15 March 2007 Edition
26 general Election : Campaign launched in jubilant atmosphere
Changing Ireland, North and South
BY ELLA O’DWYER
There was a jubilant atmosphere in the Royal Dublin Hotel on Dublin’s O’Connell Street last Friday as Sinn Féin launched its 26 County general election campaign, in the wake of hugely successful results in the North’s Assembly election. The public meeting was attended by most of the party’s Dublin candidates and was chaired by Dublin South Central TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh.
On the results of the Assembly election, Gerry Adams told the packed public meeting that people who once were opponents and enemies are starting to work together and that “those who are reluctant to work together and take up their rightful places will have to explain to those who support them why they are taking such a negative and reluctant approach at this time.”
He said there was still a long journey to be completed in terms of the process of reconciliation.
“I know that people are sometimes vexed and stretched by the utterances of DUP spokespersons, but we’re trying to engender the conditions where Orange and Green are united – the symbolism of our national flag – of unity, peace and equality between Orange and Green and that’s a hardnosed business.”
He commended the determination, tenacity, energy and strategic thinking that republicans had brought to the reconciliation process saying it “has brought us all to a potentially new dispensation on this island. We want to harness that energy and determination here and particularly in the city of Dublin.”
On the progress of Sinn Féin in the capital Adams pointed out that the party had been building there through a slow process, from the day when Christy Burke became the first Sinn Féin councillor in many decades to the point where there were now 14 Sinn Féin councillors, two TDs and an MEP in Dublin. He said that much of the friction between Sinn Féin and the Irish Government could be traced back to the day Mary Lou McDonald was elected MEP for Dublin.
He pointed to the fact that 200, mostly young people, had lost their lives to drugs in a small area just a few hundred yards from where the meeting was taking place.
“That’s a part of this city that supplied Cumann na mBan, the Citizens’ Army and the people who defied the Lock Out in 1913 and brought forth the Volunteer soldiers in 1916. It’s a part of the city where we have Liberty Hall and it’s a total and absolute disgrace that in the affluence of the Celtic Tiger that 200 people would die from inequality because that’s exactly what’s involved. I’m not talking about a century ago, I’m talking about three weeks ago when six people died.”
On the crisis in the housing and health sectors he said: “Try to pay a mortgage or to get affordable housing. We’ve all heard it time and again. We all know of someone with a story of having sat on trolleys or in corridors in hospitals. It’s a disgrace that in this time of great affluence that instead of the government putting the money into public health services, they put it in the pockets of their friends who are privatising our health services.”
On how he would judge Sinn Féin, Adams said it would be on the changes it brought about.
“We have a lot of changes we want to bring about. We need a mandate to do it. We need to be able to face up to those who pay lip-service to these matters but who actually have a different agenda. We’re an Irish republican party and the holy grail of Irish republicanism is people. It’s citizenship, peoples’ right and equality. That’s the core of it, that’s the core of what we’re about.”
On the party’s success in the Assembly elections, Mary Lou McDonald MEP said:
“The achievement of this party has been nothing short of transforming for the whole political context in this country. Everyone it seems wants to be a republican in Ireland now, all the political parties. But our task is to move all those parties to genuinely become republican.”
She said Irish unity was a live, political project and that the all Ireland economy was now the only show in town.
“There are very significant indicators, very significant straws in the wind demonstrating the achievements all of you have made. I think you are to be commended for it.
“We also have to take stock of the scale of the challenge that faces us. Take a look around you and look at the health service – to any of the A&Es.
“Look at the state of the housing services here. There are people with no prospect of buying their own homes.
“Look at the inequality in education in this state where opportunities depend on your postal code.
“Look at the drugs issue that Gerry touched on. In the 1980s the people of Dublin were called on not just to face down the drug pushers, but also to face down the state that stood by and let the drugs problem go on. The state colluded in the misery and loss of those working class people and that’s not yesterday’s news because we still face that issue in our city today. Because the issue doesn’t feature much in the media doesn’t mean the problem has gone away. It hasn’t.
“We have all these problems at a time of unprecedented wealth. It seems to me that we’ve had a succession of governments who, on the one hand want to boast and strut their stuff about the Celtic Tiger and on the other hand are ill-prepared and unwilling to put resources back into services for the people – the people who created the wealth in the first place. We have an administration in Ireland that believes that inequality is inevitable – what absolute rubbish.”
Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said Sinn Féin was ready for Government not just in the North but in the South also. He said the party wanted to get the biggest mandate possible and to use the bargaining power that this would give when dealing with other potential government parties.
“We want to be in government in both parts of Ireland because that is how we can bring about a truly national government”, he said.
Ó Snodaigh closed the meeting by reminding people of their important role in the political process and the elections.
“You have the power to change history. We will make the difference in this city. Sinn Féin here and in the rest of the 26 counties and the Six Counties is going to make the change in these elections and into the future so that we will realise our republican goals”, Ó Snodaigh said.