26 February 2009 Edition
From a DUP oxymoron to a 21st century Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin Ard Fheis 2009
BY ROBBIE SMYTH
IT COULD BE a shape of things to come in Sinn Féin: the section on Party Development started and ended on time even though 28 speakers were crammed into the slot.
The Ard Fheis sections on Culture, Party Development, Constitution and Rules were at the end of the Friday evening session and were all the more remarkable for the nearly full hall as tellers were called for some of the votes.
It was Barry McElduff who kicked things off, speaking to Motion 29 which asked that “the dignity of our national flag be recognised and protected at all times and in all circumstances”.
The motion was easily passed after the Tyrone MLA said he was looking forward to the day when the Tricolour would fly over Stormont.
He told the hall his role on the Sinn Féin Assembly team was to mark Gregory Campbell, who was “a nice man deep down” but noted that Gerry Adams had described him as an “oxymoron”, a word he had to use a dictionary to decipher. Finally, to fulsome applause, McElduff noted that when the victorious Tyrone players brought the Sam Maguire to Stormont last year “they came in through the front door”.
Most of the speakers focused on the motions dealing with party development and rule changes which addressed issues such as finance, a new model of party membership, amendments to the pledge taken by Sinn Féin election candidates, gender equality and policy development. Micheál Mac Donncha, though, took time in his speech to tackle Motion 32, which was calling for retention of Christian symbols in public places.
Mac Donncha said republicans “respect people of all religions and none” and this was the core of “civic republicanism” and urged the Ard Fheis to oppose the motion but lost the vote.
Incoming party chairperson Declan Kearney addressed the key motions on party developments, telling delegates that republicans need “a party that was fit for purpose in 21st century Ireland” and that we needed to “put in place approaches and processes to open the doors of the party”.
Supporting the motions on expanding party membership Senator Pearse Doherty said that, “we need to get more people involved in our struggle”.
Speaking to motions on policy development, Ard Chomhairle member and Policy Department manager Shannonbrooke Murphy told delegates that the department was in the last stages of finalising a full searchable internet-based policy database for party members. She said that our polices have stood the test of time, as shown by the tenets of the 1916 Proclamation and the 1919 Democratic Programme.
Oisín Ó Dubhlain spoke in favour of an Ógra Átha Cliath motion calling for activists to work for the renaming of streets, parks and other public amenities. Donncha Ó Laoire said that it is “a scandal that Tehran had a Bobby Sands Street before Dublin”.
Kerry McColgan, from west Tyrone, praised the work of Eibhlín Glenholmes and other women in the party, saying, “This time last year I would not have addressed the Ard Fheis,” and ending her address with, “Ní saoirse go saoirse na mban!”