A campaigning party
BY ROISIN DE ROSA
Delegates spoke about many of the campaign issues in which they are involved in the struggle to share the wealth.
They spoke about a society where the poor, the unemployed, the marginalised, the dispossessed have not benefited from the huge largesse which has accrued in the economy, the injustice of parasitic landlords, the tax cheats, financial speculators, the demise of the small farmers, the failure of the government to address the problems of health, housing, transport, or to provide adequate sustainable jobs, and the need for government to address regional inequality across the country, north and south.
It was a catalogue of injustice and failures of government.
Francie Molloy led off on the need to harmonise tax rates across the country to avoid increasing dependence on and competition between north and south for multinational investment. The partitioned economy was finished, we need to build for equality.
dy Connolly from Navan, in a powerful speech, talked of a people dispossessed in their own land, a people on an average income who cannot even afford housing, and of small farmers who will not be able to absorb the projected 20% cuts in income this year.
These points were taken up later by Dessie Ellis from Dublin, who rounded on the 26-County government for failing to address health because they refused to pay the nurses adequately, and by Larry O'Toole, who spoke to an emergency motion in support of Dublin's bus workers, who had been expected to pay for the failure of government transport policy, their policies of privatisation and the downgrading of workers in service industries.
When the ink is hardly dry on the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness, busworkers had to go to strike to get a tiny increase in wages. ``Who is the prosperity for?'' Larry asked.
A major issue in the debate was waste management, which Daithí Doolan, also from Dublin, pointed out in a very strong speech was a social, economic and political issue. Owen Smith and Brian McKenna from Monaghan and Maeve Healy from Drogheda all made powerful speeches against the privatisation of waste collection and for community control of waste.
They strongly opposed attempts to pass on the costs of waste disposal to households. The Ard Fheis resolved to oppose privatisation of local authority services and committed Sinn Féin to oppose the introduction of refuse charges, a form of double taxation, in corporation and county council areas throughout the 26 Counties.
Arthur Morgan from Louth talked of the terrible level of death from cancers in County Louth, averaging an incredible 14 per month, and recalled that Alan Mullen, who the previous had called on delegates to shout the message to close Sellafield from the rooftops, had died from cancer just six weeks later.
Noel Keelan from Monaghan spoke about ground rents and deplored the fact that the Dublin government had done nothing to meet its promise to abolish them. TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin pointed out that the government had no intention whatsoever of doing anything about ground rents, and gave a commitment that Sinn Féin would introduce its own bill.
Cionnaith Ó Súilleabháin from Clonakilty spoke of the scandal of the road testing charge which many people are unable to meet. People on medical cards should be exempt from car testing charges, he said.
Speaking to an emergency resolution, Mayo's Vincent Woods called on the government to reassess the extraordinary tax breaks given to Enterprise Oil for exploration of the Corrib gas and oil field.
Martin Ferris, from the Kingdom of Kerry, closed the debate. He spoke of the demise of the small farmers of the West, who had been neglected by the CAP funding. ``It has meant the end of communities in the West. By 2010, there will be only 20,000 farmers left. They will be the corporate farmers. The crisis of depopulation of the West needs to be addressed urgently.''