``Activists, show leadership!''
The address by Baleka Mbetei of the African National Congress (AFC), Deputy Speaker of South Africa's National Assembly, was one of the most attended sessions of the Ard Fheis. She spoke of the parallels between the anti-Aparteid and republican struggles.
Her address, unfortunately, came at an difficult time for her personally, as Mbetei's father had passed away only a few hours before the beginning of the conference.
She spoke of the efforts her party was making through the institutions of government for the reconstruction and the development of South Africa after decades and centuries of destruction.
Going on to talk about the unionist and British obstructionist policies, she said that the ``people of Ireland are the best judges of the situation'' but added that experiences could be shared.
``A negotiating process is one of the most difficult things, especially when there have been so many victims. It calls on a lot from everybody and one must hope for the best,'' she said.
Mbetei stressed the fact that negotiations can be difficult times for activists who are kept in the dark about the details of what is actually being discussed. ``You have to put your trust in your leadership and give them your confidence in a way that enables them to hold the strongest position at the negotiating table,'' she said. She added that unity was of utmost importance and was the basis of any successful negotiation in terms of an overall struggle.
Her most important message was to Sinn Féin grassroots activists. ``People must refrain from seeing individuals or a group of individuals that are elected into positions as the leadership,'' she warned. ``They share the responsibility of asking themselves what each and every member can do for the movement. They must ask themselves what role they have to play and remember that history calls upon them to lead and play a very important role.
``All I am saying is that every individual who is present at this conference has a responsibility to see themselves as a leader and has a role to play to ensure that the future is bright for the children of Ireland.''