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26 June 1997 Edition

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A voice for freedom

The biggest cheer at the Wolfe Tone commemoration in Bodenstown was reserved for Sinn Féin's new TD Caoimhghin O Caoláin. The Cavan-Monaghan deputy addressed the large crowd at Tone's grave and referred to newspaper reports which said he had ``walked alone'' into Leinster House to register on 17 June. ``Let me make it very clear - this Sinn Féin TD never walks alone'' he said to loud applause.

He told republicans ``our success in Cavan-Monaghan was your success''. He said he would be walking into Leinster House this Thursday 26 June to take the Sinn Féin seat ``conscious of the sacrifices of so many of our comrades over the years''. He said he was confident that this was just the beginning of future Sinn Féin successes and he will soon be walking into Leinster House as part of a team of Sinn Féin TDs.

History will be made when the new TD takes his seat and another facet of the Irish political landscape will be changed by Sinn Féin.

 

Our vision is of a new Ireland




Opening speech by Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghin O Caoláin in Leinster House


Glacaim an suíochán sa chomhdháil seo inniu go bródúil mar theachta ó mhuintir an Chabháin agus Mhuineacháin agus is ar a son agus ar son mo pháirtí Sinn Féin atáim anseo mar ionadaí. Is stairiúil an lá é dár bpáirtí. Is stairiúil freisin an ócáid í don chomhdháil seo.

Is páirtí poblachtach é Sinn Féin agus i bhfocail Fhorógra na Poblachta 1916 ``dearbhaimíd gur ceart ceannasach do-chlóite ceart mhuintir na hEireann chun tír na hEireann, agus fós chun dála na hEireann a stiúradh gan chosc gan toirmeasc''. Níl an cheannasacht iomlán fós ag muintir na hEireann agus is é bunchospóir mo pháirtí an Phoblacht uile-Eireannach a chur ar bun.

Tagaim anseo mar ionadaí ó cheantar atá imeallach le fada an lá mar gheall ar críchdheighilt ár dtíre agus mar gheall ar neamhaird ag rialtas i ndiaidh rialtais sa stát seo. Mar theachta beidh sé mar bhun-aidhm agam deireadh a chur leis an neamhaird sin agus mo cheantar a chur ar ais i lár pholaitíocht na tíre seo.

I am honoured to stand here today as a deputy for the people of Cavan and Monaghan and as a representative of Sinn Féin, the party of which I am proud to be a member. I represent an all-Ireland party that enjoys a significant mandate in both parts of our divided island, and I welcome the presence here today of my colleagues Gerry Adams MP for West Belfast and Martin McGuinness MP for Mid-Ulster. I look forward to the day when I will join them and all the others elected by the Irish people as a whole in a national parliament for the 32 Counties.

In the recent election voters were offered a choice between two sets of coalition partners with virtually identical social and economic policies. From the composition of the House today it is obvious that the electorate resented being forced to make such a choice. This reality is reflected in the growing strength of the smaller parties and independents.

In the general election Sinn Féin stood as a party for change. Our vision is of a new Ireland, a people united in shared prosperity. We note the failure of successive administrations in this state to fulfil the aim of the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil Eireann which declared ``the right of every citizen to an adequate share of the produce of the Nation's labour''. This ongoing failure is evident in every town and village in Ireland and can be seen in high level of long-term unemployment, rural decline and a growing drugs crisis.

Promoting the interests of my constituents in Cavan and Monaghan, and advancing the case for a fairer social and economic order based on equality - these will be my priorities during the course of the term before us.

The partition of our country and Britain's occupation of the six north eastern counties is the single greatest problem facing us as a people today. The most important task for us all is to rebuild the peace process. This must include the full recognition of Sinn Féin's electoral mandate by both governments. The way to lasting peace is through inclusive negotiations leading to political and constitutional change. The intense and positive engagement of the new government and of all the representatives in this House will be needed to bring that historic change about.

On the vote for Taoiseach therefore Sinn Féin's priority is the rebuilding of the peace process. Accordingly I will be casting my vote for Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach. I am doing so solely on the basis of his and his party's positive disposition towards a genuine and inclusive process.

I look forward to working with the new government and with others in this House in the achievement of a lasting peace with justice for all the people of Ireland.

 

New voice in Leinster House



SF TD will vote for Bertie Ahern ``solely on basis of peace process''



BY MICHEAL MacDONNCHA

The entry of newly elected Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghin O Caoláin into Leinster House will mark an historic change for that assembly. While as yet there is only a single Sinn Féin TD the role of the party in the struggle for Irish freedom makes its presence there of special significance.

Caoimhghin O Caoláin's will be a new voice in the House in several senses. He represents an all-Ireland party, the only one with parliamentary seats on both sides of the border and the only one with a wide spread of local authority representatives in both states and in rural and urban areas. He represents an independent republican party of the left. All these things distinguish the Sinn Féin TD from other deputies.

The arrival of Sinn Féin in Leinster House comes at a crucial time in the effort to rebuild the peace process. The disastrous role of the last British government was compounded by the failures of John Bruton as Taoiseach. It is acknowledged that the contribution of Bertie Ahern and Fianna Fáil has been more positive.

It is for this reason that the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle at its meeting on 24 June mandated Caoimhghin O Caoláin to vote for Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach when the question is put before the house on 26 June.

This support in the vote for Taoiseach is critical and qualified. It rests on the peace process alone. On the wide range of social and economic issues Sinn Féin is opposed to the policies of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats who will be forming the new government. From the opposition benches the Sinn Féin TD will be representing the interests of his constituents and articulating the case for real change. The failure of the previous government to ensure that the benefits of the `Celtic Tiger Economy' are shared by more than a privileged few is set to be continued by the new administration. The participation of the Progressive Democrats in particular does not augur well for the disadvantaged sections of society. For its part Sinn Féin will be working for the elimination of poverty, real tax reform and the reversal of rural decline.

The Sinn Féin TD will also be articulating the republican case for Irish unity and independence. Leinster House has been a forum in the past for empty rhetoric about the national question. More recently a cosy consensus has often kept the issue off the agenda. But the presence of a party with both a proven work record and a large mandate in the Six Counties will be of great significance. The voice of republicans nationwide will be heard and nationalists in the Six Counties will have a more effective advocate than ever before. The Dublin government will be challenged with the need both to uphold nationalist rights and to develop, in common with other nationalist parties, a strategy for national unity and reconciliation.

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