The annual commemoration at the rgaveside of Wolfe Tone the father of Irish republicanism is an improtant event. This year I gave the speech. I am enclosing it here. It sets out Sinn Féin's vmission statement; our view of the recent election results; the importance of 1916 and ending partition; current difficulties in the political process in the north; Sinn Féin's economic plan; our objective of being in governemnt north and south; and our determination to remain radicval, rooted, relevent and republican.
Address to Wolfe Tone Commemoration,
Bodenstown, Co. Kildare
Fellow republicans,Táimid cruinnithe anseo inniu, mar a dhéanann muid gach bliain, in aice le reilig Theobold Wolfe Tone, athair an Phoblachtach in Éirinn agus ceannaire Cumann na nÉireannach Aontaithe.
Two-hundred-and-sixteen years ago the United Irish rebellion sought to end British rule in this country and establish an independent republic based on the principles of equality for all citizens, and the unity of Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter.
Today, we honour Tone, the men and women of 1798, and subsequent generations of Irish republicans. Just as importantly, we rededicate ourselves to the fulfilment of Tone’s objectives.
Election resultsBa mhaith liom mo chomhghairdeas a dhéanamh le na ceathrar MEP’s, nua tofa atá ag Sinn Féin– Martina Anderson, Lynn Boylan, Matt Carthy agus Liadh Ní Riada, agus na dhá céad seasca is a ceathar (264) comhairleoirí Sinn Fein a raibh tofa sa Thuaisceart agus sa Dheisceart ar an darna lá is fiche (22ú) agus tríú lá is fiche 23ú Bealtaine.
Almost half a million voters have now made Sinn Féin the biggest party on this island.
Mission StatementSinn Fein’s philosophy is about putting the interests of citizens, as opposed to elites, at the centre of political considerations.
We seek a New Republic with equality and social justice at its core.
Our watchword is equality.
We stand for a basic threshold of economic justice — the right to a home, to an education, to a job, to healthcare, to the pursuit of happiness.
Our mandate is for social justice and against unfairness and austerity.
It is a mandate for the promotion of the Irish language as the common heritage of all on this island.
It is for the peaceful unity of Orange and Green, with tolerance and respect for all people.
Republicanism is a European philosophy and Sinn Féin’s mandate is also to pursue an independent Ireland in a Europe that respects the rights of nation states and is based on principles of social solidarity.
Tá polasaithe Sinn Féin bunaithe ar na bunluachanna poblachtach seo.
1916 anniversaryBecause Sinn Féin challenges the privilege of the elites, we are often vilified by the conservative parties and the establishment media.
They were at it 100 years ago.
The Irish Times and Irish Independent condemned the 1916 Rising.
The Irish Times referred to it, incorrectly, as the ‘Sinn Féin rebellion’.
But last Tuesday the Irish Times accused Sinn Féin of seeking to hijack the Rising’s centenary.
Interestingly, one hundred years ago, at this very spot, the forces that would make the 1916 Rising were coming together to honour Wolfe Tone.
The Irish Volunteers were joined by the Irish Citizen Army and Tom Clarke chaired the commemoration.
The trade union leader Jim Larkin was in attendance.
This was in the wake of the Great Lockout and Larkin was cheered by the crowds showing the solidarity between republicans and the labour movement.
Leaders of the trade union movement need to think of this.
They need to decide whether their loyalty is to the trade union membership – working people – or the Labour Party.
Trade union members also need to consider whether they should pay a stipend to the Labour Party to be insulted by its leaders.
The Rising belongs to the people of Ireland, not any single party.
But let me be clear, Sinn Féin won’t take lectures on 1916 from those revisionists and other slibhiní who abandoned its ideals many decades ago and who sought to prevent its commemoration.
The 1916 Proclamation remains unfinished business.
Partition stunts Ireland’s potential — politically, socially and economically.
There is now a peaceful way to end Partition.
This is a work in progress and there is an onus on nationalist Ireland to persuade our unionist neighbours that their interests lie in a new, agreed Ireland.
The Good Friday Agreement provides for a referendum on Irish unity.
A Border Poll provides an opportunity to begin building a new, united Ireland.
Sinn Féin believes it is time to let the people have their say.
The NorthWhile the North has been transformed in recent years, many issues remain outstanding.
The British Government is refusing to keep agreements made since 1998.
Sixteen years after the Good Friday Agreement it has failed to implement important elements, such as a Bill of Rights and Acht na Gaeilge.
When taken with its decision to unilaterally end its Weston Park commitments to resolve the OTR issue, and its refusal to establish an inquiry into the murder of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane, the British Government strategy is undermining the political process.
Encouraged by this, there has been an effort by unionist parties to reverse progress made since 1998.
This cannot be allowed.
Issues of the past, flags and parades must be addressed.
The Haass compromise proposals provide a clear way forward.
They must have the unambiguous support of the Irish and British governments.
Two weeks ago party leaders in the North agreed to re-engage in intensive talks around these issues.
Since then, however we see no evidence that the DUP is willing to approach this process in a positive, constructive way.
This is all to do with what is happening within political unionism.
Both the DUP and UUP signed up to the St Andrews and Hillsborough Agreements but are now being challenged by those on the more extreme right such as the TUV and UKIP.
This is a consequence of the huge failure by the UUP and the DUP to face down these rejectionists in the same way as Sinn Fein has done with anti-Agreement elements on the fringes of republicanism.
Let me be clear Sinn Féin will continue to stretch out the hand of friendship to our unionist neighbours.
We will uphold everyone’s civil and religious rights.
But we will also stand firmly and robustly against the bigots, the racists and the sectarian fundamentalists.
They and their political cheer leaders are on the wrong side of history.
Change may be delayed. It cannot be stopped.
The views, ambitions and goodwill of the vast majority of citizens, and Sinn Féin’s focus for the future, is the guarantee that change is irreversible.
Economic policySince the elections, Fine Gael, Labour, Fianna Fáil and media commentators say they will subject Sinn Féin’s economic policies to greater scrutiny.
Tá muid an sasta faoi sin.
It would be great to have a real discussion about the need for a different economic approach.
It would be wonderful to have a scrutiny of the policies of Fianna Fáil and the PDs – remember the PDs? – and of Fine Gael and the Labour Party.
During the Bertie Ahern era Sinn Féin TDs were vocal in pointing out the dangers of the developing property bubble and the growing potential for an economic crash.
Sinn Fein warned of the dangers of over-reliance on taxes from the property sector.
We warned of the over dependency on the construction sector and we highlighted the danger of auction politics as other parties tried to outdo each other with promises of tax cuts.
Sinn Féin was also almost a lone political voice against a drive to reduce regulation across the economy.
We were right then.
We are right now.
Sinn Féin has put forward costed, alternative policies that are about fairness.
Let all parties in this state do the same.
Sinn Féin’s focus is on job creation, stimulating the economy, fair taxes, debt restructuring, and protecting public services.
It is about making the necessary deficit adjustment without harming families or frontline services, by asking the wealthiest to pay more and cutting waste from public spending.
Citizens understand the challenges and are prepared to shoulder their share of the burden of readjustment.
An rud nach taitníonn leo ná an dóigh go bhfuil sé chomh éagórach.
The Property Tax, Water tax, removal of medical cards, cuts to social supports, mortgage distress and lack of social housing or adequate health services, including mental health services, have pushed working people to the limit.
As Bobby Sands wrote; ‘there is no equality in a society that stands upon the economic bog, if only the strongest make it good or survive.’
Let’s see some scrutiny of the policy of Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil which says that for many years to come, Irish citizens should carry an unsustainable bank debt burden, and an economically and socially destructive austerity agenda.
Changing the political landscapeRecent years have witnessed scandals in all the major institutions of Irish life – politics, planning, business, banking, the Church, charities, the justice system and the Gardai.
These scandals have their roots in the toxic political culture, which arose from the counter-revolution that followed the 1916 period.
A conservative elite - politically represented by the Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil leaderships, often supported by Labour - oversaw this corrupt culture.
Bhí seo, agus tá seo, an mhalairt le cad atá i gceist le fíor poblachtachas.
Tá éileamh mór ann d’athrú mór inár sochaí, an geilleagar agus i bpolaitíocht.
Some combination of Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil has been in government since the foundation of this state.
But just as one-party Orange rule in the North is gone, the failed two-and-a-half party system in this state is going also.
Sinn Féin is now a major player in both states with policies and an expanding organization, which transcend partition.
That means we must prepare for government.
We must prepare to become a government of national unity and recovery.
In his day Wolfe Tone clearly identified the connection with Britain and Ireland’s lack of independence and sovereignty, with the depressing state of the economy and the appalling conditions in which citizens lived.
A similar clear headed analysis must be brought to bear today so that Connolly’s reconquest of Ireland by the Irish people can be advanced.
Sinn Féin wants to be in government because we want to change Ireland for the better.
We want to tackle disadvantage, unemployment and inequality and improve the quality of life and standards of living for people across Ireland – particularly those people who are today struggling under the burden of austerity.
We want to deliver on issues such as housing, health and jobs.
We want to end partition.
But Sinn Fein will not do is what the Labour Party has done — we will not give cover to the agenda of conservative parties, repeating again the failed political history of this State over the past 80 years.
The Labour Party’s internal debate is focused on Sinn Féin, rather than on its disastrous colonisation by Fine Gael.
Labour still doesn’t get it.
The contenders for the Labour leadership don’t get it.
Labour – God’s gift to Fine Gael — are so busy debating whether or not they would allow Sinn Féin be in government with them, that it hasn’t dawned on them that after the General Election there may not be enough Labour TDs to be in government with anyone!
This Fine Gael/Labour government has betrayed the electorate.
It promised a ‘democratic revolution’ but has delivered the same stale, old politics of previous governments.
We see them appointing cronies to state boards, and Ministers favouring their own constituencies for funding.
They seek to retain control over the banking inquiry by stuffing it with government TDs and Senators.
They defend the indefensible in a failed effort to save Ministers such as Alan Shatter.
They ignore the real hardship being endured by the most vulnerable citizens as a result of austerity.
This isn’t a democratic revolution – it is an act of subversion.
What Sinn Féin is committed to is the radical republican politics of Wolfe Tone.
We are about creating a New Republic, with new politics and a new way of doing things that puts fairness and equality at the heart of how this country is governed.
ConclusionAs Sinn Féin builds a real political alternative throughout this island, we must remain radical, rooted, relevant and republican.
People are increasingly looking to us for leadership and to provide hope for the future.
We have a political vision for this country and its people that involves building the type of society Wolfe Tone envisioned - a republic that the citizens of this country deserve but have never had.
The recent scandalous revelations of the Mother and baby homes is further evidence that after partition a conservative, mean spirited, narrow minded political and business elite in this state, in alliance with the Catholic Church hierarchy, put in place laws and institutions and censorship restrictions, which were intolerant, chauvinistic, prejudiced and anti-women and anti-working class.
Unmarried mothers were held for years in institutions.
Sex was deemed a crime.
Babies were taken from their mothers, alive and dead.
They had broken no laws.
The thousands of mothers and children who endured unbelievable hardship were denied everything by the state.
For some commentators, the responsibility and blame for this is being laid at the door of society.
I have been trying to understand this.
In this version of events everybody is to blame and everybody is at fault.
However, everybody is not to blame.
The victims are not to blame.
It is as if the virtual imprisonment of unmarried girls and women and the theft of their children were a natural outworking of Irish society in that period of our history.
However, that is too simplistic a picture.
It seeks benignly or inadvertently to excuse the decisions that were taken by the elites in the State and church.
As Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin told the Dáil this week, this can be too easily twisted into a view that since everyone was to blame, nobody was to blame.
That is not good enough.
We extend love and respect to the survivors of abuse and we thank them and their supporters for their struggle.
Sinn Féin is already bringing about a realignment of politics. In Councils across this state, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, on an unprecedented scale, have coalesced to exclude Sinn Féin.
Some of them may think this is the smart thing to do.
It’s not. It is a stupid thing to do.
It is the wrong thing to do.
And it will not succeed. We are very good at not being excluded.
So, let Fine Gael, and Fianna Fáil and the others take not.
Bobby Sands spelt it out in the last entry of his hunger strike diary.
‘The mind is the most important.’ He wrote:, ‘If they aren’t able to destroy the desire for freedom, they won’t break you... the desire for freedom, and the freedom of the Irish people, is in my heart.
The day will dawn when all the people of Ireland will have the desire for freedom to show.
It is then we’ll see the rising of the moon’.
Tá ceart ag Bobby. Tiochfaid lá eigean nuair a bheidh an fonn saoirse seo le taispeáint ag daoine go léir na hEireann.
Ansin tchífidh muid éirí na gealaí.
Until them let it be clear. Sinn Féin isn’t going away, you know.
We are going to grow and grow.
As for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáikl? They are ideologically indistinguishable.
They should unite.
For our part Sinn Féin will continue to bring the message of equality into councils and to replace party pacts and exclusion with power-sharing and inclusion.
For Sinn Féin politics is not a mere game or career choice.
We have important work to do on behalf of Ireland and its people.
Let’s leave here today, ever more determined to do it.
Ar aghaigh linn le cheile.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh.
PS: Fosta, go riabh maith agat do Mark at An Phoblacht