11 February 2010 Edition
Cúige Uladh prepares for election
AGM marks success of Sinn Féin’s strategy
BY EMMA CLANCY
“THE success of the Sinn Féin strategy was clearly illustrated in the outcome of the Hillsborough negotiations,” leading republican Sean ‘Spike’ Murray told hundreds of party activists at an upbeat and confident Cúige Uladh AGM on Saturday 6 February in County Tyrone.
To resounding applause, the Cúige Uladh chairperson said: “The party’s negotiating team deserve our congratulations for having done such competent and professional work in trying circumstances during the negotiations.”
Murray told the meeting, chaired by Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew, that the party had successfully contributed to creating the political conditions where major progress could be made towards implementing the outstanding issues of the Good Friday and St. Andrew’s agreements – in the face of political unionism’s determination to resist change.
“While this progress is very significant, it doesn’t change the fundamental nature of power-sharing,” Murray said. “The DUP’s mindset has not changed. The successful devolution of policing and justice powers to the Six Counties will simply mean another front is opened up in the ongoing struggle to ensure that inequality, discrimination and privilege are overcome, while we continue to organise for Irish unity.”
Murray said this demonstrated the need to increase political strength and said the upcoming Westminster election would be key to doing this.
Reflecting on the past year, Murray said that as well as topping the poll in June’s European Parliament election, cuige activists had successfully campaigned around a range of issues – including building solidarity with the besieged people of Gaza, pushing for progressive reform of the North’s discriminatory education system in the face of fierce opposition, and fighting to defend public services. Outlining the cuige’s priorities for the near future, he said all party activists and supporters were now focusing on mobilising to make the Westminster elections as successful as possible.
“This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the defence of the Falls Road, St Matthew’s and the Falls Curfew,” Murray said. “These are important historical and political events so Sinn Féin will be mobilising to ensure that they are commemorated while at the same time providing us with an opportunity, especially for the younger generation, to reflect upon and learn the lessons of history.”
He finished by saying that the challenges facing the party mean the cuige needs to pursue a vigorous recruitment campaign, with a particular emphasis on increasing the number of young people and women in the party. The AGM heard political reports on the 26 Counties, the Six Counties, the work of Ógra Shinn Féin and the cúige’s trade union work.
Cúige Uladh: Dawn Doyle and Michelle Gildernew listen to Leo Green as he addresses last Saturdays AGM
Bill of Rights the next step
Derry MLA Martina Anderson also delivered a report about the urgent need to step up the party’s campaigning on a Bill of Rights during the current consultation period on British government proposals on the content of the Bill.
“We fought hard to have a Bill of Rights that would guarantee legal, enforceable rights for all included in the Good Friday Agreement,” Anderson said, “and we fought hard at St. Andrews for the process to be moved forward through a Bill of Rights forum.
“Within the forum Sinn Féin campaigned for economic and social protections to be included in such a Bill – in order for it to be capable of having a meaningful impact on the lives of the most disadvantaged in our society, and for it to be able to play a role in overcoming the legacy of structural inequality in the Six Counties. “While the forum’s proposals were not perfect, they included important social and economic rights. However, predictably, the British government responded to the forum’s proposals by preparing their own set of proposals for the content of the Bill that exclude these rights.
“Sinn Féin will not tolerate any attempt to undermine, or renegotiate downwards, the content of the Bill of Rights.”
Anderson said it is vital that Sinn Féin responds immediately to this attempt by the British government to “delay and then neuter” the Bill of Rights.
“Social and economic protections are vital to overcoming the legacy of structural inequality in a state founded on violent repression, gerrymandering, emergency powers, censorship and institutionalised discrimination,” she said. She urged all party activists present to respond to the British government’s proposals during the period of consultation which is taking place over the next several weeks, and to take the campaign back to local communities and organisations.