Call for ‘new alignment’ at Sinn Féin Ard Fheis
Call for ‘new alignment’ at Sinn Féin Ard Fheis

Sinn Féin’s annual conference at the weekend was dominated by the economic recession and the upcoming elections in the 26 Counties.

The call went up again and again from party delegates from across Ireland to jail the “banksters”.

Delegates emphasised that it was totally unacceptable for executives in banks to earn millions of euro of while the ordinary Irish people are struggling to meet the basic cost of living.

Louth representative Arthur Morgan did not mince his words when he said that “all those involved in banking corruption must be investigated, charged and sent to jail.”

Party president Gerry Adams called for “a new alignment in Irish politics north and south” and suggested possible cooperation with the Labour Party, Greens and progressive elements within Irish society to forge a new political dispensation in the South.

His televised address took place on the same day that upwards of 120,000 people marched through Dublin’s streets in an angry demonstration over the Irish government’s handling of the economic crisis.

Mr Adams’s said the Irish people had reached another historic crossroads, and that there could be an egalitarian alternative to the politics of greed, inefficiency, waste and corruption.

The West Belfast MP said that the Dublin government “should go” and “the banksters must face the full rigours of the law” and be brought before the courts.

Mr Adams said that the dominance in the 26-County state of two large conservative parties could be brought to an end if a new alignment in Irish politics can be created.

“In my view the Labour Party has a duty not to prop up either Fianna Fail or Fine Gael. Instead Labour should explore with us and others the potential for cooperation in the future,” Mr Adams said.

“I invite all these potential allies to come together to forge a stronger, more united progressive and democratic movement for our country - one that aims to meet the needs of all citizens.

“I include parties like Labour, the Greens if they can survive the fall out from their participation in this right wing government; other smaller parties; the trade unions; the community organisations; Gaelgeoiri; rural agencies and organisations, including farming bodies and fishing communities; women’s groups; the students, youth organisations and those who speak for the disabled, the poor, the unemployed, the homeless and the marginalised in our society.”


Regarding the situation in the North, Mr Adams pointed out that the DUP, a party which opposed powersharing and the Good Friday agreement, was now working with Sinn Féin and was working all-Ireland institutions.

He said that working with the DUP was “very difficult and very challenging”.

“It is a battle a day, every day, over education, the environment, Acht na Gaeilge [the Irish Language Act] and much more,” he said.

Meanwhile, the theme of Irish unity was taken up during conference by Sinn Féin Dail leader Caoimhghin O’Caolain who said that the economic crisis demonstrated once more the folly of attempting to govern this small island on the basis of partition.

He pointed out that two separate currencies, two separate tax regimes, two separate administrations, two separate sets of public services on an island of just six million makes no sense.

Mr O Caolain said that Irish unity “makes economic sense” as well as being a democratic imperative and is Sinn Féin’s “core and primary objective.”


In his address, Martin McGuinness said the transition to working with the DUP’s new leader Peter Robinson in the Six-County executive “has not been smooth”.

In a particularly forthright message Mr McGuinness stressed that unionists should realise that the Orange state has been replaced by “an Orange and Green north” and there is no going back to unionist majority rule.

The republican leadership said that it was a battle-a-day on various issues in government with the DUP.

Mr McGuinness recalled that last year Ian Paisley finally said yes to sharing power within the architecture laid out in the Good Friday agreement.

“That he and I had the ability to work together in a civil and progressive way gives the people of Ireland an important glimpse of what the future holds for us.

“In Peter Robinson we have a new partner in leading the northern executive.

“However, this transition has not been smooth or certain as we sought to bring an understanding to the new DUP leadership of what it meant to be in a partnership government.

“The executive did not meet for a number of months,” Mr McGuinness said.

“I was very up front with Mr Robinson. I made it crystal clear that the institutions could only work on the basis of partnership and equality or they would not work at all.”

Mr McGuinness said “Ian Paisley once said he was a plain speaking Ulsterman.”

He said that the same plain-speaking was needed from the new DUP leadership both in the public domain and more importantly within the privacy of their own party meetings.

“There is no logic to the DUP on the one hand telling us, as they repeatedly do, that they accept and have bought into

the partnership required for these institutions to work and then on the other to publicly call for a voluntary coalition, which in essence means unionist majority rule.

“As a plain-speaking Derry man let me say that majority rule is gone - and gone forever. It cannot and will not be resuscitated and the DUP leadership know this and know it well,” Mr McGuinness said.

Mr McGuinness said that in a period when Sinn Féin should have been supported it was telling that the SDLP “sat on the sidelines, and griped and huffed.”


There was also emphasis on preparations for the local and European elections in June, with sitting MEP for Dublin and newly-appointed SF Vice President Mary Lou McDonald to the fore.

She warned of attempts by the Dublin government to link the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty to the current recession.

She said that despite promises of legally binding guarantees “it is my firm belief that when the referendum is re-run, the people will be asked to vote on exactly the same treaty with exactly the same problems as before.

“If this is not the case, if the Government has secured actual changes to the text of the Lisbon Treaty on issues, then they should put those changes in the public domain.”

She said that “if people’s concerns are to be seriously addressed it will require a new treaty.”

Sinn Féin was the only Dail party to oppose the treaty, adding “there will undoubtedly be an attempt to blame our current economic crisis on the rejection of Lisbon in this State. Of course, this is utter nonsense. Lisbon was neither responsible for our economic woes, nor will it solve them.”

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