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Now is the time to build a new and united Ireland – McDonald

13 December, 2018 - by Mary Lou McDonald TD

Below are the remarks of Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD, speaking during statements on the 100th anniversary of the 1918 General Election in the Dáil this afternoon.

The Dublin Central TD said:

“The 1918 General Election remains a seminal moment in our country’s history; a defining point when poets, visionaries and soldiers came together, with the mass of our nation, to build a Republic. 

“They voted for equality and independence. 

“They voted to break the link with Britain. 

“They voted to make good on the promises of the 1916 Proclamation and they voted for Sinn Féin. 

“The Sinn Féin manifesto of 1918 stated unequivocally, that Sinn Féin would achieve its aims by: ‘Withdrawing Irish representation from the British Parliament, and by denying the right, and opposing the will, of the British government or any other foreign government to legislate for Ireland’.

“Yet, there are those in this Dáil today that espouse otherwise. Some of them may well be very comfortable on the benches of the House of Commons, or even the House of Lords. 

“The might cross their fingers to swear an oath of allegiance to the British Crown in exchange for privilege and the pretence of power.

“That is not new and it achieves nothing. 

“That might be their way, but it is not ours. 

“We stand by the people who vote for Sinn Féin MPs in the modern era, on the basis of that same mandate, who look to Dublin, and not London, for leadership. 

“Yet, those same people who say MPs elected in Ireland should go to Westminster come here today and laud the achievements of those - who in 1918 - refused to take their seats in the British Parliament on the basis of a mandate from the people.

“Absolute nonsense and hypocrisy of the highest order.

“Should Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil wish to stand in the north - let them - and let the people decide. 

“Until then, we in Sinn Féin will represent the people on the basis of our mandate and their instruction.

“The 1918 general election was unique in being the first election held on this island in which women could vote - albeit that was restricted to women over the age of thirty - and it was also the first election in which all men over the age twenty-one could vote.

“That was defining, because for the first time in history a woman MP was elected; Constance Markievicz - the most unmanageable of revolutionaries.

“As an Irish woman and the President of Sinn Féin, I want to pay a particular tribute to her today.

“She was a disruptor and rebel of her time, a woman who stood on picket lines with workers, stood with tenants against landlords and stood on battle lines against the British. 

“She was the scourge of the establishment and she remains an inspiration for all of those who hold the principles of freedom and unity dear to this day.

“One hundred years on, we in Sinn Féin are still about transforming Ireland and uniting our country. 

“We are about building, shaping and leading the Republic.

“Our task, like the Sinn Féin MPs elected in 1918, is to realise the Republic of the 1916 Proclamation, and today should not simply be about commemorating or remembering. 

“It is not good enough to bow our heads to history. 

“We must be about lifting our faces to the future, delivering on the sacrifices of the past and building a Republic worthy of the name. 

“Today is an opportunity to reflect on the need to end the division of our country, definitively, and to bring about a united Ireland.

“We in Sinn Féin hold that as our central task. 

“Our fundamental objective, as Irish Republicans of today, just like the Republicans of 1918, remains the same - the pursuit of an independent and free Ireland.

“But unlike those of 1918, Irish Republicans today have at our disposal peaceful and democratic means of bringing our struggle to its conclusion. 

“Republicans one hundred years ago would have envied such a situation.

“Unfortunately, there are people in this place who take that for granted and who - every time Irish unity is raised - bow the head and say ‘not now’, ‘now is not the time’.

“Well, I say otherwise.

“Now is the time to build a new and united Ireland. 

“Let us plan for that and win a referendum on Irish unity.

“Let us give the people of this island their say, north and south, in accordance with provisions of the Good Friday Agreement.

“Let us not just look back in awe of the great men and women of 1918, but let us look forward and let us finish their work.

“That is the only fitting way to honour their legacy.” 

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