Sinn Féin - On Your Side

People of the North deserve more than garden parties and platitudes - Liadh Ní Riada

19 October, 2018 - by Liadh Ní Riada MEP


Presidential Election candidate Liadh Ní Riada speaking to a large gathering in Belfast this afternoon was highly critical of the record of the current incumbent Michael D Higgins on defending the interests of Irish citizens in the six counties.

In the course of a wide-ranging address the Sinn Féin candidate said:

“For the almost 100 years since partition the cosy political consensus in Dublin between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour have been happy to acquiesce to the injustice of partition.

“The rights and entitlements of Irish citizens in the north have always been a second or third or fourth consideration if indeed a consideration at all.

“Sadly for many years this black spot when it came to Irish citizens here extended to the Áras.

“That changed first when Mary Robinson in the early days of the Peace Process travelled here to Belfast and met with Gerry Adams and others. Under Mary McAleese the Áras became a warm house for citizens here.

“However in the past seven years this trend has not continued.

“Lip service has been resumed.

“The decision not to attend any of the events to mark the centenary of the Rising here in the north is but one example of this.

“Let me say clearly that the Irish citizens of this part of Ireland deserve more than a Garden Party and platitudes from the Arás.”

Note to editors: The full text of the address can be found below:

Ar an gcéad dul síos teastaíonn uaim mo bhuíochas a ghabháil daoibh bheith liom inniu. Is mór an onóir dom bheith I bhur dteanna chun labhairt libh mar ghearr ar an fís atá agam, an fís atá again mar phoblachtánaigh, d’Éirinn nua, neamhspleách agus forásach. 

Firstly I would like to thank people for coming here this afternoon.

The only Presidential election event to take place in Ireland's second city.

Belfast is a city with a proud legacy to the entire island. 

For many its history is one of rebellion; of struggle; and of unyielding sacrifice.

It’s a city that has long played host to resistance, from United Irishmen Henry Joy McCracken and Wolfe Tone at Cavehill; to the movements of Connolly, Markievicz, and the founding of Na Fianna.

It’s city that has never been afraid to take on the weight of an Empire.

It is also a city that borne a huge loss supporting an Empire. An Empire that once boasted that the sun never set upon.

Tens of thousands of young men left this city for Flanders fields and fought and died alongside tens of thousands of their fellow Irish in a needless and pointless slaughter at the Somme and elsewhere.

The graves of those young men from every corner of our island show no difference for those believing they were fighting for God & Ulster or indeed for Home Rule.

And indeed why would they.

The events of 100 years ago be they in far off foreign fields or on the battled scarred streets of Dublin as brave men and women from our political tradition struck for our freedom still resonate to this day.

They resonate because of the disastrous vista which followed in the years after the events of 1916.

Revolution was met with counter Revolution.

Hope was replaced with division.

The partition of our island - that great historical injustice and British miscalculation that delivered a deeply conservative state in the south and a deeply sectarian statelet in the north.

It has taken generations of people struggling in each part of our island to bring about the sort of changes which have in recent times transformed not just the society we live in but has in my opinion opened up a new space for a genuine discussion about the future. 

A discussion about a New Ireland, A Better Ireland, A United Ireland.

Teastaíonn uaim ceannasaíocht a thabhairt agus comhrá a thosnú lena mbainfidh pobal iomlán na hÉireann, ina mbeidh fáilte roimh gach guth agus dearcadh:

Comhrá iomchuimsitheach, measúil agus leanúnach mar gheall ar aontú ár dtír. 

In the south the recent moves on Marriage Equality and Repeal of the 8th amendment. In the north the advances made in the development of a Peace Process which has removed conflict from the streets and created a new opportunity for an agreed and shared future.

It is a scandal that Irish citizens here in Belfast and across the six north eastern counties of Ireland are denied their right to vote for their President. This could and should have been resolved long before now.

It is simply a question of political will.

Get it done and get it done now well before the next Presidential Election – no ifs, no buts, no maybes.

Fifty years ago, in Belfast people came together in gatherings like this to form the Civil Rights Movement. Facing discrimination, inequality, poverty and locked into a single-party state which did not respect or recognise them.

The response of the Orange State was laid bare for all to see.

But while so much has changed, so much progress made, we have much further still to travel: For women; bodily autonomy. For our LGBT+ community; the right to marriage equality. For victims of conflict; truth and justice. For the rights and recognition of our Gaeilgeoirí.

The blocking of rights by the DUP is an injustice to all.

But it need not be like this.

Teastaíonn uaim an Uachtarántacht a úsaid chun cruth a chuir ar an gcomhrá seo. 

I want to use the Presidency to help shape that conversation.

To use the office not just to help build the bridges that at the time of Mary McAleese’s Presidency was so crucial -  but to build a New Ireland we can all be part off and indeed proud off.

For the almost 100 years since partition the cosy political consensus in Dublin between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour have been happy to acquiesce to the injustice of partition.

The rights and entitlements of Irish citizens in the north have always been a second or third or fourth consideration if indeed a consideration at all.

Sadly for many years this black spot when it came to Irish citizens here extended to the Aras.

That changed first when Mary Robinson in the early days of the Peace Process travelled here to Belfast and met with Gerry Adams and others.

Under Mary McAleese the Aras became a warm house for citizens here. In 1997 the Oireachtas approved as increase in funding to 317,000 to be used to assist Peace Building in the north.

Mary McAleese and her husband used this money wisely.

They supported the Peace Process and Reconciliation.

However in the past seven years this trend has not continued. 

Lip service has been resumed.

The decision not to attend any of the events to mark the centenary of the Rising here in the north is but one example of this.

Let me say clearly the Irish citizens of this part of Ireland deserve more than a garden party and platitudes from the Áras.

And at a time of political crisis with the ongoing Brexit debacle, at a time when people previously wedded to old constitutional norms are starting to explore in a very real way the need to look to an agreed united future on this island rather than pander to the whims of English Tories the leadership from the Aras has been lacking at this most pivotal of moments in our history.

Mar do Uachtarán beidh rudaí difriúl. Déanfaidh mé ionadaíocht ar pobal iomlán na hÉireann agus tabharfaidh mé ceannasaíocht don tír ar fad. 

As your President I can assure you this will be different.

I will take a lead in shaping that New Ireland.

I will be a regular visitor to the North. I will visit every border county and each of the six counties within my first six months as President.

I will meet with our Church and political leaders. I will meet the Loyal Orders and all sections of civil society. I will seek to use the office of the President to guide and to reconcile. To provide space and allow for debate and discussion and ultimately for agreement to prevail. 

The Rights and Entitlements of Irish Citizens in the north will be very much the business of this President.

The right of Irish Citizens to participate in the political life of their Nation will be very much the business of this President.

The advancement of the goal of a New and United Ireland will be very much the business of this President.

I will be a new President for a new Ireland. 

Beidh mé mar Uachtarán nua, d’Éirinn nua.

Bígí liom a cháirde, agus beirimís bua.

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