1 November 2007 Edition
CONFERENCE : Key political strategies aired in South Armagh
Making the all-Ireland vision a reality
BY SEÁN OLIVER & BRENDAN KERR
IT is the job of republican activists to turn our all-Ireland aspiration and vision into a reality for people in their daily lives, a key Sinn Féin conference organised by the party’s All-Ireland Department heard in South Armagh last weekend.
The event, at Tí Chulainn, brought together elected representatives and grassroots activists from all of the border counties, North and South, and further afield. Participants focused on every area of struggle, from communities and workplaces to local councils, Údarás na Gaeltachta, the Assembly, the Oireachtas and the European Parliament.
Sinn Féin TD and party Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said that Sinn Féin’s political strength in the border counties brings a double responsibility to deliver real and tangible progressive change “for all the people we represent and to advance the aims and objectives of Irish republicanism”.
The Cavan/Monaghan TD –a member of the Dáil’s new Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, established only last week – said that it is important to hold the Fianna Fáil/PD/Green Party coalition to account on its Programme for Government, including the all-island elements.
Even though the new Oireachtas committee falls short of what Sinn Féin believes is necessary – “We do not see it as a substitute for Six-County representation in the Dáil,” says Ó Caoláin – the Dáil Sinn Féin leader appealed to unionist MPs not to shun the new committee but “to use this opportunity to work for the mutual benefit of all our people”.
The border TD said:
“This committee will be judged on how it helps to deliver real improvements in people’s lives, especially for those communities worst affected by the border. We in Sinn Féin will play our part in helping to ensure its success.”
Delegates heard that a key aspect of the party’s work is to advance its ‘Border Corridor Strategy’ through Sinn Féin representatives on three regional local authority cross-border corridor groups.
Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy MP explained his department’s interaction with authorities and ministers on both sides of the border, including embattled 26-County Transport Minister Noel Dempsey, on the North-South Ministerial Council.
MEP Bairbre de Brún gave a detailed insight into the new EU funding programmes, the role of the European Committee of the Regions, and an account of her own work in developing a party vision and Charter for the North-West region, something that is to be rolled out in the other border areas.
The seminar ended with Bairbre de Brún, Padraig Mac Lochlainn from Donegal and Louth TD Arthur Morgan providing a lively insight into the much-trumpeted prospect of Fianna Fáil becoming a 32-county party, after only 80 years, and their contributions sparked a lively and good humoured discussion to round off the day.