2021: A year to show the vision and ambition needed to deliver a fresh start - Mary Lou McDonald TD
Writing in An Phoblacht today, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD - in her New Year's message - has said 2021 is the time to show the vision and the ambition needed to deliver a fresh start, saying that weaknesses exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic has made the desire for change even stronger.
The full text of Mary Lou McDonald's New Year's message is below:
"The past year has been really hard for everybody and we still face massive challenges as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is really important over the coming days and weeks to follow public health advice, stay safe and look after each other. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel as the vaccination programme is being rolled-out. We know that this pandemic will not last forever and life will start to return to normal in the coming year.
"For many, the last year has been about re-evaluating priorities. This started during the General Election campaign and has continued since then.
"It is hard to believe that the election was almost a year ago. It was an election called because the Fine Gael Minister for Health faced a motion of no-confidence because the health system was on the verge of collapse; with staff leaving in their droves, elderly people left to suffer for days on hospital trolleys and out of control waiting lists.
"We had an out of touch government that supported developers and landlords, while working families were unable to afford a home, rents spiralled and people who worked hard all of their lives were told they would have to line up at the dole queue at 65.
"It was the strong desire for change and a better future that saw so many people placing their trust in us as Sinn Féin received a historic vote and our support has continued to grow since.
"The weaknesses exposed by the pandemic have made that desire for change even stronger because people know things can’t go on like this any longer.
"2021 is the time to show the vision and the ambition that is needed to deliver a fresh start.
"We need to continue to support people in the coming months so that businesses can re-open and people can get back to work - but we need to do much more than that.
"A fresh start means being able to afford the roof over your head, and we need the biggest affordable and social housing programme in the history of the State - not big pay days for wealthy developers and big landlords. We need to make homes affordable for workers again and out of control rents must be tackled head-on.
"We need to sort out our health services once and for all - and that starts with treating frontline workers properly and making sure they see their future here in Ireland and not the far side of the world.
"We need to ensure that when you have worked hard all of your life that you have the right to retire on a State pension at 65 if you want to.
"We need to deepen the conversation about Irish Unity and the Irish government needs to start planning, because the reality is that we cannot afford partition - working together on the island is the best way to secure our future.
"Finally, I want to thank all of our members and supporters and our elected representatives for all of your efforts over the last year. I also want to thank our friends right around the world, particularly in the US and Canada. And I want to wish all of you a safe and happy New Year.
"Keep the faith. We will get through this together."