14 May 2009 Edition
National Conversation for United Ireland
Addressed by representatives of the Sinn Féin leadership, the public meetings have provided an opportunity for discussion with members of the public on republican objectives.
Despite atrocious weather conditions, over 200 people attended the Derry City meeting which was held at the Tower Hotel on Thursday, 7 May.
The Sinn Féin panel included Martin McGuinness, Bairbre de Brún MEP and Martina Anderson MLA. The event was chaired by Raymond McCartney MLA.
Martin McGuinness gave a political update on the work of the party at the Assembly and its commitments to help the regeneration of the north-west region in terms of job creation and putting in place key infrastructure projects.
Bairbre de Brún spoke of her role in representing the North in the European Parliament and how that played a vital part of helping local communities and being part of the bigger Sinn Féin project on an all-Ireland basis.
Questions from the floor covered a wide range of issues, including policing (which were answered by Policing Board member Martina Anderson), to job creation in Derry, equality, education, green renewable energy and local issues such as the closure of amenities sites.
A first for such a gathering in Derry was questions from the floor by members of the loyalist community about what guarantees their community would have in the new Ireland envisaged by Sinn Féin, which got a warm reception from those in attendance.
There was some anger among the audience about the use of the republican monument of Cúchulainn in the City Cemetery to issue death threats against Martin McGuinness and the attacks on Sinn Féin offices and homes of elected representatives in Derry over recent weeks by micro groups controlled by British Intelligence services. Martin McGuinness said:
“Sinn Féin has withstood the severest of criticism from individuals, political parties and governments attempting to frustrate the republican strategy for almost 40 years.
“We have also withstood not only character assassination from our political opponents but actual and very determined physical assassination campaigns by sections of the British security agencies and their acolytes in the unionist murder gangs. Therefore, these people will not bully us or deflect us from the job at hand, which is to vigorously pursue our republican objectives of Irish self-determination, reunification and sovereignty for the people of Ireland.”
Summing up for the evening, chairperson Raymond McCartney said:
“Tonight’s meeting is part of our commitment to engage with the people of Ireland about the future of our country. It has been an important opportunity for the public in Derry to speak directly to the Sinn Féin leadership about their hopes for the future and about how we can meet the economic challenges head on.
“Democracy requires the active participation of citizens and demands that we go out and engage directly with local communities. These meetings underline our commitment to a future based on a democracy of the people, by the people and for the people.
“Sinn Féin is the only party in Ireland to engage with the public in this manner.”