Kathleen Funshion Sinn Féin Representative Carlow/Kilkenny
I want to speak in support of Motion 132 which calls on the Westminster and
Dublin governments to establish the All Ireland Consultative Civic Forum.
The two governments undertook to set this up in the Good Friday Agreement. It is revolutionary, it is exciting, it is to give a voice in governance to the marginalised in our society, who at present, suffer discrimination, exclusion.
There is huge poverty in partitioned Ireland today. 1 in every seven is below the poverty line, and its growing - at least as fast as the records of the Dublin tribunals of inquiry into corruption in the corridors of power. Yet we're told we're one of the richest countries in the world, in terms of GNP per capita. What is going wrong?
Hundreds can't get beds in hospital, Thousands wait on operations they need, 43,000 families can't afford accommodation, Hundreds sleep rough on the streets, Old people die of cold,Young people cannot get afford education at third level.All this because quite simply they can't afford to buy what should be theirs of right: education, health, housing!
Poverty is the denial of human rights. It can be addressed if government looks to the interests of all of the people, cares for the people and their needs as a primary objectives. But they don't.
We have a different vision of a New United Ireland. It must be rights based. It must protect the marginalized, and bring them into the corridors of power, that their needs are met, their rights respected, their voices is heard.
- That we no longer live in a society based on discrimination against those who are not wealthy. Republicans want an Ireland of equals. This is at least what we mean. An Ireland where the human rights of all are respected, simply in virtue of the fact that we are all human beings.
The Consultative Civic Forum, which is to monitor and scrutinise government, to recommend legislation, to oblige an All Ireland government, through the rule of Law enforcing a Bill of rights, to enable an environment of governance whereby those denied rights, can make good their just demands.
Governments come and go. They make wild promises at election times, only to repudiate them once in power. The needs of the marginalised are soon forgotten, because their voices are not heard amongst the jabber of trading empty promises.
Sinn Fein is not for empowering ourselves, we are for empowering all of the people - that groups or communities, be they in the Shankill or in Ballymun, are no longer excluded from society.
Our call for this new institution is not simply a declaration of intent - designed to win votes.
No. It's to demand the implementation of an International Agreement, which we played our part in negotiating, which brings the people themselves into an institution where they may be heard and their rights respected.
I ask the Dublin and Westminster Governments, why not set it up now? Why not now? They have no answer, except that they hold power at present, and would rather not loose it.
It is a dream, but, no mistake, it is within our grasp, a dream which that can be realised. I ask you to support resolution 132.