Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Michelle Gildernew MP - motion 131 and 137

18 February, 2006

Partition is not just bad for nationalists living in the 6 Counties, it is bad for every citizen on this island. Our task is to end it.

We need to move beyond the intransigence of unionism, past the dead hand of the northern civil service and past the West Brit Dublin mindset that has abandoned rural Ireland and our urban communities.

We need to build on Good Friday Agreement commitments and deliver genuine progress on the all-Ireland Agenda.

In February 2004 Sinn Fein submitted detailed plans for the expansion of the all-Ireland Agenda. Others are now catching up.

Peter Hain has now recognised that the Six Counties is unsustainable.

Dermott Ahern's vision has now stretched past Dundalk

The SDLP are moving towards the All-Ireland agenda.

I welcome this. It is happening because Sinn Féin set the pace. But this developing consensus must translate into action. We need to see new areas of cooperation and common policy.

Nowhere is the all Ireland approach more urgent that in tackling the rural crisis that is affecting much of Ireland.

From a northern perspective there are clear benefits in removing "UK" status from food exports from the North. We also need to establish an all-Ireland food promotion agency and an all-Ireland strategy to promote animal health and consumer confidence.

The agricultural industry and rural life in Ireland is being continually damaged by central government on both sides of the border, the EU and world economic policies. It requires an urgent all-Ireland response.

We need greater co-ordination across Ireland to find more effective ways to challenge the implementation of the raft of EU directives that will have a massive impact on the future of farmers.

In the area of GM food and crops there is a need for a single response.

Rural communities are right to feel betrayed. Farm incomes are plummeting, promises of investment in employment; housing and infrastructure in rural areas have been broken.

Thousands will leave the farming industry in the coming years. While Rome burns the Irish government and British direct rule ministers dither and all of the farm organisations and the many vested interests look after their own members. They all know what the problems are, but none have taken the initial steps to allow their industries to come together to tell the governments what is required.

A common agenda for Irish farmers, fishermen and rural communities is essential. There is strength in unity. If Irish farmers took a minute to examine how their French counterparts acted to support each other, they might well learn that united we stand, divided we fall.

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