Irish Republican News · March 1, 2008
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Adams address to Sinn Fein Ard Fheis 2008
Adams address to Sinn Fein Ard Fheis 2008

The following is an abridged version of Gerry Adams’s Presidential Address delivered this evening to the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis 2008.

Fáilte mór romhaibh uilig chuig an Ard Fheis Sinn Féin.

Tá sé iontach ag seasamh anseo ag labhairt libh agus tá mé bródúil as an deis.

Tá a lán athraithe i ndiaidh tarlú go háirithe sa tuaisceart.

Is deacar do dhaoine a chreidbheal na hathraithe ansin ach tá muid ar son athrú a dhéanamh ní amháin sa tuaisceart ach anseo sa chuid seo den tír.

Since we last met here in the RDS the political situation has been transformed.

The unimaginable - some would say the unbelievable - has happened.

Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness are sitting as equal partners, in a power sharing government in the north.

In addition, Michelle Gildernew, is the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development; Conor Murphy is the Minister for Regional Development; Caitríona Ruane is the Minister for Education; and Gerry Kelly is a Junior Minister in the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

Today Sinn Féin Ministers are placing equality at the heart of decision-making in the North for the first time.

The All-Ireland political institutions are up and running and are starting to make a real impact.

A few weeks ago led by An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, eleven Ministers from the North - four of them Shinners - and eleven from the South, discussed a range of matters affecting all the people of this island.

And there wasn’t an English Minister about the place.

Nach deas é a fheiceáil.

Who would have thought it possible?

Well, I don’t want to be telling you ‘I told you so’, but I did.

At the Ard Fheis last year and in 2006 we set out our objectives for the negotiations.

These were:

• to end the suspension of the political institutions;

• to ensure that there would be no dilution of the Good Friday Agreement;

• to deliver on outstanding aspects of the Agreement;

• and to bring the debate on policing to a conclusion.

And we did all of this openly and democratically.

And with the very active involvement of this great political party, Sinn Féin.

So when Sinn Féin says we deliver that is exactly what we do and when people say to me ‘well done’ or ‘keep up the good work’ they’re really saying it to you, the members and activists of the best political party on this island.

You’ve all done a tremendous job.

Go raibh mile maith agaibh go leir.

REPUBLICAN INITIATIVES

40 years ago - in 1968 - when I was much younger - the civil rights movement in the north took to the streets.

It united republicans, nationalists, socialists and other progressive forces around basic demands.

It became organic and spontaneous, and won mass support in a way which is an example for us today.

The attack on that movement in Derry in October of that year was the beginning of the slide into a conflict which lasted for more than a quarter of a century.

It took republican initiatives and a republican peace strategy to create the conditions in which a political agreement could be forged 10 years ago this April.

While others played their part, republicans played a key role in putting together the Good Friday Agreement.

And we have played an even bigger part in working for its full implementation.

So, for very good reasons we stand by the Good Friday Agreement.

It was endorsed by the people of Ireland, north and south.

It addresses many of the causes of the conflict and provides a peaceful political path towards Irish unity for those who support that objective.

But it is work in progress.

There are still outstanding issues around the rights and entitlements of Irish speakers.

There is no Bill of Rights in any part of this island and regional disparity in the allocation of investment is a fact of life, north and south.

Effective targeting of areas of greatest social need has not been realized.

And sectarianism continues to be a dreadful scourge.

Níl seans ar bith go mbeidh muid ag glacadh sos nó ag cúlú ó rud ar bith.

Tá na cearta seo tuillte ag daoine agus beidh muid ag obair gan stad iad a bhaint amach.

So, there can be no relaxation, or lowering of our guard.

There is still a lot of work to do.

TRANSFER OF POWERS ON POLICING AND JUSTICE

Last year, we took the historic decision to endorse policing structures in the north.

I commend our elected representatives who have taken their places on the Policing Board and local District Policing Partnerships.

Already, a significant difference is being made.

The next necessary stage in this process is the transfer of policing and justice powers to the Executive and away from the British government.

Rinne an dá rialtas an conradh, shínigh saidsan é - ní féidir leo rith ar shiúl anois, nó suí ar na lámha.

Let me be clear. We expect the British and Irish governments to honour the commitments they made at St. Andrews.

The DUP has said they will not agree to this, at this time. And they have advanced a number of spurious reasons for this.

They claim that there is not sufficient public confidence - that the time is not right.

I disagree strongly. I believe that the majority of people, nationalist and unionist, want these powers transferred now.

They want local accountable politicians dealing with issues as diverse as police call out times for emergencies and the PSNI’s response to anti-social behaviour and sex crime.

36 years ago it was unionists who collapsed the Stormont regime because the British removed law and order powers.

It is ironic that nowadays it is unionists who are objecting to the return of these powers.

THE STATE OF UNIONISM

Sinn Féin has always been willing to put ourselves in other peoples shoes, to understand their difficulties, and where this has been possible, to accommodate this in the national interest.

But we cannot lead unionism.

Only unionist leaders can do that.

Historians have recorded that the demands of the civil rights movement 40 years ago could not have been conceded by the unionist ruling class without provoking a crisis on their own side.

They decided not to risk such a crisis. The rest is history.

This dilemma continues to afflict unionism today.

Most people were uplifted, if a little taken aback, by the visible signs that Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley have a civilised working relationship.

Others within unionism, who are opposed to this process, including some within Ian Paisley’s own party, have an opposite view.

They are against power sharing.

And they have been actively seeking to bring it to an end.

And that is the context for the refusal to agree the transfer of powers on policing and justice at this time.

It is a sad commentary on the state of unionism that the focus of some is to force a situation where Paisley must go.

The political institutions, and let us commend them for this, would not be in place if long sighted DUP leaders had not taken the initiative.

They need to stand up to the rejectionists to ensure the stability and durability of the institutions.

Níl aon dul as.

The DUP has to fulfill its obligations on a range of issues, including policing and justice powers, and the Irish language.

In fact, the future of the DUP, the future of unionism, and of the power sharing arrangements will be decided, to a very large extent, by the way DUP leaders deal with these matters.

Sinn Féin is very conscious of the problems facing the DUP.

Any leadership intent on managing a process of transition will face difficulties.

But the long term resolution of these difficulties is never found in pandering to the lowest common denominator; or by standing still; or by doing nothing.

The Sinn Féin leadership knows this.

We have consistently faced up to difficult challenges.

We have consistently faced down those who would take our people back to conflict.

They are the past - not the future.

Martin McGuinness leads our Ministerial team. He and Gerry Kelly do sterling work in the office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

I want to commend them and to thank everyone involved in this pioneering work.

Ní bheidh muid ag dul ar ais go dtí na laethanta dorcha sin.

It is a matter for the DUP who leads their party. It is not our business and we will continue to work in good faith with them.

Our message to the them and to unionism is a fraternal message.

We are working with you in the power sharing government.

We want to deliver for people across the island.

So we want to continue working with you.

But we can only judge any party or its leadership on its willingness to promote the process of peace and reconciliation.

We can only judge it on how it honours its obligations.

We have a message also for the naysayers.

This process will prevail.

Outstanding matters whether An Acht na Gaeilge or the Transfer of Policing and Justice Powers, will be secured.

There can be no doubt about that.

DELIVERING FOR VICTIMS AND SURVIVORS

The process of conflict resolution is far from over. Many families - republican and unionist - are still grieving and are still seeking answers regarding the deaths of their loved ones.

They all deserve the truth.

We remember them and all those who lost their lives during the course of the conflict.

Go ndeana Dia trócaire orthú uilig.

Sinn Fein is committed to the establishment of a truth recovery process that delivers for all victims and survivors.

But, there is a serious question over the British government’s commitment to such a process.

They refused to co-operate properly with the Barron Inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings; they won’t hand over files in relation to the killing of Pat Finucane and others; and they willfully stalled and obstructed the Saville Inquiry, delaying justice for these families.

Tá sé in am don rialtas Shasanagh - agus a fórsaí uilig, faoi rún agus oscailte - teacht amach agus ádmhail go raibh siad páirteach sa chogadh a tharla anseo le níos mó ná triocha bliain.

Bhí said lárnach agus bhí said cionntach as a gcuid sa streachtailt seo.

It is time for the British government to stop the cover up and to take responsibility for their role in the conflict.

And it is the time for the Irish government to stop letting them off the hook.

But that is only one aspect of the challenge facing us if we are to genuinely succeed in delivering even more fundamental change in the time ahead.

CAMPAIGNING FOR IRISH RE-UNIFICATION

I believe that we are closer to bringing about Irish re-unification than at any time in our past.

Despite ingrained partitionism within the Irish establishment, there is growing support for Irish unity and there is a growing awareness of the importance of the all-Ireland economy to this nation’s future.

But none of this will happen by chance.

We need to set out how we reach this historic goal, how we create the conditions for a united Ireland.

In the coming weeks I will be establishing a high powered taskforce led by Martin Ferris, Gerry Kelly, Larry Downes, Bairbre de Brún and Rita O’Hare - to drive forward the roadmap to Irish unity.

Over the years we have looked to our friends in the USA and across the world to support the Irish peace process.

And without their support we would not have succeeded.

As we approach the one hundredth anniversary of the 1916 Rising we are asking the Irish Diaspora to put its full weight behind a renewed campaign for Irish re-unification.

I would invite others of like mind to come on board and to make it a genuine movement for change over the next number of years.

We need to set out in detail the benefits of a united Ireland and ensure that practical arrangements are accelerated.

We need the involvement of ordinary people across the island.

We need to continue our engagement with the Unionist people, many of whom now accept that an end to British government engagement in Irish affairs may be no bad thing.

The benefits of the all island economy; of cross border co-operation; the harmonisation of taxation; the greater efficiencies and improved standards that can be delivered in health, education and other public services, are becoming more evident.

And Sinn Féin representatives have been to the forefront in exploring and developing the all island dimension.

The proclamation of 1916 sets out a vision of an independent Ireland, a society based on the notion of equality for all, on justice and real democracy.

Tá a’fhios againn uilig cé chomh deacair is atá sé chun Éire Úr, le cearta agus comhionnanas ag croílár polasaithe an rialtais, a thógáil.

Translating all of this to the Ireland of today means a society where there is equal access to proper standards of health and education; where there is control of our natural resources so that these can be developed in the interests of all; an end to the corruption that has marred politics over many years; and an end to the divisions between a class of super rich and the vast majority of ordinary tax paying citizens.

It means a respect and promotion of our culture, our language, art and literature rather than their downgrading, and a welcome for the new Irish who have come to build their lives in this country.

LISBON TREATY IS A BAD DEAL FOR IRELAND - WE DESERVE BETTER

It also means facing up to the challenge posed by the Lisbon Treaty.

This Treaty envisages deeper Irish involvement in EU battle groups, in the European Defence Agency, in the Partnership for Peace military alliance, and in NATO.

These are being introduced by stealth without any real debate on their consequences.

The Lisbon Treaty gives EU institutions too much power.

These proposals are about reducing the political clout of the Irish people, including the right to stop EU laws that are not in the Irish national interest.

Citizens of this state are being asked to make changes across a range of issues involving international relations, security, trade and economic policy.

Germany, France, Britain and Italy will each nearly double their voting strength in making EU laws under the Lisbon Treaty while smaller states, like this one, will all have less weight.

Irish people are being asked to vote for a reduction by half in our voting strength on the council of Ministers - the highest decision making body of the European Union.

The Lisbon Treaty means that this state will be without an EU Commissioner on the body that proposes all European Union laws for five out of every 15 years.

This loss of power could have serious consequences for the farming community and the economy.

Irish representatives will not even be in the room when the decisions are taken.

Níl sé ceart agus níl sé cothrom go bhfuil an rialtas i mBaile Átha Cliath ag geilleadh tuilleadh cumhachata don Eorap.

Tá muid bródúil go bhfuil Sinn Féin an t-aon pháirtí sa Dáil atá ag seasamh in éadan Conradh Liospóin.

The Irish government failed to stand up for the national interest in the negotiations on the Lisbon Treaty.

Dustin the turkey would have done better.

The result is a bad deal for Ireland.

The question now is what can we do about it.

The first step is to vote NO in the referendum.

This will bring EU leaders back to the table.

We then need to ensure that the three government parties negotiate a better deal.

This means securing a specific article protecting neutrality; securing opt outs ending support for nuclear power, the European Defence Agency, and other contributions to EU military expenditure.

It means working with other EU countries to strengthen democracy and create new provisions promoting public services.

Membership of the EEC and the EU has brought benefits to this country.

These have included infrastructural investment; progressive legislation on workers rights and women’s rights; crucial support for the peace process, and positive environmental initiatives.

But these have not come without a cost.

Including the almost complete destruction of our hugely valuable fishing industry.

A growing loss of power.

And the abandonment of a progressive and independent foreign policy.

The electorate is being threatened that if the Irish people vote No we will be marginalised across Europe.

Tá sé seannalach go bhfuil rialtas na hÉireann ag úsáid an sort beartaíochta seo sa lá atá inniu.

The same type of scare tactics were used during the recent general election.

But as is now obvious this worked only for the scaremongers now in government.

It did not work for the electorate and many voters, for good reasons, now regret voting as they did last May.

So, they will not be bullied or cajoled, or fooled so easily again.

That is why the Taoiseach has not named a date for the referendum.

The government does not want a focus on the Treaty’s central provisions.

Instead they will try to dumb down the debate and turn into a false one for or against ‘Europe’, for being in or out of the European Union.

Ireland’s place is in Europe.

And regardless of the outcome of the referendum Ireland’s place is secure.

But Ireland can do better.

No matter what the Yes camp says Irish citizens can support Europe and be against this Treaty.

You can support Europe and be for greater democracy and accountability.

You can support Europe and be for neutrality.

The Lisbon Treaty is not in Ireland’s interest. It should be rejected.

A STRONG VOICE INTERNATIONALLY

And just to emphasise one important point on neutrality.

Our commitment to neutrality is grounded in the belief that the Irish people’s long struggle for freedom and independence has won the respect of people all over the world.

This has been enhanced by the success of the Irish peace process.

So, the Irish are seen by many as honest brokers in areas of conflict, particularly in regions that have suffered from colonial and imperialist domination.

But, this requires a government and political system which is prepared to fight for progressive and egalitarian core values instead of slavishly following the direction of more powerful global forces.

This government is out of step with this nation.

The vast majority of Irish people have a principled position in global politics which is not subservient to whatever big power happens to call the shots.

For example, on the Middle East.

What is the government doing to oppose the appalling treatment of the Palestinian people who are entitled to their own viable state?

Nothing.

What is the government doing about the unjust invasion and occupation by the US and Britain of Iraq?

Nothing.

Sinn Féin is very clear on these issues.

The occupation of Palestinian Territories must end.

The war in Iraq must end.

We are also against the demonisation of leaders in countries seeking to exercise their sovereignty and control of their own resources such as Venezuela, Cuba and more recently Bolivia and Ecuador.

Tá fís réabhlóideach, radachach, idirnáisiuntach ag Sinn Féin agus tá muid bródúil as.

Last week, on your behalf I extended best wishes to President Fidel Castro on his retirement.

This Ard Fheis extends solidarity to him - Hasta Siempre, a chara.

Sinn Fein has a global vision which is to promote real democracy.

That is why we have helped with processes in the Middle East, in Sri Lanka, between the people of the Basque country and Spain, and in Iraq.

We also seek an end to the gross levels of global poverty and corruption, through genuine international co-operation.

STANDARDS IN PUBLIC LIFE

Of course, in order for Sinn Fein to succeed in making our voice heard in these and other matters we need to grow as a party.

To achieve that we need to deepen our roots in communities.

We need to work with others who want positive political and economic change.

During this Ard Fheis we have set out detailed and robust policies on priority issues.

These include, the environment, the improvement of public transport and infrastructure, and tackling the serious problem of drugs and crime.

Tá muid dairíre agus seasmhach fá sochaí úr a thógáil anseo in Éirinn.

Let’s be clear about the dangers facing our society.

If a two-tier system is allowed to further develop in education and health and housing, it will deepen divisions in society and contribute to even greater levels of crime and poverty.

If the rich and super rich are sheltered by government tax concessions, or allowed to avoid their tax responsibilities, ordinary people will become more and more disillusioned.

There is also a growing despair and cynicism about standards in public life.

There is a widespread and dangerous belief among the general public, north and south, that politicians are either corrupt or corruptible.

And the result is a growing disengagement from politics, and a cynicism about politicians.

How often do you hear somebody say; ‘sure they’re all the same’.

How effective can any democracy be if hundreds of thousands of people don’t vote and if there is a growing scepticism about the whole political process?

If graft and sleaze and corruption are the order of the day?

I support the work of the Tribunals but I believe that much more is required.

We are not looking to canonise public representatives but society is entitled to expect the highest standards from everyone in public life.

Public representatives should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to anyone who might influence them in the carrying out of their duties.

The people of this island need a national conversation about all this, and about the kind of society we want to live in.

Public office should never be used for private gain or personal advantage.

BUILDING ALLIANCES

Earlier this month Sinn Fein and the Labour Party sponsored a joint motion in Leinster House calling on the Irish government to enact legislation to protect the rights of agency workers.

Several weeks ago Mitchel McLaughlin proposed a Sinn Féin motion in the Assembly to address this issue.

It received all party support. This week the Minister for Employment and Learning, has introduced new and tougher regulations on this.

This is an example of our party’s all-Ireland approach.

We will continue to campaign on this issue and work with the Trade Union movement and others.

We must also build alliances on other critical issues.

Ní páirtí í Sinn Féin atá i gcónaí ag amharc siar nó ar gcúl.

Tá polasaithe againn atá ag pleanáil chun cinn agus caithfidh muid leanúint leis an phroiséas nuaíochta atá ag dul ar aghaidh againn.

BUILDING PROSPERITY AND JOB CREATION

Prosperity and job creation are key priorities for Sinn Fein for the coming year.

Ireland needs an enterprising economy.

We need to generate wealth. We need to be competitive. That is the reality.

Sinn Fein has been reaching out to those who form the backbone of the economy - entrepreneurs, workers, retailers, hoteliers, pub and restaurant owners, the fishing and the farming community.

We understand the concerns of those who continue to provide the vast majority of jobs in the economy.

We know that they face particular pressures as the Government fails to tackle those factors that are undermining competitiveness.

Republicans understand the need for a strong economy to provide the essential health and education and other public services that citizens have the right to expect in the 21st century.

Sinn Féin is not anti-business.

Sinn Féin is pro-business.

Neither are we a high tax party. We are a fair tax party.

We are against exploitation in the work place.

We are against industry that pollutes the environment.

But we are very much in favour of building businesses that are integrated with their communities, providing necessary employment and providing goods and services that are essential to our people’s needs.

Sinn Féin Ministers are heading up departments which play a huge role in the development of the economy.

We have firmly put job creation at the heart of the Executive.

I say this only to illustrate that managing the economy is not an abstract concept for us. It is part of the daily work of our Ministers.

Conor Murphy, the Minister for Regional Development is to be commended for his work in this regard.

In May, this party will be playing a leading role in a major investment conference in Belfast.

Beidh muid ag cur fáilte roimh daoine, gnó ón Éoraip, ó na Stáit Aontaithe agus ó tíortha eile thart ar an domhain.

Beidh siad ag teacht go Béal Feirste agus beidh muid ag súil le rudaí móra as an chomhdháil.

Our focus is on creating long term sustainable jobs and the regeneration of areas which suffer the greatest deprivation.

We are not about building the economy for the benefit of a few individuals.

We are about generating wealth to tackle poverty, deprivation and social exclusion, to deal with the housing crisis and to invest in our under resourced heath-care system.

We are about generating resources to deliver change.

Our TDs have been leading the way in putting pressure on the government to address the plight of communities being devastated by unemployment from East Cork to Kerry to Donegal.

And for the first time in many years, let us remind ourselves, young people are being forced once again to leave home in search of employment.

Urgent action is required to reverse this trend.

The plight of thousands of the undocumented Irish in the USA relates directly to a time when emigration was the only option.

We must never go back to those days. The undocumented Irish in America need and deserve our support.

The government’s failure to properly invest in infrastructure, education and training over the last fifteen years has left huge challenges.

Of course, the economy can continue to prosper but we need to be much more innovative in supporting business start up, in enhancing the export potential of small and medium sized enterprises, in addressing government failure in relation to broadband roll out, in exploiting the huge potential of natural resources off our shores.

We need to ensure that Ireland is in the strongest possible position to create new jobs and to weather future economic challenges.

Sinn Féin is also calling for a new policy direction to maximize non-tax sources of revenue.

The government rush towards privatization also needs to be opposed.

Profitable companies in public ownership should be maintained.

Sinn Féin also strongly supports the establishment of a national oil, gas and mineral exploration company, and the renegotiation of the current oil and gas contracts so that the people of this country benefit.

Agus ní féidir liom labhairt fá chúrsai óla in Éirinn gan tracht ar mhuintir Rois Dubhach. Caithfidh muid tacaíocht a chur chucu ón Ard Fheis seo

INVESTING IN OUR CHILDREN

The government also needs to address the huge problem of illiteracy, and to invest from pre-school level right up to Further and Higher Education.

The fact is that Education is essential for each child’s future and for our society.

Those countries who out-educate us will out-perform us and out-compete us for investment.

We must up-skill for the next generation of jobs and invest for the future.

This is what our Education Minister Caitríona Ruane is determined to do in the north.

When she took on the challenge of education Caitríona knew that she had to bring in fundamental reform.

Too many of our children are being failed by the current system.

Sinn Féin refuses to accept this.

The 11+ had to go. And it has gone.

And we are pleased and proud that our party and our Ministers got rid of it.

Of course there are powerful conservative and class interests stuck in the past, who are resisting education reform

They have presided over an unfair system for generations.

But our children are our future. Sinn Féin will invest in our children.

Caitríona is working with the education stakeholders and is determined to shape an education system that will give every child the chance to receive the best education possible and in keeping with the needs of the 21st century.

Tá sé mar dualgas orainn oideachas den chéad scoth a chur ar fail do pháistí agus daoine óga sa tír seo.

Tá tús maith curtha air sin ag Caitríona

A JUST SOCIETY

In the coming months there will be discussions on a new social partnership plan involving the Irish government, employers and unions representing the public and private sector.

These talks are of immense importance and we support those who refuse to be bullied into accepting lower standards of living.

This government expects workers, who contributed most to the growth of the Celtic Tiger, and who benefited the least, to tighten their belts at a time of economic uncertainty.

This is totally unacceptable.

It is also unacceptable that some 20% of our people live in conditions of poverty and that so many of our children still go to school on empty stomachs.

It is unacceptable that there are still tens of thousands of people waiting on a decent home to call their own.

It is unacceptable that Mental Health Services are under funded - North and South - and that there is no all-Ireland or effective regional strategy for suicide prevention

It is unacceptable that there are such horrific waiting lists for hospital beds while huge amounts of public money is being thrown at a booming private health service.

It is unacceptable that children are taught in ill equipped, unhealthy class rooms.

It is unacceptable that the state pursues families and children through the courts because of the government’s failure to meet their basic educational needs.

These are all challenges that can and must be overcome.

It is just a few short months since the Taoiseach and his cabinet awarded themselves pay increases of up to €38,000 a year.

Why should one privileged sector of politicians and higher civil servants be rewarded so well while the majority of people who work just as hard for less money are asked to show restraint?

There needs to be a fundamental re-assessment of the tax system and the funding of public services.

Sinn Féin also rejects the notion that the quality of life of ordinary PAYE workers, whose tax is deducted at source, should be suspended while others are allowed to use a range of loopholes to avoid paying their fair share.

In recent months there have been scandals involving some of the richest people, including people in the banking, legal and accountancy professions.

There clearly is one law for the rich and another for the poor.

There is one law for them and another law for the rest of us.

It is long past the time that dozens of the wealthiest Irish people, can avoid paying their fair share of tax due to a residency loophole.

This should be scrapped once and for all along with all other measures that benefit the super rich and deprive hard pressed tax payers of basic public services.

Tá cúram ar leith againn sa pháirtí seo le cinntiú go mbíonn an saol is fearr ag cosmhuintir na tíre.

Ní féidir dearmad a dhéanamh air sin - chóiche.

There is also an urgent need to ensure that people feel safe in their communities; that anti-social behaviour is dealt with before it spirals out of control; that there is adequate policing, and that older people, in particular, are not afraid to leave their homes and enjoy their lives.

Citizens in cities such as Limerick and Dublin have paid a very high price for the failure of successive governments to take on criminal gangs destroying local communities.

These criminal gangs need to be put behind bars.

The Gardaí and the PSNI need the support of every single person in the fight against crime.

They need the support of local communities.

And they need the support of government.

MAKE CHANGE - JOIN SINN FÉIN

In order to make progress on all of these issues Sinn Fein needs to increase our influence and strength.

We are a party of government in the North and a growing voice for change in the south.

I believe our Ministers, our MLA’s in the Assembly, our MPs and MEPs, our TDs led by Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin, our Senator Pearse Doherty, and our representatives on councils and in Údarás na Gaeltachta, have proven that we are committed and hard working public representatives of integrity.

But Sinn Féin is more than a party of public representatives.

We are a party, a movement of activists. Therein lies our strength.

I want to commend you all for the great work you do.

Sinn Féin is one of the great political movements of our time; organised throughout this island and a constant in the life of this nation for over 100 years.

I want to appeal to more citizens to join Sinn Féin.

And I want to make a special appeal for women to join our ranks. Women particularly need to be increasingly part of our decision making processes.

Mairead Farrell put it well.

‘I’m oppressed as a woman but I’m also oppressed because I’m Irish...It happened before where women took the back seat. But women today have gone through too much, no way will they allow that to happen and I hope I’m alive because I certainly won’t allow that to happen.

Once we remove the British government that isn’t it. That’s only the beginning. ‘

There are great challenges ahead.

So friends, if we are disciplined and hard working; if we promote intelligent policies; if we are dedicated to our vision for Ireland, then the women and men of Sinn Fein can meet the challenges ahead and make the big changes.

We have come a long way and there is still a road to go.

Tá bothar fada siúlta againn go dtí seo - tá achar fada os ár gcomhair go fóill.

I believe this party has a great future.

I look forward to working together with you all to build the new, united, peaceful and prosperous Ireland.

The United Ireland that our people deserve.

© 2008 Irish Republican News