McGuinness expresses hope for the future
Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP speaking at the begining of the party's 2007 Ard Fheis said " I stand before you this evening at a time of great hope. A time of great opportunity. A time when we have within our sights the prospect of Ian Paisley, who began with 'Never', moved to 'No', then 'Maybe' and now a possible, some say probable 'Yes' finally accepting his nationalist and republican neighbours as equals."
He said: "I have spoken at many Ard Fheiseanna during my years within the
leadership of this party. Many of those speeches were made during the most
difficult of times for this party and our community. During the years of
collusion or shoot to kill or censorship.
However I stand before you this evening at a time of great hope. A time of great opportunity. A time when we have within our sights the prospect of Ian Paisley, who began with 'Never', moved to 'No', then 'Maybe' and now a possible, some say probable 'Yes' finally accepting his nationalist and republican neighbours as equals.
The recent democratic decision taken by the Extraordinary Ard Fheis on Policing here few short weeks ago in addition to creating momentum to deliver a new beginning to policing, has liberated the political process. It has allowed republicans to once again seize the political initiative and place enormous pressure onto the rejectionists and the naysayers to do the business.
And make no mistake about it - you - the people in this hall have created the conditions in which the DUP have to accept for the first time ever power sharing and all Ireland arrangements if they want to be part of shaping the future. If that happens it will be truly historic, an acceptance by the leader of unionism that the days of unionist domination are over and, potentially, the beginning of a process of national reconciliation.
Indeed our political opponents have in recent days continually expressed their belief that a power sharing government headed by Ian Paisley and myself could not work. I believe that their real fear is that such an arrangement just might succeed. What the media often terms the 'centre ground' would be more accurately described as waste ground of failed political initiative after failed political initiative.
We will take no lectures from them on securing political progress when you look at what we have delivered in the course of the past 10 years and more. Our record of delivery is second to none.
Indeed the same goes for the parties here in the South. Their concern is not about our presence in government. Their real concern is about the job we would do when we got there. I believe that we would quickly show to the people that we were doing a better job than those who have sat around the Irish Cabinet tables for years squandering opportunity after opportunity and paying lip service to partition and inequality, and they know and fear that.
If the DUP refuse at this time to be part of the process of change, then the process moves on through new all-Ireland partnership arrangements. The DUP veto over progress has been removed. This is the logic of the Sinn Fein strategy over recent years. Politics, business, commerce and much more are now pointing in one all-Ireland direction. They are pointing in that direction because we have opened up the space for this to happen. We have laid the foundation upon which a new all-Ireland dispensation is being constructed.
These are truly exciting times to be an Irish Republican. There are more and more people from across all walks of life on the island who see the folly of partition and its increasing irrelevance in a modern world. Our job is to mould these people into a truly national movement for freedom. We need to engage with those traditionally hostile to our view. We need to demonstrate to unionism that their future lies with the rest of us in truly united and independent country.
Indeed we take credit for putting a united Ireland onto the political agenda and for the conversion of every party in this state, bar McDowell's PDs, onto this agenda. And I very much welcome this.
Indeed the SDLP over recent weeks have been delivering ŒDiscover United Ireland' brochures through doors in the north. Indeed their latest manifesto after 35 years might be described by their former Deputy Leader as 'a United Ireland for slow learners'. Where Sinn Féin lead others follow.
Sinn Fein stands ready for government. And rest assured the tenacity, vision and commitment with which we have driven forward the peace process will be brought to bear on the issues of government which really affect people's lives, be it water charges, rural development,poverty, rate hikes, the care of the elderly or health and education.
The process of change cannot stand still - we will not let it. We would prefer to continue generating change from within the Assembly, Executive and All-Ireland Ministerial Council. But, if for whatever reason, if the DUP lose their nerve, we will continue driving forward our progressive all-Ireland agenda regardless - the days of unionism being able to dictate to a confident vibrant nationalist community are over. The vetoes are gone.
Second class citizenship is no more.
So as we approach the coming weeks and months remain focused on the big picture. Where we want to be, what we want to achieve, in the next 12 months before we gather here again. We all must set ourselves targets to achieve in the course of the nest year. There has to be more TDs here next year. More Assembly members and more government Ministers, and equally importantly there has to be more members.
We must continue to build the struggle for Irish freedom, north and south, on the streets, in government, in our communities. Our strength in the Assembly in the north and the Dail in the south delivers an all-Ireland approach that no other party has. Our struggle is moving forward across all levels of society on this island.
The elections north and south are the next step forward for a freedom struggle which is systematically challenging and removing partition on this island.
That is our job. It is a mighty responsibility, but it is one which this party has to deliver on. And it is one which I believe we can and we will.