26 February 2009 Edition
Defending community services
Sinn Féin Ard Fheis 2009
BY EMMA CLANCY
THE Ard Fheis welcomed the progress made by Minister for Regional Development Conor Murphy in achieving balanced development aimed at addressing the legacy of inequality and investment disparities across the island.
Some key achievements noted were the minister’s fundamental review of the Six-County Regional Development Strategy and the empowerment of an Independent Review into Water and Sewerage Services committed to rejecting the privatisation of the water and sewerage services and ensuring that it will remain in full public ownership.
Delegates reaffirmed Sinn Féin’s commitment to investment in efficient, high-quality, affordable and accessible public transport and welcomed the progress made by the minister, including the provision of free public transport to the over-60s across the North.
Addressing the delegates, Conor Murphy said:
“Any new development strategy must include the north-west with Derry at its centre, Belfast as an economic driver as the island’s second-largest city, and also our rural communities which account for the vast area of this region who require sustainable growth including that of the border corridor.”
Another major theme of the ‘Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development’ section was the West’s Awake campaign, led by Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty and his team.
Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, proposing Motion 135 on behalf of the Ard Chomhairle, said:
“When Pearse Doherty launched the West’s Awake campaign he spoke of the frustration of so many of us on the west coast of Ireland at years of neglect by Government. He talked about how the west was dying a death by a thousand cuts.
“But, more importantly, he gave hope. Hope that, by working together from Kerry to Donegal, we could reverse the neglect.”
Since then, Mac Lochlainn said, Pearse Doherty and Deputy Martin Ferris have compiled two Oireachtas reports on the regeneration of the west of Ireland.
“Pearse and Martin both engaged in a comprehensive series of face-to-face meetings with community development groups, trade unions, farming organisations, fishing organisations, chambers of commerce, and state agencies in every county along the west coast.
“That is what makes these reports special. They have proven, beyond dispute, that the systematic neglect of the west of Ireland is not a perception but rather a reality.
“They have demonstrated the decline of traditional industries such as farming, fisheries, and textile manufacturing in the west and the recent over-reliance on the construction industry for employment in the region.
“They have outlined the removal of services such as post offices, Garda stations, schools, and public transport in rural areas. Up to 2,000 acute public hospital beds in the west are earmarked for closure over the next decade.
“Most importantly, they have set the scene for a fightback of communities along the west coast and have provided a platform for regeneration that is about fair play and equality. In their report’s recommendations, they have provided solutions that have the ownership of all of those they met and who made submissions.
“The West’s Awake campaign is a template for republicanism in the 21st century and this Ard Fheis should commend Pearse Doherty and Martin Ferris for their sterling efforts,” Pádraig concluded.
Delegates also passed a motion expressing support “for those communities in Monaghan, Cavan, Meath, Armagh and Tyrone who are campaigning to have Eirgrid/NIE underground the 400kv cable transmission system proposed to go through these counties. We commend the campaigning communities for their efforts thus far and assure them of our unwavering support.”