Debating the republican labour alternative
BY DEIRDRE FEEHAN
Saturday's debates began with the section on Sinn Féin's republican labour vision. It included discussion on issues such as housing, health, employment, transport, the environment, rural development, child care, culture and abortion.
Belfast republicans Jim Gibney and Martin Meehan told the Ard Fheis of the need for a strong, vibrant and effective campaigning dimension to Sinn Féin's struggle. Meehan explained the importance of campaigns, which, he said, are the cutting edge of the struggle: ``Without mobilisations, we become another political party like the SDLP.''
Gibney said that Sinn Féin is a growing political party now in a new phase of struggle. He said political influence is essential, but ``it is not enough to rely on electoral forums and the media. We rely on the people. People are central to everything Sinn Féin does. It is essential that we maintain the cutting edge and campaigning edge of our party.''
Michael Pierse of the O'Malley/Russell Cumann, Dublin, spoke on the need to reaffirm Sinn Féin's commitment to the cause of a 32-county socialist republic and stated that it was essential for this to remain the core principle of all party policy. Pierse said: ``Enhancing our profile as a socialist party is the duty of all party members from top to bottom. It is the duty of leadership figures to highlight our socialist aspect more vociferously whenever the opportunity arises.
``Many Irish people are sick of establishment corruption and are tired of a political scene which is consistently `middle of the road'. There is a mood for a radical party and we must take the initiative that springs from it.''
Sinn Féin Assembly member Michelle Gildernew welcomed the 26-County government's green paper on abortion. Aanother referendum is not needed, she said, but it was now time for TDs to legislate accordingly. ``We already had a referendum, now we need legislation. There is an imperative of acting quickly on this issue. Sinn Féin needs the legislative process to further the debate.''
One speaker stated that Sinn Féin is a republican party built on respect for human life and articulated the need to preserve and value every life.
Matt Carthy, Ógra Shinn Féin National Organiser and councillor for Carrickmacross, called for a recognition of the potential youth can play in society and supported the call for the creation of more effective youth services which need the involvement of young people themselves. Another speaker referred to the vulnerable position of young people in society and supporting the call for an improvement in their environment, said prevention is a more viable method than intervention.