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McDonald addresses Bodenstown commemoration

21 June, 2015 - by Mary Lou McDonald TD

Speaking at the Annual Bodenstown commemoration, Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD made the following address to the crowds assembled.

(Check against delivery)

“Is mór an onóir domsa a bheith os bhur gcomhair inniu ag ócáid chuimhneacháin Wolfe Tone, chun ár dtiomantas dá chuid prionsabail a athnuachan, agus chun cuimhniú ar íobairt a shaol – agus a shaoirse - ar son na bprionsabail sin, prionsabail atá chomh fíor agus chomh h-ionspioráideach inniu, agus a bhí riamh.

One hundred years ago yesterday, on the 20th June 1915, many of the women and men who went on to participate in the 1916 Rising were standing here where we now stand. In that year the guard of honour was made up of equal numbers of Irish Volunteers and Citizen Army members. A few weeks later they gathered in large numbers to bury the veteran Fenian Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa.  This year on the 1st of August we in Sinn Féin will re-enact this historic occasion on the streets of Dublin, the first of our national events marking the centenary of the Easter Rising.

Wolfe Tone was a political man of his time.

We must try to understand him in the context of his time and interpret his message and legacy for today. In doing so we stand by the principles to which Tone and his comrades dedicated their lives – liberty for our nation, equality of all our citizens and peace and fraternity among the people of Ireland.

Today we pay homage to the strength of his convictions that brought him on a long political journey ending here in this graveyard but also to the ideals for which he fought and died. His political struggles would in many ways foreshadow those of later generations.

As with the civil rights movement in the 1960s

Tone's peaceful demands were met with state violence.

Sectarianism too was used by the British government to divide the Irish people.

The British government sought to crush the United Irishmen in the 1790s because they challenged the sectarian regime based on landlordism and colonialism, and because they sought Irish independence. London was determined to defend privilege within Ireland and to prevent Ireland from taking its place among the nations.

Tone sought the aid of the French Republic and did so with great success, acting as the voice of Ireland in revolutionary France. He secured three French expeditions to our shores.

While those expeditions failed militarily, the legacy of Tone and the United Irish Society endured. And endures to this day.

And so we are proud to follow Tone and assert the right of the Irish people to national independence, sovereignty and neutrality.

We are proud to follow Tone to build solidarity between Irish people of all religious denominations and none.

We are proud to follow Tone because we oppose privilege and elitism; we believe that our country belongs to all of the people and the women and men of no property. 

Golden circles take note!

We are proud to follow Tone as we work for and are determined to achieve a United Ireland. Tone summed it up well:

‘To say in one word, Ireland shall be independent.

We shall be a nation, not a province, citizens not slaves’.

The rock on which our new Republic will be based will be the motto of the United Irish Society. One single, powerful word – Equality. That is our watchword.

It is the driving impulse for unity of our country and our people. It is the basis upon which we challenge partition and an economic and social status quo which favours the few at the expense of the many.

Wolfe Tone's political vision is radical to this day. And challenging.

It challenges Irish men and Irish women to break the Union with Britain.  It challenges us to confront sectarianism and division within our society. It challenges us to seize our place among the nations and to build an equal, inclusive Ireland.

In the coming months as Dáil elections draw near, the government parties will trumpet what they claim as achievements over the past four years.

Behind their almighty bluster and bluff, stands the real record of Fine Gael and Labour while in government. Having cut families and communities to the bone, having crippled public services and having dispatched an entire generation to the emigrant trail, they now tell us that there is an economic recovery.

Tell that to the children living in emergency accommodation, in hotel rooms and B&Bs.

Tell it to the families who, as we speak, face into the second half of 2015 without a home because of exorbitant rent rises or because sales of their rental homes have left them without a roof over their heads.

Tell it to the 100 year old women lying on hospital trollies in Accident and emergency departments; tell it to the unemployed and the working poor - workers struggling on low wages just trying to get by.

For these people and more, the green shoots of recovery are not to be seen.

Real recovery is felt in better public services and in better job opportunities, wages and conditions for workers. What we are seeing is a rise in low wage employment, zero hour contracts and total lack of employment stability for working people. Conditions of work achieved by decades of worker and trade union struggle are being eroded. The treatment of workers in Dunnes and Clerys, to name just two examples, demonstrate a very dangerous trend. Exploitation of workers is a reality. It must be tackled head on. We send our solidarity to those workers today and we will continue to demand full protections for working people.

There is no a real recovery, in the true sense. It is a recovery only for some, this is a two tier recovery where those at the top will always do well and will always be protected and the rest whose household budgets are already at breaking point many who don’t even have even a basic standard of living are expected to find the extra money somehow to pay for property charges and for the basic human necessity of water.

If this government is interested in recovery for struggling families they could take a leaf out of our book in the North and abolish domestic water charges. They should do that now. For these families there is no recovery.

It is on the shoulders of such families that the crippling bank debts rest. The same banks that give no respite to the thousands suffering mortgage distress they have been persistently inflexible and shameless in refusing to pass onto distressed mortgage holders the benefits from the favorable interest rates that they receive from the European Central Bank.

And the government is letting them get away with it.

Shame on them.

Having placed the burden of cuts on the backs of working people, having forced the majority to clean up the mess created by the greed and corruption of a tiny minority, this government now wants to talk up a recovery that excludes working people and their families.

They can forget about that.

Crumbs from the fat cats table are not enough.

There is no difference between the ideology of the present government in Dublin and the Tories in London

Yesterday Martin McGuiness addressed a quarter of a million people at an anti-austerity rally in London. We stand with communities in Athens, London, Edinburgh and Cardiff and against the Tories in Britain, Dublin and Brussels

We know what side we are on

We are on the republican side, standing with the people. We will continue to fight Tory cuts – whether they come from Dublin or London.

And we will fight for a fair recovery; for investment in services and decent jobs, for fair taxation, for secure homes and protections for people at vulnerable times in their lives.

At the heart of building an equal Ireland is the ending of cronyism and corruption in Irish political life.

The recent public outcry about controversial IBRC transactions – particularly Siteserv - reflected the people’s rejection of the terrible, but predictable, vista of cosy relationships between political and business insiders.

A democratic revolution is what we need.

A new political ethic is what we need.

A new government is what we need.

In the recent Westminster elections our eighteen Sinn Fein candidates received a strong mandate to stand up against Tory cuts. We ran a confident, positive election campaign based on the progressive politics of Irish unity and equality for all citizens.

We will honour our mandate.

We will stand up and be counted – for a proper budget for the north and against Tory cuts.

I would like to thank here today all our candidates, their families and our tireless activists.

Each of us can learn from the past if we choose to. The legacy of Tone shapes our politics today. So too does the experiences and suffering of all our people – green and orange – over the most recent years of conflict. Republicans are committed to a process of reconciliation that is inclusive and helps bring closure to victims, their families and survivors. 

We are ready to hold the difficult conversations and we will truthfully talk of the past and we will listen to other

For their part the British government has to account for its policy of collusion, its alliances with unionist paramilitaries and murder gangs. The British government’s narrative has varied from absolute denial of collusion to partial acknowledgement. The final step is full acceptance and the truth.

The British state must acknowledge its involvement in directing unionist murder gangs.

The evidence is incontrovertible; the British Government and its military forces actively colluded with unionist paramilitaries to cause the deaths of many hundreds of people in the conflict.

That evidence was highlighted again in the past week. Republicans have long sought to highlight collusion during the conflict but establishment politicians and the media, especially in this State, chose to ignore it.

It was dismissed as republican propaganda.

Yet you only had to survey the course of Irish history to see the legacy of local forces being used as arms of the British state and as counter-insurgency forces – be it the Orange gangs in the 1790s, the UVF in 1920 or the UDA in 1972. The truth is now being exposed and it is time for the British
Government to open its files and to provide the disclosure, the truth and the justice that the survivors and the bereaved deserve.

Next year we have the prospect of a general election in the south.

There is an historic opportunity to reshape Irish politics. Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail have failed generations of Irish people. They have left a legacy of low standards in government, shattered hopes and dreams.

Sinn Fein will deliver for all of our citizens and provide the principled leadership this country has been lacking. Sinn Féin is for a REAL economic recovery – a FAIR recovery. 

We want to see a recovery built on the secure foundation of sustainable economic growth, with decent jobs, a living wage, an end to inequality, an end to the blight of cronyism and golden circles.

Sinn Fein will actively work for Irish Unity and bring about the Republic dreamt of by Wolf Tone. As we approach the centenary year of the 1916 rising, we ask ever Irish woman and man – Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter - to help fulfil the dreams of those who signed the proclamation and the vision of Wolfe Tone.

To stand with us and each other to make Ireland – united and equal - a nation we can all be proud of once again.  GRMA” 

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