Thousands gathered on Grand Parade in Cork to commemorate Irish republican hunger strikers at Sinn Féin’s 42nd annual Hunger Strike Commemoration, which was addressed by the North’s First Minister-designate, Michelle O’Neill. The following is an abridged version of her address.
“Today we are not only living through historic change. We are shaping it. A new dawn is breaking in Ireland.
“The growth in popular support for Sinn Féin and the demand for the change that we represent, here in the South and in the North, has never been greater.
“The northern State that my parents and grandparents were born into is no more.
“The contrived unionist majority is now gone.
“Sinn Féin won two historic elections.
“We are now the largest political party in the Assembly, in local government in the north, and across this island.
“Sinn Féin’s positive message of making politics work for all and getting the Executive back up and working for everyone, was endorsed by people.
“I will never treat, and I will never allow anyone to be treated the way that our parents and grandparents were treated.
“There is no contradiction in declaring and delivering on our firm commitment to power sharing with unionism and others in a Stormont Executive, while at the same time making the case and planning for constitutional change on this island.
“While the DUP continue to cause political disruption, dysfunction and chaos, the reality is that they have no credible alternative to power-sharing, and on the basis of equality.
“It is time that the DUP accepted the democratic outcome of last May’s historic Assembly election where the people voted for change.
“Their boycott is leading to misery for people who need an Executive in place to lift the cost-of-living burden, to tackle the health crisis, to attract investment, to create jobs, to deliver change, to plan for the future.”
And the Mid Ulster MLA said if controversial and cruel legacy legislation is passed in Westminster that the Irish government must confront this denial of human rights through an interstate case and international action against the British government. She said:
“The current legislation nearing completion in Westminster has one purpose, and one purpose only, to conceal the truth and protect British state forces.
“That legislation is anti-democratic, it is unjust, and it is a denial of the human rights of victims and their families who have campaigned for decades for the truth.
“The British government should withdraw this legislation.
“And if the British government do not withdraw this legislation, the Irish government should confront this denial of human rights through an interstate case and international action against the British government.”
Michelle O’Neill said that party leader Mary Lou McDonald can be the first woman Taoiseach in an Irish state failed by a century of Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil governments. She said:
“Sinn Féin wants to lead government in Belfast and Dublin.
“Mary Lou McDonald can be the first woman Taoiseach to lead Government in this State.
“The Irish people have been failed by a Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil/Green government that is tired, wedded to the past, and unable and unwilling to seize the great opportunities that exist to take Ireland to the next level.
“The story of Ireland in 2023, right across this island, is the unprecedented demand for change.
“Ordinary workers and families are looking to a new future shaped by opportunity, ambition, and equality.
“They want a political leadership with the energy and determination that matches their hopes.
“The last General Election in the South saw Sinn Féin win the popular vote.
“As support for our programme of change continues to build, there now exists the prospect of a new government without Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael for the first time in one hundred years.”