‘Time to build a pan-Celtic political culture to defeat Toryism’ - Sinn Féin President tells Plaid Cymru conference
In an historic first, the Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald today delivered a keynote address to the activists of Plaid Cymru at their party conference in Swansea.
Speaking at the conference McDonald called for a “pan-Celtic political culture to defeat Toryism”. She said:
“The futures of Ireland and Wales must be shaped by the hopes and aspirations of our peoples. Not by Boris Johnson and his band of Eton elitists in London.
“Toryism is a political culture that has always been a clear and present threat to our well-being.
“We need a counter political culture; a pan-Celtic, anti-Tory political culture that respects each other’s sovereignty and right to nationhood.”
The Sinn Féin President also used her speech to send a message to The British Prime Minister:
“If Boris Johnson cannot put forward proposals that maintain the guarantees in the Backstop, then the ultimate solution of Irish Unity should be put on the table.
“Boris, we will not allow you to vandalise our country, ruin our economy and destroy our peace. We will not allow you to bully Ireland. Those days are over”.
Please see below full text of Mary Lou McDonald’s speech to the Plaid Cymru conference
Address by Mary Lou McDonald TD to Plaid Cymru Conference
Saturday, October 05, 2019
We gather here today in the spirit of togetherness.
That I am here today is an echo of the bonds of kinship and friendship between our two nations.
It is great to meet under the flag of common purpose, of optimism and of hope.
The future is yet to be won.
Let us win it together.
I am the President of Sinn Féin.
I am also a mother, a wife, a daughter, and a sister.
I am a woman playing my part in trying to make my country and the world a better place.
Sinn Féin is an Irish Republican Party.
We are a party of the left - progressive and socialist.
We are a party of activism, deeply rooted in the communities we represent, striving to be agents for change and equality.
We have a significant mandate.
We are the only party substantially organised across the entire island of Ireland - north and south.
Sinn Féin is opposed to the partition of Ireland.
We are a United Ireland party that wants an end to the involvement of the British government in Irish affairs.
We are working for the unity of all the people of Ireland based on equality, respect and reconciliation.
We believe absolutely in the core values of equality, liberty and fraternity.
With others, Sinn Féin has played a central role in the development of the peace process and in the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements.
We helped to create, and we were part of, the national and international efforts which brought an end to conflict in Ireland.
The European Union
Sinn Féin is an EU critical party.
A perspective born out of the philosopy of left republicanism where democracy is close to the people and government serves their interests.
I think that is a good approach.
I think it is basic common sense.
We know that the European project has gone down the wrong road.
Too far down the wrong road.
The economic dogma of ‘the market above all else’ and the alienation of ordinary citizens,
the increasing militarisation of the EU through PESCO, the democratic deficit which often sees the voices of smaller members squeezed out.
These are legitimate criticisms and concerns.
It is important that we all acknowledge them.
However, Brexit is not the answer.
The Tory Brexit is definitely not the answer.
Instead, our job is to change the European Union by working together.
It is our responsibility to challenge and defeat the political agenda at the heart of power in the European Union.
I happen to believe that such an effort is worth it
The European project has the potential to transform the lives of citizens for the better.
It can do so with the social agenda as its driving force
We will not concede the European project to free marketeers and corporate interests. Neither will we accept the Tory wrecking agenda which seeks to divide and dominate.
We are up for the fight to create a better European Union, A social European Union
It was on this basis that we campaigned for Remain in the North of Ireland during the Brexit referendum.
Sinn Féin is also an internationalist party.
We are deeply aware of our interconnectedness with the humanity of the world.
We are proactive in reaching out to progressive movements throughout the world, movements that share our politics, our values and our goals.
That is what has brought me to Swansea this weekend.
To reach out the hand of friendship to the activists of Plaid Cymru
To listen to and learn to from each other.
Ireland and Wales – A shared Story
There is kinship and a connectedness between our nations.
A common spirit and a common experience.
RS Thomas said the Welsh were “a people bred on legends”.
That holds true for the Irish. Inspired and proud of our heritage and our independence.
The songs that played in the Halls of Tara were echoed in the Valleys of Wales.
The story of Saint Patrick symbolises the links of the Celtic nations of Wales, Ireland and Scotland.
A bond that remains today.
Our shared history has taken many turns.
Following the Easter Rising in 1916, Irish Republican prisoners were interned at Frongoch.
A thousand rebels imprisoned and isolated in Wales.
They did what revolutionaries do.
They looked beyond the confines of the present, they looked to the future.
They planned, they debated and they educated themselves.
Frongoch gained its place in Irish republican history as the University of Revolution.
The prisoners returned from Wales as leaders and led our fight for independence from 1919 to 1921
A counter-revolution, partition, discrimination and the denial of the right to self-determination led to decades of conflict in Ireland.
A conflict that ended with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
The legacy of conflict remains.
It is felt across Ireland and in homes in Wales.
Families have been bereaved and injured.
No words I can say can undo the past.
We must find a way to reconcile the past with our shared history and find a common ground.
An acceptance, an understanding of our complex past and a commitment to the truth that the conflict is over and must never return.
It will not return, not on our watch.
We have to be leaders for today and for the future.
I am speaking to you today as history unfolds around us.
The Tory Brexit is shaping our present.
However, I am here to say that we cannot allow the Tory Brexit to determine our futures.
The futures of Ireland and Wales must be shaped by the hopes and aspirations of our peoples.
Not by Boris Johnson and his band of Eton elitists in London.
Make no mistake, the Tory Brexit is chiefly the product of a dangerous Little Englander ideology run amok.
Little Englanders certainly do not care about the consequences of Brexit for either of our countries.
It would be naïve to believe that the Tory view of Ireland and Wales has shifted in any significant way since the days of Thatcherism.
Just as Margaret Thatcher brutalised and criminalised the nationalist communities of the North of Ireland,
Just as she tried to crush the mining communities of Wales during the strike of 1984, the current British Prime Minister is all too willing to run roughshod over Irish and Welsh national interests.
Mr Johnson does so in pursuit of his dangerous and stupid agenda – a Brexit that satisfies the post-imperial insecurities of toxic English nationalism.
Tory ignorance and malevolence towards Ireland has been absolutely breath-taking.
It is not simply a case of ignorance.
It is a case of blatant hostility.
At its very core, is the Tory government’s refusal to recognise the democratic decision taken by the people of the North of Ireland.
People in the North of Ireland voted to remain.
To remain part of the European Union.
There is no democratic consent for Brexit in Ireland.
Yet, Mr Johnson is intent on dragging the North out of the European Union despite the result of the vote.
Not once has the Tory government shown any appreciation or concern of the consequences for Ireland of such recklessness.
The hardening of the border.
Endangering the Good Friday Agreement and our peace.
That is what the Tories propose for my country.
They have gone more than three years without proposing one workable set of solutions for the border.
In the absence of such proposals, the Backstop was conceived.
It was agreed by the EU and the British Government in order to avoid the hardening of the border in the event of a crash Brexit.
Though imperfect, it is vital to protect our economy, our peace agreements and our prosperity.
It is the bottomline.
What the British Prime Minister presented this week as a ‘Good solution’ to the border is far from it.
It sought to dismantle the guarantees contained in the Backstop.
What Mr Johnson proposed is not about the interests of Ireland.
It was a political ploy.
A power play to rally his Brexiteer allies.
To deliver a sop to the Democratic Unionist Party ahead of the next British General Election.
The proposal to give the Assembly in Belfast the authority to decide either the type of Brexit arrangements that are put in place, or how long they will last, will afford the DUP a veto.
Sinn Féin will never accept this.
Maybe Mr Johnson wants a deal, maybe he doesn’t.
In either event, let me say this clearly:
There can be no return to a hard border in Ireland.
There can be no return to customs checks.
The Good Friday Agreement must be upheld and protected.
If Boris Johnson, cannot put forward proposals that maintain the guarantees in the Backstop, then the ultimate solution of Irish Unity should be put on the table without delay.
If you would indulge me, I want to use the Plaid Crymu Conference to send the British Prime Minister a message
Boris, we will not allow you to endanger our future.
Boris, we will not allow you to vandalise our country, ruin our economy and destroy our peace.
Boris, we will not allow you to bully Ireland.
A Shared Political Culture
Jingoism, a pyschology of supremacy and blatant aggression are the main characteristics of the Tory Brexit.
It may now sit in a new context but the consequences of Toryism are not new to the peoples of Ireland and Wales.
Toryism is a political culture that has always been a clear and present threat to our well-being.
We need a counter political culture.
We need a pan-celtic anti-Tory political culture.
A shared political culture that respects each other’s sovereignty and right to nationhood.
A shared political culture grounded in principles of common interest and common purpose.
A community of neighbours driven by progressive politics and by a genuine concern for each other’s people.
We need to become allies not only in words, but also in actions.
Let’s meet and speak more often.
Let’s get behind each other.
Lets us share ideas for the advancement of Irish Unity and Welsh Independence – nations where economic justice and social equality are hardwired in everything that we do.
Just as the prisoners at Frongoch looked beyond the confines of the present to build a vision for the future.
So must we all.
To look beyond Brexit and to build for the future.
Westminster has not and never will act in the best interests of the people of Ireland.
It governs in its own self-interest.
The people in the north of Ireland are looking beyond Westminster.
A debate on Unity is growing.
The Unionist majority, the very basis of the state, is gone.
The challenge for this generation of leaders is to build a new and united Ireland.
An Ireland that is a home for all that share our island. A prosperous and sustainable Ireland.
An Ireland that takes its place with the other nations of the world.
The Good Friday Agreement provides for a peaceful and democratic pathway for Irish Unity.
Sinn Féin believes in national self-determination.
We believe in the rights of the Irish, Scottish and Welsh Nations to determine their own futures.
That is the right thing, it is the democratic thing to do.
I believe we will secure and that we win an Irish unity referendum at some time in near future.
I do not take it for granted.
We have much work to do to build a new and united Ireland in the best interest of all the people who share our island.
To replace partition and division with unity and the common interest of all.
Only a new and United Ireland will provide the basis of a new relationship with Britain, with England Scotland and Wales.
A relationship liberated from the divisions of the past.
The Good Friday Agreement provides for a British Irish Council for co-ordination and co-operation.
I believe that there is merit in continuing this process when Ireland is united.
We are neighbours, we are kin and we share a common interest.
I look forward to the day when Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England take seats at the table as sovereign and independent nations.
I was six years-old when the existence of your beautiful country first came into my consciousness.
It is actually one of the clearest memories from my childhood.
My older brother Bernard had been left out of his rugby team for a match against Llanelli
I remember two things vividly – Bernard’s absolute devastation and also feeling that ‘Llanelli’ sounded quite exotic!
To a six year-old child, it had the ring of Narnia to it.
The episode had a happy ending, however.
Before the team was to travel, Bernard received a phone call from one of his coaches to say that he was needed after all.
Queue unbridled joy and excitement.
I remember feeling so happy for my brother.
That same bother is now married to a woman from Llanelli.
Though it may be somewhat less exotic now than it was in the mind of a little girl, Wales has always conjured feelings of warmth – a place where good things happen.
Activists of Plaid Cyrmu,
I wish you good things.
I wish you a future that matches the hopes and aspirations of the Welsh people.
Prosperity, equality, Independence.
I can feel the energy in this room that will make it happen.