Mary Lou McDonald TD – 1916- Árd Fhéis Keynote speech
A warm welcome to everyone, we meet in Dublin’s Docklands, a proud and historic part of the city, at the heart of the constituency that I am proud to represent.
At this Ard Fheis we celebrate the centenary of the Easter Rising as we debate and plan the ongoing work of Republicans right across Ireland, in the here and now, to build a united Irish Republic.
The Rising harnessed the combined strength and idealism of Rebels from the workers movement, the language movement, the women’s movement, nationalists and Republicans.
Built on the foundations of previous struggle and financed by ‘our exiled children in America’.
In this centenary year we see the great pride of Irish people everywhere in the stand taken by the rebels for freedom and for justice.
It is clear, whatever the revisionists might say, that the Irish honour the rebels and their cause.
In the midst of centenary celebrations it has also become clear that the Irish establishment don’t want to discuss the elephant in the room – the partition of Ireland.
The Republic of 1916 is all of Ireland.
The women and men addressed in the Proclamation live in Ballybough, Ballyheigue, Ballymena and Ballymurphy.
The commitment to ‘cherish all of the children equally, setting aside differences fostered by an alien government, the commitment to civil and religious liberty had and have a resonance across Ireland to this day, perhaps most particularly in the north of our country.
The commitments of the proclamation stand now as surely as they did one hundred years ago.
Irish Republicans stand by those commitments to freedom for all our people.
The question is – do others?
The Republic of Connolly and Pearse, of Marcievizc and Lynn doesn’t end at Newry.
The North is not a foreign land.
The reconciliation of Orange and Green and the ending of partition are the necessary steps to achieve the Republic.
That requires generosity on all our parts and courage and vision.
It requires respect and the truth.
Republicans are up for that challenge.
The British government must rise to that challenge.
The Tory government’s ongoing refusal to disclose the truth, their bogus alibi of ‘national security’ concerns adds to the suffering of victims and survivors and is holding back the necessary process of truth discovery, recovery and reconciliation.
This is not acceptable.
There is a big challenge for the establishment, as they rightly celebrate 1916, to set out how they plan to make the Republic a reality.
It needs to be more than lip service.
It needs to be more than a march down O’Connell Street.
It must be a real and realisable roadmap to unity, a commitment to ending partition, a commitment to a border poll.
The Proclamation is amongst the finest freedom charters the world has ever seen.
It was radical one hundred years ago, it is radical today.
Its vision of a just, inclusive society challenges the prevailing thinking of our time.
Its assertion of the sovereignty of the people, vesting ownership of the resources of Ireland and the destiny of Ireland in our citizens, - all of these values should act as a compass for Irish political life.
Sadly they do not.
The Proclamation was written from the experiences of poverty, famine, political exclusion and cultural alienation of the Irish masses.
Today homelessness and life in B&Bs or hotel rooms is a reality.
The haves and have nots is a reality.
The insider privileged class and the rest is a reality.
Our exiled children scattered across the globe in search of a decent chance is a reality.
What Ireland has experienced for generations is not just a failure to honour the Proclamation.
It is in fact much worse.
Ireland has experienced the deliberate, calculated rejection of everything the Proclamation espouses.
Rejected by those in charge, by those who believe it is their entitlement to run this place – I speak of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.
Exclusion is not an accident.
Discrimination is not an accident.
Inequality is not an accident.
They are the choices, and consequences of choices, made by successive governments over successive generations.
After the Rising, the Tan War and the partition of Ireland the counter revolutionaries had their day.
They pushed back the tide of social progress and freedom.
Partition, as Connolly predicted, sparked a ‘carnival of reaction’;
A gerrymandered, oppressive state in the north;
A reactionary, oppressive state in the South.
The conservatives, the nay-sayers and the vested interests had their way and the Republic was set aside.
Now in our time the Republic must have its day.
For many people it was the economic crash, the burdening of people with the debts of bankers and developers, the unleashing of vicious austerity by Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour in turn, that opened their eyes to the agenda of the established parties of government.
And what an eye opener it was.
Hardship for the people.
Comfort for the cronies.
Any pretence by these parties, that they are now interested in a government guided by fairness or equality of citizens, is flatly contradicted by their own record in government.
They are fooling nobody.
The farce that has unfolded over the last eight weeks where two parties with little to distinguish them, play games, leaving the Dáil in cold storage, is not driven by an instinct to change or reform, it is motivated by an instinct to suppress the political alternative that is growing in this state.
Try as they might they cannot hold back the tide of political change.
Fianna Fáil was never serious in its manifesto promise to ‘scrap’ water charges.
They were simply positioning themselves for the election campaign –
A soft, kind Fianna Fáil!
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – then we Sinn Féiners are only scarlet from the compliment they pay us by borrowing our policies.
Even if it is simply for cynical electoral reasons.
Now they will be held to that commitment.
Scrap the water charges.
That’s the commitment made by a majority of TDs elected by the people.
Neither Enda Kenny nor micheál Martin have the right to stand in the way of that mandate.
In February twenty-three Sinn Féin TDs were elected to the Dáil.
Each of us stand by the commitments we made in last February’s election.
We want to be in government – we will be in a government with a real appetite, a real ambition for reform that is radical and long lasting.
A government that eases the burden on low and middle income families;
That abolishes water charges and the tax on the family home;
That faces up to the crises in housing and health.
We will not put Enda Kenny back in government.
We will not assist Micheál Martin and Fianna Fáíl as they put Fine Gael back in government
NOT A CHANCE!
They are the problem
Not the solution.
They have turned their back on the people
We will stand by the people and with the people
We will stand by the Republic
We will be the party that fulfils the vision of the women and men of 1916.
Join Sinn Féin,
Be part of the new Rising, be a part of the future
An phoblacht abú.