disabilities, settled and traveller, LGBT and straight, young and old, black and white, Orange and Green. 

The sectarian Orange State in the north is gone. 

Every citizen in the North – Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter - is the better for that. 

The overbearing conservatism in the South is finally giving way to a pluralist society.

That we have a chance, a historic opportunity to build a united Irish Republic by peaceful and democratic means is in no small part due to the leadership of Republican leaders in our time.

Please join with me in special recognition of two of those outstanding leaders - Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams.

Ireland has moved on but it seems that the old guard politicians haven’t caught up.

The last eight weeks have seen farce on a grand scale played out between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

They indulge themselves and each other in a fiction of difference.

They protest, there are fundamental points of difference between them.

They protest too much!!

Let’s be clear. The only point of difference between these men is which of them is top dog. 

Whilst Enda Kenny and Micheál Martin and their colleagues jockey for position, holding the Dáil to ransom, in the real world life continues apace.

The big issues of the day are left to drift.

February saw a doubling of homeless figures. You’d never guess that from the demeanour of the two wannabe Taoisigh!!

The recovery which they boast is not felt in the pockets of low and middle income families.

The last Dáil election saw the largest team of Sinn Féin TDs returned in modern times.

Twenty three women and men elected on a manifesto of change. 

Twenty three TDs who will keep our commitments to abolish water charges;  

To end the tax on the family home; 

To resource decent healthcare and childcare; 

To create decent work and end the scandal of zero hours contracts and slave wages.

Sinn Féin will talk to anyone, work with everyone who shares these goals. 

We will not sit on our hands or stand idly by.

We will not prop up a Fine Gael government that favours only the wealthy and disregards the rest.

We will not facilitate the austerity Taoiseach Enda Kenny back into government and we make no apology for that!! 

We will not play the game of make believe that Fianna Fáil are acting responsibly or in the ‘National Interest’.

They act only in their own narrow self- interest.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil want it all their own way.

They have made it repeatedly and abundantly clear that they don’t want Sinn Féin in government – we are not worthy it seems.

But they don’t want us leading opposition either.

The bottom line is they just don’t want us about the place.

The news for them is that we are here, here to stay, Sinn Féin is not going away.

Sinn Féin is the leader of opposition to bad government.

Sinn Féin will challenge Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil every time they try to short change the Irish people.

Sinn Fein from this Ard Fheis repeats our call for the full abolition of water charges, nothing less, no half measures, no convenient fig leaves will do. 

We want to be and we will be part of a government that champions the people. 

We will face the challenge of government when it is afforded to us by the people with energy and integrity.

We are ambitious for Ireland, optimistic for our country, we understand the challenges that face workers, families and communities across the land. 

We seek to build our mandate and support from every person who believes that Ireland can be a better place, that we can achieve the Republic. 

In the spirit of the Rebels a century ago, we meet here in full confidence of victory.

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