Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Bairbre de Brún Ard Fheis 2006 Opening speech to EU and International section

17 February, 2006

Sinn Féin MEP for the Six Counties Bairbre de Brún

Can I open this section by welcoming our guests from all across the world who have joined us here this evening.

I want to acknowledge all of the international guests in attendance and the members of the diplomatic corps and to send solidarity greetings to those comrades who cannot be here with us tonight.  I especially want to welcome those in attendance from the European United Left/Nordic Green Left group in the European Parliament. I am sure I also speak on behalf of Mary Lou McDonald when I say that their continued support over this past year is much appreciated.

I specifically want to speak in favour of motion 63 'Making The Case -proposals for an EU support package for Irish reunification' but first I would like to give you a sense of just some of the battles fought out recently on the European stage.

In 2004, Sinn Féin fought the European elections on a clear policy platform of an Ireland of Equals in a Europe of Equals - and this has informed our work since then. We have striven to open up the European Parliament to constituents and communities so that they can access information, challenge decisions and lobby support for their cause.

We have highlighted the role and responsibilities of the EU in relation to world poverty and achieving the Millenium Development goals, to the continued threat from global warming, to the Middle East and Palestine in particular and to the rights of those who seek refuge from war and conflict or who seek a better future within the borders of the EU.

On the home front, the IRA initiatives of July and September of last year were warmly welcomed across the political spectrum in Europe; a PEACE III fund has been secured until 2013 and Irish has been declared an official, working language of the EU with effect from next January.  I want to pay tribute to those who have worked so hard on each of these issues.

The recent announcement of a PEACE III programme for the six counties and border region is recognition by the EU of the need to cement the peace process and peace building in Ireland. We have fought long and hard for this package, in meetings with the European Commission and both the British and Irish Governments.

I want to praise in particular the work of community groups right across the country.  My hope is that future PEACE and IFI funding will enable them to continue to deliver first class peace and reconciliation work in their local communities.

It would be easy to become downhearted or dispirited by the current direction and ideology promoted by the European elites. There has been a full frontal attack upon our public services and the rights of workers. The lie has been constantly peddled that economic growth depends on the denial of social protections and of social equality and can only happen if we abandon effective protection of the environment.

However, a small yet significant fight back has begun. All across Europe people are fighting back against the 'bargain basement' approach to workers' rights which promotes profit at the expense of workers' rights and entitlements.  People in France and the Netherlands ignored the hectoring and the bullying and voted to reject the EU Constitution, and there is a significant and ongoing fight back against both the Bolkestein
or Services Directive and the Port Services Directive.

I want to commend both motion 63 and the accompanying document to this Ard Fheis. As Irish Republicans it would be remiss of us not to look towards the EU to promote Irish reunification.

Partition, and the systematic and sectarian division of the Irish people by Britain, has distorted the Irish economy.

The document makes the case for the EU to live up to its obligations to promote cross-border social and economic integration and to act to overcome the negative effects of partition. It outlines a series of measures which should be undertaken by the EU to encourage greater integration and to ensure the successful conclusion of the peace process.

The EU cannot ignore the very real economic and social advantages brought by a reunified Ireland. It is up to all of us to play our part in challenging the EU to become persuaders for Irish unity.

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