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2 July 2010

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Bodenstown 2010

‘We are the United Irishmen and Irishwomen of 2010’

IN BRILLIANT sunny weather and temperatutres around 20C, thousands of republicans from across Ireland gathered in Sallins, County Kildare, on Sunday, June 20th, to parade to Sallins Churchyard to honour ‘The Father of Irish Republicanism’, Theobald Wolfe Tone.

The events were chaired by Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty.

Here are extracts from the speech of the main speaker, newly-re-elected MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Michelle Gildernew MLA.

The full text of Michelle’s address can be seen online at www.sinnfein.ie.

ON this day, the 20th of June 1763, Theobald Wolfe Tone was born in Dublin. A mere 35 years later he died a young man in a prison cell, having devoted his life to the fight for Irish freedom. More than any other individual, it was he who first brought to the Irish people the idea of democracy and the ideal of an Irish Republic.

As proud Irish republicans, we salute Tone’s memory and that of the United Irishmen and Irishwomen. We are the United men and women of 2010 and I am especially proud to address you here today as the Irish republican representative for the constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

My first message is one of thanks to the people of Fermanagh/South Tyrone who elected me and to the Sinn Féin members and supporters from across Ireland who helped in our campaign.

Buíochas mór le muintir Fhear Manach agus Tír Eoghain Theas agus leo siúd uile a chabhraigh linn. Bhí sibh go léir ar fheabhas ar fad.

My second message is one of solidarity to the people of Derry and the families of the victims of Bloody Sunday. The achievement of the Saville Report into the murders of 14 innocent civilians and the wounding of 13 others, published last Tuesday, is your achievement. Finally, the lies of Widgery have been consigned to the dustbin of history.

Saville has also brought to an end a four-decade-long cover-up of the Bloody Sunday massacre, authorised at the highest levels of the British Establishment.

And let there be no mistake about it, Bloody Sunday was not some aberration by rogue soldiers. Just a few months earlier, 11 innocent civilians were shot dead by the British Army in the greater Ballymurphy area of west Belfast. The Ballymurphy Massacre and Bloody Sunday exposed the malign role of the British Army in Ireland and contributed in a major way to the unfolding conflict in Ireland.

The ultimate act of justice for all our people will be the final removal from Ireland of the British Army and the end of British rule in our country.

My third message is an international one.

Wolfe Tone was an internationalist, a passionate advocate of human liberty across the globe, as are all true Irish republicans.

So a message of solidarity today goes to the people of Gaza and all Palestine. You are an imprisoned people, a ghettoised people, a tortured people. We salute you and we salute those courageous citizens from all over the world who joined the relief flotilla for Gaza. We remember the members of that flotilla murdered by Israel.

We ask the Irish Government and all the governments of the EU: What more does the Israeli regime have to do before Israeli ambassadors are told to go home, and before the EU ends its special trade agreements with Israel?

The demands are clear:

  • End the blockade of Gaza;
  • Free the people of Palestine;
  • Real peace based on justice and human rights.

I have thanked the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone and I want to thank also the voters across the Six Counties who re-elected our five MPs and made Sinn Féin the largest party in that part of our country.

That is a huge achievement for Sinn Féin and for the people we represent. But far more important is what we do with the people’s mandate.

In the Executive and in the Assembly we will soon be faced with demands for major cuts. Be assured that Sinn Féin will resist those efforts and work to our utmost to defend services and livelihoods, especially for the most vulnerable.

But let there be no illusions. We are faced with this situation because the Six Counties is still under British jurisdiction and the Assembly is denied the fiscal powers to run our own economy in our own way and as part of the wider Irish economy.

Elected representatives of all shades in the North should realise that it is in the interests of all the people to work for an all-Ireland economy and for an all-Ireland democracy.

And what is true of elected representatives in the Six Counties is equally true of those in the 26 Counties. There has been much debate recently about the future - both economic and political. However, in this state most of the debate has been deeply partitionist in nature. Few have faced the fact that for a truly new Ireland to emerge partition must be ended.

So let us in Sinn Féin again lead that demand.

It is the theme of our commemoration this year: ‘Towards a New Republic - a United Ireland.’

Taimíd i Sinn Féin ag obair i dtreo Poblacht Nua - Éire Aontaithe.

We need to remind the other political parties what they say they stand for: Fine Gael - ‘The United Ireland Party’; Labour, which claims the mantle of James Connolly; and Fianna Fáil, which calls itself - God help us - ‘The Republican Party’.

The parties maintain these claims - token and insincere though they are - because they know that a peaceful, united Ireland is still the sincere aspiration of the majority of people on this island.

But is it more than an aspiration. It is a right. It is a democratic imperative. It is an economic necessity.

Some commentators have said that to speak of a united Ireland now in the midst of an economic recession is folly. But, in reality, talk of a transformation in Irish politics without addressing the division of our country and of our people is the talk of fools.

Wolfe Tone said that Irish independence would be based on that “numerous and respectable class of the community, the men of no property”.

The people of no property did not cause the economic collapse in Ireland but they are being made to pay the price.

That price is being paid by half a million unemployed, by workers in public service, industry and agriculture whose incomes have been slashed, by those dependent on social welfare, by patients in hospitals and children in schools who suffer the effects of cuts.

We know who should have paid the price - the top bankers and speculators, the so-called regulators and the corrupt politicians. But has a single one of them spent even a night behind bars? Not a chance.

And let it be said very clearly - it didn’t have to be this way.

We in Sinn Féin warned that the property bubble created by Fianna Fáil and their cronies was a disaster waiting to happen. We called for the privileged to be made to pay their way. We called for the wealth to be shared. We called for housing policy based on housing need not speculators’ greed.

They refused to listen to us and to others who warned against their folly. And now in their arrogance they try to wriggle out of responsibility for the massive social and economic mess they created.

We say to Brian Cowen and Fianna Fáil and to their Green mudguards - get out of office, call a general election, let the people give you their answer and let’s build a new politics.

We say to Labour, if your vision of a new politics is coalition with Fine Gael then you are about to let the people down again. What would be different about economic policy under a Fine Gael-led Government? The knife making the cuts would have a different coloured handle, that’s all.

We have put forward a realistic alternative to the Government’s slash and burn policies, and have shown where money could be raised and saved without touching frontline public services or social welfare. We have launched proposals for retaining and creating jobs, including a specific set of proposals for creating jobs for the young unemployed.

I am very proud to represent the same constituency as Bobby Sands. Bobby wrote on the first day of his Hunger Strike Diary that he was “born of a risen generation with a deeply rooted and unquenchable desire for freedom”.

We still have that unquenchable desire and we know what freedom will mean. It will mean ‘A New Republic - A United Ireland’.

Leading the way: Sinn Féin elected reps lead off from Sallins

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