Writing the next chapter

The text of the speech delivered by Presidential election candidate Martin McGuinness at the Mansion House event in Dublin on Thursday night.

It’s great to be with so many friends. I have always liked coming to Dublin. In fact I’m thinking of moving here. But I need a bit of help from you all to find a place. Preferably somewhere close to the city centre and spacious so that when you all come to visit, there’ll be plenty of space for everyone to share!!

Dublin is a busy, dynamic city, constantly changing, full of young people, reflecting the full diversity of modern Irish society. But Dublin is more than another big city. It has a special place in the life and the history of the Irish nation.

Patriotic Dublin, which was the cradle of modern Irish republicanism, home to the Easter Rising of 1916. Dublin that stood up to empire and against injustice and inequality.

Dublin that sustained the workers during the Great Lock Out.

It was the same Dublin patriotism that in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s drove Dublin communities to campaign for decent housing and tenants rights, to face down the drugdealers, to challenge the developers and landlords. That demanded better for the children of this city.

The ordinary people of Dublin have maintained the core values that represent the best in our country.This election is an opportunity for the people of Ireland to send out a signal about the values that are important to them. To send a signal about the type of Ireland we want. To elect a president that stands for those values.

It is an opportunity for national renewal following the period of materialism, greed and corruption that we have witnessed -- a period when many of the core values that held our society together were forgotten. A period when we knew the cost of everything and the value of nothing. A period when we focused almost solely on the economy but not on society and an economic elite put monopoly capital above our social capital. Communities here in Dublin and indeed elsewhere were dispersed. Young couples from this city were forced to move out of their communities - away from grandparents and extended families to Meath, Louth and Kildare due to exorbitant house prices.

There was no work/life balance for many parents of young children. Parents face long commutes. Both parents were forced to work to pay huge mortgages. Many parts of this city continued to be denied services and investment even at the height of the boom.Never again should such prosperity be wasted. It is hard to believe that after all the construction that took place over the celtic tiger years that the regeneration of communities like St Michael’s Estate and O’Devanny Gardens in Dublin were never completed. The prosperity was not used to create world class education or health systems.

As a recession loomed nothing was done to safeguard the future of those working in the construction sector and elsewhere facing imminent unemployment. Instead they were thrown on the unemployment scrapheap.

Other candidates in this election may not want to admit it but we are a divided society - a society of haves and have nots. Of those who have wealth and those on the breadline. Of those who created the economic crisis and those who are being forced to pay the price for it.And the decision makers have still not got the message. There may have been a change of government recently but in just six weeks time that government is prepared to unleash on the Irish people a Budget which will will have a negative and far reaching impact on ordinary working families and on the poor. Devastating cuts to vital services and social supports are about to be visited upon this society, causing more inequality and social problems and further depressing the economy.

There are powerful groups and individuals in Ireland whose faith has been placed in the IMF and the EU and whose and loyalty appears to be to the banks and the bondholders.

These people are not patriots.

I know who I place my faith in --the Irish people. I know where my loyalty lies -- to Ireland. I know who I stand with -- hard pressed working families; those struggling to pay mortgages; those losing their jobs and facing emigration; those with disabilities; those lying on hospital trolleys: those small landowners in several parts of Ireland who are now being told they can no longer cut turf on their own bogs; those fishermen who livelihoods like our economic sovereignty has been handed away by successive governments.

But my message in this election campaign is one of hope. I believe that no problem is unsolvable. It was that belief which sustained me during the years of negotiations in the peace process. That process saw the victory of hope over pessimism. Of positivity over negativity.

Of optimism over despair. I want to bring that spirit now to the task of restoring hope and direction to the Irish nation as a whole.

A real republic would see divisions replaced by equality. And for me equality is very simple -- fairness, decency and looking out for each other. Now is the time to build unity of our people and unity of our country. Now is the time to build a New Republic. Time to build a vibrant and fair society that is underpinned by a robust and sustainable economy.

This election is an opportunity to shape the future of Ireland. It’s our opportunity to repudiate austerity, cutbacks, unemployment and emigration. Our opportunity to chart a new way forward.

Some media pundits have been saying this election isn’t about policy. Well for me, it is absolutely about values and beliefs. That’s what my campaign is based upon.If elected I will help create a stronger society. I want to help bring the marginalised and those currently struggling into the centre. I want to give them a voice. This is their country too and they should help shape it and benefit from it.

I want to salute those working in the community whose volunteerism has held their local community together. I salute those whose voluntary work has provided services for young people that should have been provided by the state. I salute those public sector workers, many of whom have been vilified, who keep our health and education systems operating, who teach our children and care for the sick. And let’s be clear -- Fine Gael and Labour cuts crush communities.

We need to value childhood by valuing education and the role of parents. I took on the role of Education Minister in the first power-sharing administration in the North because I value the vital role of education in determining outcomes for children. We have to aim for the best education system for our children. We have to aim to allow parents to spend time with their children - to have work/life balance, to have time to be part of the community and society that their children are growing up in. The experience of childhood is what forms our future citizens and it is citizens who make the nation.

I believe in Irish unity. In a republic that values all its citizens equally. A republic that invests in the education and welfare of future generations. A republic where citizens have rights and responsibilities.I refuse to contemplate the prospect of today’s 11-year-olds preparing to emigrate by the time of the next Presidential election. I do not want to see my own grandchildren forced to leave.

If elected I will do everything I can to help create jobs and improve the environment for job creation. That is my commitment to you.What makes me and the party I have represented different from all others is my commitment to change Ireland. Change has been achieved in the North. We are moving forward.President McAleese effectively built bridges. Now I want to build Unity. But a united Ireland will have to be a better Ireland.

I believe in turning adversity into opportunity. I am a ‘can do’ politician. This current crisis is an opportunity to change things.

The New Republic that I advocate will not be built by the President or by the government.It will be built by the people - including the people of Dublin. -- working together, contributing to their communities, participating in community activities - in sports and arts,volunteering, being active citizens. It will be built when we value the contribution that every citizen can make. I want to see political reforms that create meaningful mechanisms to give ordinary citizens direct input into decision making. A real democracy must strive to involve citizens in solving problems that affect their lives.

My vision of a New Republic values citizens wherever they live. And that includes the huge Irish Diaspora living in all corners of the world but in large numbers in Britain, NorthAmerica and Australia. They too need to be a valued part of the Irish nation. Not valued merely for what they can do for us at home but valued because the nation owes it to them to ensure they are included and that their interests are protected.Let us make Ireland - all of Ireland - a nation once again. Dublin, as the capital, is at the heart of the Irish nation. Change can start here.

I believe that Ireland is at a historic juncture.

One which can lead to prosperity, equality, reconciliation and unity.Our people want change and I believe that as president I can help lead that change. I ask that you join with me to write the next chapter in our nation’s history.

One which makes good the promise made on the steps of the GPO to ‘pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally’.

Go raibh mile maith agaibh.

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