Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Ard Fheis Presidential Speech by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD

23 April, 2016 - by Gerry Adams TD


Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD in his address this evening to the Ard Fheis stated:    

·         We are committed to a vision of a new Ireland that will embrace everyone.

·         A genuine republic would not tolerate the housing and homelessness crisis. Or the disgraceful scandals in our health services.

·         (Micheál Martin) said he would not put Enda Kenny back into government. But putting Fine Gael back into power is exactly what he is negotiating. That’s not in the national interest.

·         I have a message for Teachta Martin. You promised in your manifesto to abolish Irish Water and to scrap water charges. So, water charges must go. Irish water must go.

·         Sinn Féin is committed to a public Health Service.

·         We believe everyone has the right to a home.

·         Sinn Féin is opposed to the abandonment of the west and the neglect of rural Ireland. We have a plan for rural regeneration.

·         A genuine republic would repeal the eighth amendment of the constitution. And Sinn Féin will campaign for this.

·         Marriage equality is still banned in the north. And we are committed to changing that.

·         We are also committed to Acht na Gaeilge and to Irish language rights, including the right to Irish medium education.

·         The British government is now obliged to legislate for Irish unity if a majority wants that. The duty of the Irish government is to achieve this.

·         That means promoting all-Ireland co-operation and building relationships between our people.

Full text of the speech below:

Check against Delivery

We stand with the Republic – Join the Rising

A chairde,
 
Tá failte romhaibh uilig chuig Ard Fhéis Shinn Féin sa bhliain stairúil seo.

A special Céad Míle Fáilte to Friends of Sinn Féin in the USA and Canada; to our comrades from Australia, South Africa, Cuba, Greece, Britain, from GUE-NGL and to all our foreign dignitaries and diplomats.

I want to thank Palestinian President Abbas for his welcome words of solidarity and to extend the solidarity from this Ard Fheis to the people of Palestine and of the Gaza strip.

I want to extend a very warm welcome to my good friend Arnaldo Otegi.

Arnaldo has been a leading voice for peace in the Basque country and has just been released after six years of wrongful imprisonment.

A welcome also to everyone in Ireland or across the world watching this Ard Fheis on television or online.

Mo buíochas go h’airithe ar na daoine a chur Ceiliúradh céad bliain le chéile.

The Centenary year

100 years ago tonight small groups of men and women were making their final preparations for the Rising.

On Easter Monday April 24th they struck for freedom.

They took on the largest Empire in human history.

Years of training, organising and the procurement of arms had gone into their preparations.

Their objective was to win.

Their objective was freedom.

Saoirse mhuintir na hÉireann.

It was about justice.

It was about the right of the people of this nation to sovereignty and independence.

Comhionnas agus cearta.

It was about our right to shape our society.

There has been an attempt by some to denigrate the heroes of 1916.

The popular response to, and the genuine pride in the centenary events is a clear rejection of this shameful revisionism.

There has also been a disgraceful effort to suggest that republican history ended in the GPO.

We are told John Redmond opposed violence.

That he was right on Home Rule.

That Connolly and Pearse and their comrades were wrong.

That the British government would have granted independence anyway.

Nonsense!

Bhí an ceart ag an Phiarsach agus ag an Conglailleach.

Connolly described Redmondism as "a carefully staged pantomime to fool nationalist Ireland”.

He predicted that Redmond’s party would “send forth more thousands of Irish men and boys to manure with their corpses the soil of a foreign country”.

And Redmond, and the Unionist leader Edward Carson did exactly that.

Tens of thousands of Irish men and boys died.

Those who claim that honouring the 1916 leaders might justify violence, have nothing to say of Redmond and Carson’s role in sending a generation of young Irishmen in the Irish Volunteers and Ulster Volunteers to fight Germans, Austrians and Turks, with whom they had no quarrel!

17 million died in that imperial adventure.

Seven million were civilians.

Were John Redmond and Edward Carson not ‘men of violence'? 

The 1916 Proclamation

And what of those who say this is the Republic proclaimed in 1916?

They claim the vision of the Proclamation is fulfilled.

But no republic worthy of its name would tolerate partition, mass emigration, poverty and homelessness!

The Proclamation is one of the finest freedom charters ever written.

It was not meant to be read every 100 years.

It’s meant to be lived.

Ní focail amháin atá ann ach spreagadh le neart agus deiseanna nua.

The Proclamation is a manifesto for change.

In government, north and south, my commitment to you tonight is that Sinn Féin will deliver this change.

We are committed to a vision of a new Ireland that will embrace everyone.

A society in which the rights of every citizen will be guaranteed.

A society in which every child will have equal rights and equal opportunities.

In a modern Ireland awash with stress, mental health issues and suicide we are committed to shaping a society where - as Pearse put it -; ‘the end of freedom is human happiness.’

Defending Moore Street

It is an absolute disgrace that in this centenary year the relatives of the 1916 leaders were forced to take the government to the High Court to save the National Monument at Moore Street.

Moore Street - the last stand of the GPO Garrison.

The last meeting place of Pearse, Connolly, Tom Clarke, Sean MacDiarmada and Joseph Plunkett.

This Fine Gael and Labour government wanted to demolish it.

They backed the property developer.

They wanted to demolish the national monument.

The families stood up to them and upheld our national heritage.

And some of them are here tonight.

Relatives of …

Ba mhaith liom fáilte mhór a chur roimh na clanna uilig.

The Counter Revolution

Following the Rising and the revolutionary period there was a counter revolution.

It created two mean spirited, narrow minded states on this island.

A claustrophobic, confessional atmosphere enforced censorship of Ireland's greatest literary minds and encouraged waves of emigration.

Economic stagnation combined with the overbearing influence of a conservative Catholic hierarchy.

Women in particular, the poor and radicals of all kinds were treated shamefully.

Many of the political, economic and social scandals witnessed in recent years are a product of this postcolonial condition.

Pearse’s Mise Éire captures all of this:

Mise Éire

Siné mé ná an Cailleach Bhéarra

Mór mo ghlóir:
Mé do rug Cú Chulainn cróga.

Mór mo náire:
Mo chlann féin a dhíol a mháthair.

This was the stark reality of a Free State that unfolded in place of a genuine Republic.

It was far from the promise of the Proclamation.

Of course, major social progress has been made in recent years, typified by last year’s wonderful marriage equality referendum result.

But much more remains to be done.

A genuine republic would not tolerate the housing and homelessness crisis.

Or the disgraceful scandals in our health services.

A genuine Republic would not tolerate the huge levels of disadvantage and inequality.

It would not allow the interests of our own citizens to be trumped by those of the EU imperialists.

A genuine Republic would not abide partition or allow its neutrality to be violated by those who would use our airports to prosecute foreign wars.

It would actively promote peace and play a leadership role in global affairs.

It would tackle the humanitarian and refugee crisis facing those fleeing conflict in coffin ships from north Africa and the Middle East.

A genuine republic would not take money from the pockets of its people to be pumped into rotten banks.

Ireland’s heroic struggle

Sinn Féin is proud of Ireland’s long and distinguished struggle for freedom.

We are not Fine Gael or Labour.

We are proud of the men and women of 1916.

We are not Fianna Fáil.

We are equally proud of the men and women of the H Blocks and Armagh and of the 1981 hunger strikers and of the patriot dead from our time.

We remember them all here tonight.

Cuirim fáilte croíúil roimh na clanna uilig.

Transforming Politics

After the election Sinn Féin said that in the interests of delivering change we were willing to talk to Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

They refused to talk to us.

In nasty little soundbites, which would make the DUP blush, the Fianna Fáil leader in particular, proclaimed that this party, that the people in this Convention Centre, and more importantly those citizens who vote for Sinn Féin, were not fit for government.

He also said he would not put Enda Kenny back into government.

But putting Fine Gael back into power is exactly what he is negotiating.

That’s not in the national interest.

Fianna Fáil voters did not vote to give Fine Gael another term.

Micheál Martin knows that Enda Kenny will not resolve the homelessness crisis, the health crisis or the crisis in living which many families are enduring.

He knows the Fine Gael leadership have little interest in Irish unity.

But he would prefer to put them back in government as part of his effort to counter the growth of Sinn Féin.

So, I have a message for Teachta Martin.

You promised in your manifesto to abolish Irish Water and to scrap water charges.

So, water charges must go.

Irish water must go.

Many citizens thought they were voting for an alternative when they voted independent.

Some of those TDs now stand with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

How independent is that?

Anois tá cuid de na daoine a bhí neamhspleách ag taobhú leis an chóras.

And all the while the inequalities in our society– are deepening.

Those in the property and banking systems, and the political elites who broke the economy, are getting richer.

A Genuine Republic

For our part, Sinn Féin is committed to a public Health Service.

We believe everyone has the right to a home.

We have detailed proposals on this; including a massive social housing new-build programme; security and certainty for tenants, and support for homeowners and buyers.

Sinn Féin is opposed to the abandonment of the west and the neglect of rural Ireland.

We have a plan for rural regeneration.

For an end to the closure of post offices, rural schools and Garda stations.

People in rural Ireland have rights.

Sinn Féin is about fulfilling those rights.

Before the Volunteers left the GPO Pearse told the women that when the history of that week would be written the highest honour and credit would go to them.

Seasaimid lenár gcairde ban.

There can be no Saoirse na h’Éireann gan Saoirse na mBan.

So a genuine republic would repeal the eighth amendment of the constitution.

And Sinn Féin will campaign for this.

These are our commitments at the start of the 32nd Dáil – however long it lasts - a strong progressive Sinn Féin team, working in co-operation with others of like mind, standing up for citizens and against the elites.

Sin an gealltananas a thug muid do na daoine a thug vótai dúinn.

And let me be very clear, unlike the establishment parties, this party - Sinn Féin – will stick to our promises and to our commitments!

A Historic election

Despite a tsunami of negative campaigning by our opponents and from sections of the media Sinn Fein achieved a historic result in the general election.

We now have 23 TDs.

I thank all our candidates, their families and our voters.

We also have an excellent team of candidates going forward for Monday’s Seanad election.

On May 5th the anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands, there will be an election in the North.

I want to applaud our Assembly candidates, and their families.

Last September Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil called for the suspension or the adjournment of the political institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.

Sinn Féin and others refused to accept this.

We successfully negotiated the Fresh Start Agreement.

I want to commend the huge commitment and leadership of my friend and comrade Martin McGuinness in building the peace. 

Sinn Féin have stood against the British Tory austerity policies.

We stopped the introduction of water charges and we guaranteed free hospital care, free GP care and free prescriptions.

However, this is not enough.

Marriage equality is still banned in the north.

And we are committed to changing that.

We are also committed to Acht na Gaeilge and to Irish language rights, including the right to Irish medium education.

No other party will stand up for these rights in the face of unionist bluster; British government opposition, and the Irish governments indifference.   

Ní bheidh aon pháirtí eile ag seasamh an fód do na cearta agus teidil na saoránach uilig.

No other party will stand up for public services and for fairness.

The Good Friday and subsequent agreements need to be fully implemented.

Sectarianism must be tackled and overcome.

And the British government must be made to honour their commitments on legacy issues including disclosure, legacy inquests and the resourcing of investigations.

That is why we need the biggest number of Sinn Féin MLAs to lead change in the Assembly, and to join all our elected representatives, and you the activists, in delivering change across Ireland.

In June there will be a referendum in June about so-called Brexit.

While Sinn Féin believes in a different European Union – a social EU based on equality and citizens’ rights – we will be campaigning for a strong vote against Brexit.

The imposition of border controls and economic barriers are not in the interest of the people of this island.

Our goal is to break them down and end partition.

A United Ireland for all

The purpose of partition was to prevent the emergence of a united 32 county Irish state.

To this day partition prevents the development of communities and is holding back, as Connolly put it: ‘the wheels of progress.’

Yet much has changed.

The orange state, established by the Government of Ireland Act, is gone.

The Government of Ireland Act is gone also.

Yes, the northern state is still in place; and yes the majority of people there are unionists but the union is no longer unconditionally upheld in British law.

The British government is now obliged to legislate for Irish unity if a majority wants that.

The duty of the Irish government is to achieve this.

That means promoting all-Ireland co-operation and building relationships between our people.

It means an end of partitionist thinking by policy makers; and yes – in the media also.

It means enlisting international support for all these objectives.

Of course, from a republican and democratic perspective the British government has no right to be in any part of Ireland.

But from a unionist perspective all has changed, changed utterly from the days of a one party state where nationalists were excluded from power; denied equality in housing, employment and voting rights; and where expressions of Irish national identity were criminalised.

Now a peaceful and democratic route to Irish unity exists.

Tá go leor obair le déanamh againn go fóill.

A United Ireland means the unity of the people of this island, including those who identify themselves as British.

A United Ireland means economic and political benefits for all our people.

A United Ireland means an end to duplication and waste.

A United Ireland must be inclusive, agreed and welcoming for all the people of this island.

That includes our unionist neighbours.

This is their homeland also.

The Spirit of 1916

Ireland today needs again the spirit, the vision, and the generosity of those who struck for freedom 100 years ago.

Had Pearse and Connolly and their comrades gone on to form a working government Ireland today would be a better place, and a fairer and more equal society.

So that is the challenge facing us.

A famous son of this city, Luke Kelly put it well:

To whom do we owe our allegiance today

To whom do we owe our allegiance today
To those brave men and women who fought and died that Róisín live again with pride?
Or the faceless men who for Mark and Dollar,
Betray her to the highest bidder,
To whom do we owe our allegiance today

Sinn Féin owe our allegiance to the people of this island.

We love Ireland.

We value this small island.

[ But it is the people – orange, green, and all other colours also, who are at the core of our values of equality, liberty and fraternity.

We want this to be the best place to grow up in, to grow old in and to enjoy life in.]

So our resolve must be to end all divisions and to unite our people.

Tá Sinn Féin an-soiléir faoi seo.

1916 was right.

Bhí an ceart ar fad ag na mná agus na fir a sheas an fód san Éiri Amach.

It was Republic versus Empire.

Republicanism versus Imperialism

[And tomorrow at 10am, on the date of the Rising, we will be at the GPO.

Later at 2pm – Reclaim the Vision of 1916 – a citizens initiative will march from Merrion Square.

These events will celebrate the vision, bravery and sacrifice of that time.]

In our own time 35 years ago Bobby Sands was 55 days on hunger strike.

Like the men and women of 1916 he and his comrades were all about the future.

In his prison diary Bobby wrote:

“If they aren’t able to destroy the desire for freedom, they wont break you.

They won’t break me because the desire for freedom and the freedom of the Irish people, is in my heart.

The day will dawn when all the people of Ireland will have the desire for freedom to show.

It is then we’ll see the rising of the moon.”

The people of Ireland are no mean people.

We have great resilience and great potential.

We know whose side we’re on.

We stand by and for the Republic.

It’s time we saw the rising of the moon.

Bígí linn.

Join the new Rising.

Up the Republic - An Phoblacht abú.

Connect with Sinn Féin