At an all-Ireland strategy conference in Monaghan on Saturday, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said the party must prepare itself for power.
He that Sinn Féin must enter government in order to make the 1916 Proclamation and a united Ireland a reality.
Hundreds of Sinn Féin activists from across the island gathered in County Monaghan on Saturday for an all-Ireland strategy conference to mark Sinn Féin’s centenary.
Central aspects of the conference were the campaign to popularise Sinn Féin’s proposal for a green paper for Irish unity.
Other subjects covered included the potential of the transition towards a united Ireland, as well as a series of workshops on fundamental rights, anti-poverty strategies, and a constitution for a united Ireland.
Barry McElduff, Sinn Féin’s all-Ireland spokesman and West Tyrone assembly member, highlighted the fact that there were already dozens of civil servants employed in all-Ireland co-operation units as evidence that Irish unity was approaching.
He also criticised the fact that Irish citizens in the North were still prevented from playing an active role in the life of the nation, for example, by voting in presidential elections or through Northern representation in the Dublin parliament.
“I remember one civil servant who was talking to me about investment in Tyrone and Fermanagh and he said: ‘Where do you think the jobs should be located in the southwest?’
“I said: ‘If there’s jobs coming to the southwest, I personally commend Tralee, County Kerry.’ The civil servants would love people in Tyrone and Fermanagh to think that they live in the southwest of somewhere,” Mr McElduff said.
“I’m quite angry that [Tyrone Gaelic football captain] Brian Dooher doesn’t have voting rights in Irish presidential elections whenever Mary McAleese, who doesn’t have a vote herself, is walking on the red carpet. We play football in Croke Park. We want to practise our politics in Dublin as well.
“It’s about the national question but it’s also about addressing poverty, exclusion and injustice,” Mr McElduff said.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams called on republicans to prepare for power in government in order to create the type of society envisaged by the 1916 Proclamation.
“Throughout the whole 100-years span of Sinn Féin’s existence is a vision and a dream that things can be different.
“But this isn’t 1905. This is 2005 and the Ireland today is a different place.
“We have to make republicanism relevant to today for it is modern Ireland which we struggle and live in,” Mr Adams said.
“The mission statement for us and for modern Irish republicanism is the Proclamation. It directed itself to Irish men and Irish women at a time when women didn’t have the vote.
“In all that we do, those broad principles in many ways encapsulate our republican objectives. Now our task is to make that a reality in the modern Ireland and, in my opinion, we can achieve it.
“We are not prepared to wait until there is a united Ireland for these changes. We have argued for changes in the here and now.
“We have the biggest surplus of budget in the history of this state and yet we have the highest gap in poverty of any industrialised state outside of the USA.
“What is the economy for? Is it for the guys who run Irish Ferries? Is it for the people who are going to benefit from the privatisation of health services?
“Why is there a two-tier health system? Why do young couples spend two or three hours in gridlock going back and forth to Dublin? What sort of Ireland is it all about?
“So there’s where we need to be engaging now, so that we build a political party that can actually come into power in a united Ireland.
“We need to build a campaigning party which represents Irish society and which can demand and bring about change. That’s what we’re about,” Mr Adams said.
The Sinn Féin president highlighted his party’s three priorities in the period ahead in terms of bedding down the peace process, ensuring the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, and moving into a united Ireland.
He urged Sinn Féin members to recognise that many other parties in Ireland had republicans in their ranks.
Mr Adams also said republicans needed to proactively engage with and listen to the genuine concerns of unionists about the future.
“It is my very, very strong view that the army initiative in July of this year in which the IRA announced it was formally ending its armed campaign and then the initiative on the arms issues, I think that’s a very clear signal of the determination of republicans to change the future,” Mr Adams said.
“But it’s also a huge vote confidence by the IRA in the people of this island. I think it brings with it a very weighty responsibility and opens up huge opportunities for progress in the time ahead.
“The IRA initiatives, for republicans in Sinn Féin, have placed the responsibility on our shoulders to sort all of this out and to build the type of society which the Proclamation enshrines.
“We have to do a lot of things in terms of training, organising, modernising, but we just have to have confidence in our ability as human beings, as Irish republicans, to complete this mighty task after 100 years of struggle by this party,” Mr Adams said.