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Nationalists have rejected Westminster, MPs should have Dáil speaking rights – O’Neill

17 December, 2018 - by Michelle O'Neill


"The election of Markievicz and her Sinn Féin colleagues in 1918 has important parallels for us today.

“One hundred years ago nationalist and republican Ireland rejected Westminster, realising that the solutions to Irish problems will never be solved on the green benches of Westminster, where they were created in the first place.

"Once again, the nationalist people of the North have taken the same position, electing seven Sinn Féin abstentionist MPs.

"I challenge our critics at both ends of Dublin’s Mount Street – The Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael parties who have been beating the drum in honour of Markievicz, yet who have not one single vote between them in the North of Ireland.

"They are rhetorical republicans and our message to them is clear. 

"Sinn Féin will not be sending Irish representatives to Westminster nor will we take a pledge of allegiance to the British Queen - because we are Irish republicans.

"Stop insulting the nationalist people of the North who by choice, voted to reject Westminster and elect seven able republicans to represent their local interests here in our own country!

“I  would suggest the wisest thing that these parties could do in 2019 and the centenary of the First Dáil is to support the right of northern MPs to speak in the Dáil where they must be entitled to give the people of the six counties democratic expression and representation.”

REMARKS BY SINN FÉIN VICE-PRESIDENT MICHELLE O’NEILL MLA,

CONSTANCE MARKIEVIEZ PORTRAIT UNVEILING, PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS

17TH DECEMBER 2018

A chairde agus a chomrádaithe, 

Is mór an onóir dom labhairt anseo sa Tionól inniu.

It is a special honour to join all of you here at the Assembly today for this portrait unveiling of Constance Markievicz which Sinn Féin commissioned from esteemed Belfast artist Tony Bell - and to celebrate Votáil 100 - the 100th anniversary of the Sinn Féin landslide general election victory of December 1918; the introduction of universal suffrage and election of Constance Markievicz to the first Dáil.

This year also marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Constance Markievicz – a poet, painter, tireless worker with the poor and dispossessed, a brave revolutionary and a beautiful and extraordinary woman.

Born Constance Georgine Gore Booth into great wealth and privilege in Lissadell, County Sligo, she defied the social norms of that era, becoming heavily involved in republican politics joining Maud Gonne’s Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland) in 1908, founding Na Fianna Éireann and joining both the Irish Citizen Army and Sinn Féin.

Women and men came together from every class and creed and background, from rural communities, from the slums of Dublin city and like Markievicz rejected the confines of class and privilege to join that combination of the national movement, the women’s movement and the labour movement in declaring that they stood for the republic.  

One hundred years ago Irish women won the right to vote, in principle at least – the franchise was limited to women over the age of thirty, who owned property or had a university education.  

Constance Markievicz stood for Sinn Féin in the 1918 general election, she became the first woman elected to Westminster. 

Her aim then, as is ours now, is that of Theobald Wolfe Tone “To break the connection with England and to assert the independence of our country.” 100 years ago, just as the nationalist people of 2018 have done.

Markievicz urged women to set aside feminine stereotypes and to immerse themselves in the politics of the day – the fight for Irish freedom. 

She rejected the conventions of her time;

The expectations of her class;

The societal restrictions of her gender, and she fought for a true republic. 

She and the other 72 Sinn Féin MPs refused to take their seats at Westminster making a bold statement by their very absence and established the First Dáil on 21st January 1919.

She was appointed Minister for Labour, the first woman government Minister in Europe.

Her story is one of determination, independence, idealism and self-sacrifice in pursuit of freedom for the Irish people, and we continue to be inspired by her today as we continue to struggle for an Ireland based on equality, freedom, peace and prosperity.

WOMEN IN POLITICS

Throughout the revolutionary history of Irish republicanism, women have understood the connection between Irish freedom and equality and women’s rights.

A century on it is timely to reflect on the progress which has been made, the glass ceilings shattered.

While Markievicz, the most unmanageable of revolutionaries forged that road we still have far to go. 

We remain underrepresented. 

We are still something of a novelty in political life.

I am so proud of our party to have elected Mary Lou and I to lead our party by the men and women – our comrades - in Sinn Féin is truly humbling and a real honour and responsibility.

Republicans today, like those before, understand that there can be no liberation without women’s liberation.

That we want a party which leads change and shapes a better society.

While Irish women have more rights than our grandmothers and great grandmothers, women’s equality in Ireland has yet to be achieved in many areas. 

I am delighted to be part of this change and that Sinn Féin is driving it.

The old pillars of conservative control are being challenged; the media, the church, politics and business. 

A new Ireland is emerging and one which we must shape.   

A new and united Ireland. 

The equality of women is central to any new Ireland. 

We need to now;

    • Close the gender pay gap; 

    • Bring new laws to provide access to healthcare North and South;

    • Live free from violence;

    • Provide affordable childcare;

    • End economic inequality;

    • Bring more women into public life and politics.

CONCLUSION

The election of Markievicz and her Sinn Féin colleagues in 1918 has important parallels for us today.

One hundred years ago nationalist and republican Ireland rejected Westminster, realising that the solutions to Irish problems will never be solved on the Green benches of Westminster, where they were created in the first place.

Today, and once again, the nationalist people of the North have taken the same position, electing seven Sinn Féin abstentionist MPs.

I challenge our critics at both ends of Dublin’s Mount Street – the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael parties who have been beating the drum in honour of Markievicz, yet they have not one single vote between them in the North of Ireland.

They are rhetorical republicans and our message to them is clear. 

Sinn Féin will not be sending Irish representatives to Westminster nor will we take a pledge of allegiance to the British Queen - because we are Irish republicans.

Stop insulting the nationalist people of the North who by choice, voted to reject Westminster and elect seven able republicans to represent their local interests here in our own country!

I would suggest the wisest thing that these parties could do in 2019 and the centenary of the First Dáil is to support the right of northern MPs to speak in the Dáil where they must be entitled to give the people of the six counties democratic expression and representation. 

Finally, I wish to conclude by again thanking Tony for his outstanding work on this beautiful portrait which will now hang proudly here at the Assembly as a testament to republican women, and as a reminder of the journey we have yet to go in achieving peace and unity of our country and its people. ENDS/CRÍOCH

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