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22 October 2009 Edition

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Councillors are part of the vanguard of our movement

BY CLLR PÁDRAIG Mac LOCHLAINN
Chairperson National Councillors’ Forum

THE Sinn Féin National Councillors’ Forum is the collective voice of 232 elected representatives across 31 of the 32 counties.
Of that total, 120 represent communities across the 26 Counties. To state the 26-County figure is not to be partitionist but to highlight it to republicans so that they remember it the next time they read or listen to the prattling of a ‘neutral’ commentator or journalist about how the 26-County state is some sort of a political desert for Sinn Féin.
As Gerry Adams declared at the recent annual conference of the forum: our councillors play a crucial role because they are the public interface that the vast majority of our people have with Sinn Féin. I would take that a step further and argue that our councillors are a crucial part of the vanguard of this movement, particularly in the 26 Counties, where our numbers in the Oireachtas are small. Three of our councillors – Eddie Fullerton, Bernard O’Hagan, and John Davey – were assassinated in the recent conflict, paying the ultimate price for their fearless local and public leadership. Councillors deal with the bread and butter issues that are the foundation of all republican politics. The hallmark of Sinn Féin councillors is that we have sought to empower our communities rather than engage in self-serving clientelism.
However, I feel that we can and must improve cohesion and co-operation between our councillors in the time ahead to advance our republican objectives. We need to ensure that we continue to work together to advance the all-Ireland agenda. Much good work has been done on the council cross-border groups but there is no room for complacency.
In the Six Counties, the amalgamation of existing councils into a smaller number under the Review of Public Administration (RPA) will pose a challenge to our councillors to ensure that the changes counter centralised bureaucracy and bring more accountability to, and partnership with, our communities. The community planning proposals and the cross-border dimension to these are encouraging signs of progress. Our councillors in the Six Counties who sit on the local policing boards are also central to the process of change.
In the 26 Counties, our councillors are the frontline for advancing our politics in the absence of Sinn Féin parliamentary representation in 39 of the 43 Dáil constituencies. It is crucial that our party ensures that those councillors who are tasked with representing us on local radios and in local newspapers across the state are properly resourced and trained in all areas of policy.
They, in turn, must take the mantle of leadership seriously and ensure that they are fully engaged with evolving Sinn Féin policies and fully participating in the party’s national campaigns.
While Sinn Féin are often squeezed out of the national media, due to our small numbers in the Oireachtas, our local councillors cannot be ignored. This is a crucial point and more attention must be paid to the importance of local media in communicating Sinn Féin’s message to local communities.
More people engage with local newspapers and radio than with the national media. Therefore, we must ensure that our local councillors are covered regularly in their local media in a strategic and methodical fashion.
As I said at the outset, the 26 Counties is no political desert for Sinn Féin but much remains to be done and our 120 councillors and Udarás member will be central to any party-building strategy. It is clear that we have to punch above our political weight in many parts of the state.
This is the time for Left republican politics. This is the time for the commonsense politics of one all-Ireland economy.
The bible of unbridled capitalism beloved by the two major political parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, has backfired spectacularly. It is clear that the reckless pursuit of greed and the over-reliance of taxation on the construction and consumption bubble has crippled the 26-County state. Our elected representatives must be prominent as the champions of those multitudes failed by those in political power and facing real hardship.
We must confront the agenda of cuts to crucial public services and defend the vulnerable in our society. We must intelligently articulate an alternative vision and win the battle for hearts and minds in our townlands, villages, towns, and cities.
In the Six Counties, our councillors must ensure that the promise of the Peace Process is realised by the communities we have fought for and that equality is truly delivered and maintained.
None of this is easy but we have to have the desire to win and the belief in our Left republican analysis. Most importantly, we have to believe in each other. Comradeship has never been more important for Irish republicans. We are at a political crossroads. We either become despondent and dance to the tune of our political opponents or we take inspiration from what has been achieved and rededicate ourselves to take the next steps forward. And if we are seeking inspiration, where better to start than a Sinn Féin forum of 232 elected representatives in 31 of the 32 counties?

TASK AHEAD: We must confront the agenda of cuts and defend the vulnerable in our society 

 

An Phoblacht Magazine

AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:

  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.

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