It gives me great pleasure to address you today and to introduce the international section and motions.
Internationalism is a core element of Irish republicanism.
In our long struggle and while developing our peace strategy we were acutely aware of the importance of international solidarity.
This historic city of Derry, the heart of the Civil Rights Movement in Ireland, a city that saw its citizens shot dead on Bloody Sunday, knows only to the importance of international solidarity.
Austerity policies continue to be forced on highly indebted countries in Europe and many of us share high and unacceptable levels of unemployment, poverty, cuts to public services, and growing inequality.
Where those on low and middle incomes carry an unfair burden a credible left alternative has never been more needed right across Europe.
We are clearly providing that in Ireland but we also need our friends to succeed in other countries.
Sinn Féin have continued to raise international issues in the Oireachtas and challenge the Government’s increasing subservience to an EU Foreign Policy agenda.
This manifests itself in actions that undermine Ireland’s sovereignty and its ability to have an independent foreign policy based on Ireland’s needs and aspirations.
Ireland needs to stand firmly on the side of the colonialized and the oppressed, on side of the poor and marginalised, and not on the side of those who are stripping the planet of its resources for the benefit of the few.
Sinn Féin have continually called on the Spanish Government to support a Basque Peace Process and to resolve outstanding issues relating to Basque political prisoners. The Irish Government need to take a pro-active role in getting the Spanish Government to shift from its negative and anti-peace stance.
The fledging peace process cannot develop if only one side engages.
Sinn Féin fully supports the holding of a binding referendum on Catalan Independence. The refusal of the Spanish State to allow this referendum shows their contempt for the will of the Catalan people.
We also have a war being waged in Ukraine in the East of Europe and we all hope this will be resolved peacefully soon.
We have been vocal and outspoken in our support of the Palestinian people and their demand for freedom.
The Palestinian people continue to brutally face occupation and the abuse of their human rights on a daily basis.
Due to the wholescale destruction of Gaza and the murder of over 2,200 Palestinians in July and August last year, the world witnessed the naked and savage aggression of the Israeli State.
A Sinn Féin motion calling on the Irish Government to officially recognise the State of Palestine, passed with all party support in December.
Sadly we have only seen inaction and heard excuses from the Government since it was passed.
Make no mistake about it, Sinn Féin will not stop until Ireland becomes the 136th country to recognise the State of Palestine.
In motion 156 we detail our continued solidarity to the Socialist Governments of Latin America, and our support of their right to self-determination in the face of a powerful international campaign to destabilise their democratically elected Governments. Venezuela only last month foiled another coup attempt.
Delegates support this motion and stand by these legitimate Governments whose only crime is to introduce policies to tackle poverty, inequality and racism in the region, who are rolling out education and healthcare projects for the poor, and having the audacity to have a different perspective on globalisation, climate change, and tackling hunger.
We have an emergency motion in this section welcomes the release of the 3 remaining members of the Cuban 5 who were wrongly imprisoned in the US. This is an issue Sinn Féin has campaigned on for years and it is fantastic to see the 5 are now safely back home in Cuba with their families.
I want to thank the Irish branch of the Free the Cuban 5 Campaign who worked tirelessly on this issue, and also the late Bernie O Dwyer who was a champion for their case.
I welcome also the steps US President Barack Obama has taken so far to normalise relations with Cuba and call his administration to continue its progressive approach while respecting the sovereignty of the Cuban State
The US Government needs to lift its blockade of Cuba, remove Cuba from the so-called list of "State Sponsors of Terrorism", and to start meaningful negotiations on returning Guantánamo.
We believe the Irish Government needs to improve its bilateral trade and political relationship with Cuba, while working towards the lifting of the so-called EU "Common Position" on Cuba.
To finish, a chairde.
I am calling on all delegates to support all the international motions before you today and to send a strong message of international solidarity from this Ard Fheis.