As you read this column I am in Washington DC briefing senior political figures and the Obama administration on the current difficulties within the peace process.
But I will return to that again. For now let me deal with the local government and EU elections that has just concluded across the island of Ireland. The facts tell part of the story.
· 483,113 votes for Sinn Féin in the EU election.
· 4 MEP’s elected.
· 262 Local election candidates elected
· 76 women councillors
· 39 Councils with SF councillors
· 32 Counties with Sinn Féin MEP’s
· 21.2% of the vote in the EU election
· 19 Councillors in Belfast City Council
· 16 Councillors in Dublin City Council
· 10 Councils where Sinn Féin are the largest party in % share of the vote terms
· 8 Councils where Sinn Féin are the largest party in seat terms
· Too many happy Shinner’s to count!
· THE LARGEST PARTY IN IRELAND
Sinn Fein has had a historic result, north and south. Voters have endorsed our message that there is a fairer way to organise our economy and society which is rights based and citizen-centred. We are committed to using our growing numbers of Councillors, TDs, MEPs, MPs, and MLAs and our mandate wisely and in the interests of citizens.
Sinn Féin will also keep the commitments we made to the electorate.
The island-wide election result is also an endorsement of Sinn Fein’s message for the need to reinvigorate the Peace Process and for an agreed, united Ireland.
Sinn Fein’s newly elected MEPs will stand up first and foremost in the interests of Ireland and all our citizens, while our all councillors will fight for genuine community interests which put the needs of citizens first.
In the south voters have very clearly rejected the austerity agenda of Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail. It’s very likely that the coalition government, not least as a result of these elections, will not see out its full term. Thought their instinct will be to hang on as long as possible. So, we begin fighting the next General Election now.
Some combination of Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail has been in government since the foundation of the state. The old way of doing politics, as practiced by these parties has clearly failed.
The way in which ordinary citizens are still being forced to pay for the greed of bankers, developers and corrupt politicians is deeply unfair. Banking debt, unemployment, forced emigration, a raft of new taxes, cuts to services and social supports are crushing the hope of Irish citizens and damaging the well-being of society.
In the north Martin McGuinness will initiate discussions with the other party leaders to seek agreement on implementing the outstanding issues arising from the Good Friday and other Agreements, and from the Haass proposals on the past, flags and emblems and parades.
However, deep rooted change also requires a fundamental realignment of Irish politics.
Ireland needs new leaders, with new ideas and a new direction. The EU and Local Government elections can be the beginning of a real transformation of the political landscape.
North and south Sinn Féin has put forward realistic, credible and costed alternative economic policies and challenged the conservatism of British and Irish governments.
Sinn Fein seeks a society and an economy that is run in the interests of all our citizens, not vested interests or golden circles whether in the upper echelons of the private or the public sector.
We also want to strengthen and reinvigorate the Peace Process and to build an agreed, united Ireland.
We seek a historic and inclusive accommodation between Orange and Green which respects all our people in all of their diversity.
Among our priorities in both states are real jobs, fair taxation, investment in communities, and more social housing. In the 26 counties we will press for far-reaching reform of politics and public institutions including the justice system and Gardaí.
For Sinn Fein politics is not a game. It is about saying what you mean and meaning what you say. It is about changing the lives of citizens for the better.
One party rule in the north has gone and two-and-a-half party rule in the southern state is going also. Sinn Féin is now a major player in both states on this island with policies, objectives, and an expanding organization which transcends Partition.
Sinn Féin is not interested in winning seats for the sake of it. We seek political office only in order to bring about change in our country and in the lives of our citizens. We have a political vision and regardless of the ups and downs of even elections, we will continue to work to deliver a fairer, better Ireland.
Sinn Féin is involved in a historically unprecedented effort to build genuine republican politics in both states on this island. Building capacity and resources and membership is a big task for us and we will continue to grow.
I would appeal today, to citizens to join Sinn Fein in building a citizen-centered, rights based republic on this island.