18 February 2010 Edition
Gerry Adams unanimously selected to fight
Around 300 Sinn Féin activists packed into the Roddy McCorley club in west Belfast on Tuesday night for the selection convention to agree the party’s candidate for the constituency.
Gerry Kelly MLA chaired the event and Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew officiated over the nomination and selection process. There were no other candidates standing and Gerry Adams was unanimously selected to represent Sinn Féin in the next Westminster election in a few months.
Adams, who received a standing ovation, thanked the convention for their support and criticised those who have used the difficulties faced by his family to attack him and the party.
He said: “Let me begin by telling you that prior to the broadcast of the UTV programme in December I asked to meet with the Belfast and west Belfast leadership to inform them of the programme and of my view that the difficulties faced by my family were likely to be used to attack me and the party.
“I have never done anything deliberately to harm republicanism, the struggle or Sinn Féin and I believed that the leaderships here in the city had the right to know what was likely to develop.
“We met again just over a week ago and reviewed the situation, including the deliberate and despicable and untruthful campaign that some elements of the media have engaged in against me.
“I want to thank everyone who has expressed their solidarity with me and with my family since December. We have been uplifted by the good wishes of countless people.
“A month ago, Colette and I were told that she had cancer. That was a huge shock. Last Thursday she had surgery. It went well. And she is in good spirits.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank the medical and health staff and our own doctor for their good work.
“I also want to thank Colette’s friends and those of you who knew and who have been very supportive.
“I have always taken my responsibilities as an elected representative very seriously. I am proud to represent this constituency for Sinn Féin. I am proud to be a member of this activist community and to represent the people of this proud republican heartland.
“Every election we have fought since the Assembly election of 1982 has been fought not just against the SDLP and the unionists but also against the Irish Labour Party, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, at times the Catholic Hierarchy and the establishment media.
“We have met the challenge head on and prevailed!
“Sinn Féin has helped transform west Belfast. We have ably and conscientiously represented all the people and our increasing vote and public representation is recognition of this fact. Working in partnership with community organisations we have succeeded in effecting real change in people’s lives.
“Working through the Peace Process and the political institutions, Sinn Féin in west Belfast has encouraged and secured investment, employment, training, new build projects, progress on projects like Conway Mill, the Colin Gateway Initiative, the Shankill Peacewall Art Project, planned improvements in roads and transport infrastructure, environmental progress, the growth of the Irish language, and much more.
“This party provides a constituency service unrivalled on this island and we are proud of the support and help we provide to those in need.
“The effectiveness of Sinn Féin is evident also in the recent agreement reached at Hillsborough. This saw a date for the transfer of powers on policing and justice, as well as programmes for improving the efficiency of the Executive and Assembly and the all-Ireland arrangements, as well as progressing the outstanding elements of the St. Andrews agreement.
“In recent days I was able to reveal that the Minister of Culture, Arts and leisure will be bringing forward a draft strategy to the Executive by the end of March to enhance and develop and protect the Irish language.
“In addition, and after a long negotiation with the British government we secured £20 million of additional funding for the Irish Language Broadcast Fund and for resource and infrastructure projects for the Irish language. “Today, this party is more involved and more active in unionist areas of this constituency than ever before.
“Whether it is through the west Belfast Task Force, or on housing, education and community work, Sinn Féin draws no distinction between citizens. In west Belfast, whether in Ballymurphy or Poleglass or Springmartin or the Lower Falls or the lower Shankill, we are insisting that deprived communities materially benefit from the radical change that is taking place and which this party is driving.
“Sinn Féin is an Irish Republican Party. We are still the only all-Ireland party. We are the only party with credibility on national independence. Our primary goal is a free, independent and United Ireland. Everything we do as Irish republicans is about building political strength to advance and achieve this.
“This weekend Sinn Féin will host a conference in London to encourage the debate on a United Ireland. This is the latest in a series of such conferences.”
Concluding, Adams said: “I am proud to be your representative for Sinn Féin in west Belfast. Sinn Féin is for citizens and citizens’ rights. We are determined to uphold the rights and entitlements of citizens, to make a difference to their quality of life, and to build communities where people enjoy equal citizenship.”