Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Sinn Féin South Down MLA Caitríona Ruane - opening Equality and Human Rights section Ard Fheis 2006

17 February, 2006

'Equality is the touchstone issue for everyone'

Lá i ndiaidh lae feicimid pictiúir uafáis ó achan carn den domhain le sárú ceart, déileáil táirthe agus mídhaonnachúil, céasadh, tragóid, bochtaineacht.

Anseo in Éirinn, is í fís s'againne ná Éire Aontaithe ina bhfuil cearta gach duine faoi chosaint agus curtha chun cinn.

Tá Éire deighilte le teorainn bhréagach a chruthaíonn agus a bhuanaíonn bochtaineacht agus le teip iomlán rialtas na hÉireann agus rialtas na Breataine araon cearta daonna gach duine a chosaint agus a chur chn cinn ar bhonn cothrom.

The gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing. The wealth that should enrich the nation and create huge opportunities is being squandered.

The right to a fair wage, to education, to a decent home has not been upheld.

The rights of immigrants, of the Travelling community, of people living in poverty, of older people, of the gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender community are being ignored and undermined.

Yet, the rights of the rich and powerful - the vested interests - are being protected at the expense of all others. Here in Ireland the two governments have declared that rights are for sale to the highest bidder.

But people can challenge the status quo. The civil rights movement rocked the British and Irish establishments to their foundation. The rise of Sinn Féin has also created profound challenges for the establishment.

There has been progress. There is still a long road to be travelled.

We need to stand shoulder to shoulder with campaigns like the Rossport 5, workers rights campaigns, campaigns on the rights of immigrants and Asylum Seekers, the rights of nationalists in the Six Counties. People with disabilities, people in our psychiatric institutions, Travellers, young people in the criminal justice system.

Violence against women and children knows no borders and Sinn Féin will stand with those who protect their rights.

We need to fight for the rights of people in Tallaght, on the Shankill, Tralee and the Bogside.

Our activists are passionate and committed. Working at local level with communities whose quality of life needs uplifted but who continue to find themselves among the poorest and most vulnerable.

Equality is the touchstone issue for every republican everywhere. Its achievement is the key to unlocking the stranglehold of discrimination in the North.

In the Six Counties we still have councils like Larne and Lisburn where unionists refuse to share power, where discrimination is alive and kicking.

We still have government agencies like Invest NI that refuse to invest equally in border areas and councils like Newry and Mourne, South Down, West of the Bann, north and west Belfast.

Whether it is on the grounds of political affiliation, religion, gender, disability, race or sexual orientation - Sinn Féin will fight discrimination wherever it exists.

At the heart of our vision for an Ireland of Equals we must build on the work of the civil rights movements, we must connect with people who are being excluded and marginalised.

This means that all of our working must be built upon a rights based approach and it means that we need to work to strengthen the tools and mechanisms that allow us to win the key rights battles by those who are being forgotten and ignored.

I want to move motions 25, 26 and 27.

Because we need an effective Bill of Rights that can protect the rights of all rights across the island and we need a Human Rights Commission that has the powers and remit to challenge the failures of the British and Irish governments, and an all Ireland Charter of Rights.

Sinn Féin will not tolerate discrimination in any of its forms. I charge everyone leaving this hall today to go out and use these tools, campaign on the ground, confront discrimination and make change.

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