26 February 2009 Edition
The Mitchel McLaughlin Column
An opportunity not to be lost
IT WOULD be remiss of me not to congratulate all involved in the organisation of the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis. Congratulations must go to organisers, participants and backroom staff for a most invigorating and uplifting Ard Fheis.
It is now time – whether on the economy, education, health, environment or employment – that the motions put forward must be developed into practical, attractive and deliverable policies that will gain the support of the electorate.
It was important to point out to government, political opponents and media commentators that when it comes to the economy Sinn Féin got it right prior to the last election. But the fact is that our message to the electorate was misrepresented by opponents of change and the real threats to sustainable economic well-being were ignored. But Sinn Féin’s message about the ‘Golden Circle’, cronyism and a two-tier society are resonating with a much wider audience today.
Sinn Féin got it right on the economy prior to the last election
It is imperative that we have coherent, practical and deliverable policies on the economy, health, education, environment and so on that our activists can articulate on the doorstep and our spokespersons can debate in the media.
Party president Gerry Adams pointed out the stark reality that the government in Dublin is in turmoil and bankrupt in the ideas department on how to tackle the economic mess that it allowed to develop. Clearly, as he also pointed out, there is now an opportunity to topple the monopoly on political power by the two conservative parties propped up by opportunist smaller parties. If, as he argued, Sinn Féin can convince the Labour Party and other smaller parties of the benefits of a new alignment in politics that would include the trade unions, community organisations, farming and women’s organisations, then I believe that we will create a new hope for the people of Ireland, North and South.
We are in the cusp of elections, North and South, for Europe, two Dáil by-elections in Dublin and local government in the 26 Counties. This will throw up many challenges but also opportunities. It will allow us articulate the benefits that would accrue from building a vibrant all-Ireland economy, of dismantling partition and that our policies apply to wherever you live on the island of Ireland.
Our policy documents outlining economic policies will provide the platform from which we can launch a vigorous attack on the manner in which the economy was mishandled and communicate our alternatives.
The ministerial portfolios that we hold in the North should identify areas in which they could bring forward projects that would be attractive to the people in the 26 Counties and to demonstrate the all-Ireland aspects of our policies. These could then be used as templates of what could be achieved in all areas of government in an all-Ireland context if the will exists.
We now have an opportunity to convince the people of Ireland that, with Sinn Féin, change for the better can happen.