17 April 1997 Edition

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Ard Fheis gathers in Monaghan

Sinn Féin almost clashed with the gardai in Parnell Square on Wednesday but not in the way some might expect. No batons were drawn and the Sinn Féin pre-Ard Fheis press conference in Dublin ended just in time for the start of the Garda march for more pay.

Because the party is fighting three elections the Ard Fheis has been confined to one day this year and is set to be an election rally as well as a policy-making conference. Delegates gather next Sunday morning 21 April in the Hill Grove Hotel in Monaghan town. Cavan/Monaghan is the front line of the Sinn Féin electoral challenge in the 26 Counties and with delegates coming from counties across the border who are in the midst of the Westminster election, there will be a campaigning atmosphere on the day.

``Great expectations'' was how party chair Mitchel McLaughlin described Sinn Féin's outlook on the elections. He said that both new governments in Dublin and London would have a new opportunity for peace after Major's failure. He had been ``more concerned about the implications of a successful peace process for the integrity of the United Kingdom'' than with making progress. On the role of John Bruton and his recent criticism of Sinn Féin (see page 13) McLaughlin pointed out that Bruton had inherited the peace process which was now in tatters. He had not done enough to confront the British government. But whatever government emerges in Dublin Sinn Féin will endeavour to work with it.

The role of the community in economic development is the theme of a discussion document which will form the centre-piece of discussion at the Ard Fheis. Cavan/Monaghan candidate Caoimhghin O Caoláin said the paper addresses ``the need for fundamental change in the Irish economy''. On the elections he said:

``We seek the strongest mandate in the history of this party and are confident that the electorate North and South recognise our commitment to honest, open dialogue, and will reflect that in the ballot box.''

He pointed out that this was the first general election fought by Sinn Féin since the lifting of Section 31 broadcasting censorship.

An Phoblacht
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