Parties launch campaigns, condemn censorship

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Sinn Féin has called for a referendum on Irish unity within five years in tandem with a ‘Green New Deal’ for climate change as part of its election launch at Dublin’s Mansion House.

Party leader Mary Lou McDonald said there should be an all-Ireland forum on unity to plan for all aspects of reunification ahead of a referendum. Ms McDonald also appealed to voters who have not been convinced to vote for Sinn Féin to give the party a chance, and to judge them on how they perform and deliver.

She said she believes this election will be where people say “enough to Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s overbearing dominance of this State”, and accused them of having wasted time, money and trust.

The party is running 42 candidates across 38 out of 39 constituencies. The candidate launch took place in Dublin’s Mansion House on the 101st anniversary of the first sitting of the Dublin parliament in the same venue.

Speaking at the launch, Ms McDonald said the establishment is trying to squeeze Sinn Féin out of the election and to portray this contest as a two horse race - which she described as “the Leo and Micheál show”.

But, she said, Sinn Féin will not be frozen out of the democratic process. She said Sinn Féin candidates want to “rock the system, to shake things up and to be the living embodiment of radical change”.

“Let’s have an All-Ireland Forum on Unity to plan for all aspects of reunification, including a referendum by 2025,” Ms McDonald said.

“Let’s also build a Green New Deal in which all of our thinking, all of our ingenuity and all of our effort is mobilised to win the race against climate change.

“Let’s come together at the end this decade and know that we acted at the right time to end the partition of our country and to transform our environment.

“Let us recall that what we did today, at this time, won a brighter and better tomorrow. Irish Unity and a just transition should happen in tandem.”

In a direct appeal to potential voters, she said: “To those who may not be convinced of voting for Sinn Féin. To those who may fall into the thinking of – oh, you are all the same. We say simply – give us a chance. The others have had theirs.

“They have had decades to make things better and they have squandered those countless opportunities. Vote for Sinn Féin this time. Vote for us now, in this election, and judge us on how we perform and how we deliver.”

Meanwhile Aontú, which is contesting its first 26 County election, has launched its manifesto.

It says that the current government, supported by Fianna Fáil, have “deeply divided” the country.

“The political establishment has run this country for their own vested interests and it’s time the country was run for the citizens,” party leader Peadar Tóibín said at the launch.

Aontú is calling on the electorate to “think outside the political cartel” of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and to vote for its 25 general election candidates. It describes itself as a grass-roots people-powered all-Ireland movement, with three councillors in the State, one in the North and 2,000 members.

The party was established just over a year ago by Mr Tóibín and has identified four key Dáil seats: in Wexford, Donegal, Cavan and Meath West, where Mr Tóibín is bidding to retain his seat.

At the launch of the party’s manifesto in Dublin, he said Ireland is a deeply divided country, divided between north and south and between those who have access to housing and health care and live in safe areas and those who do not.

Regional imbalance is a “red line” issue for the party, he said. “Ireland is becoming a city state with an overheating capital with the worst congestion in Europe.”

He said in the Border regions of Donegal, Cavan-Monaghan and in counties like Mayo and Kerry “so many of these places are losing their young people”.

Mr Tóibín also criticised RTÉ for failing to include the party in its small parties’ leaders debate. He said “we’re the only Dáil political party that won’t have an opportunity to debate and set forth our programme for Ireland so that people can make their decisions”.

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