15 May 1997 Edition

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Sinn Féin stands 15 candidates in general election


Sinn Féin is standing fifteen candidates in the general election in the 26 Counties. The election comes at a crucial moment as efforts are made to rebuild the peace process. The party is aiming to make the breakthrough into Leinster House which would greatly strengthen the republican mandate.

Introducing the 15 Sinn Féin candidates at a press conference in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin on 9 May newly elected West Belfast MP said the return of two Sinn Féin MPs in the Westminster election ``can be matched by the return of Sinn Féin TDs in the 26 Counties. Our increased electoral mandate will be employed by us in rebuilding a credible peace process which will secure an agreement that has the alleigance of all.''

Adams said that going into this election voters were cynical about politics which had been reduced to ``an ivory tower of back-room dealing''. There was a lesson in the Six-County elections:

``In the recent Westminster election, northern nationalists voted for change, for equality, for nationalist rights. It is they who have created a new opportunity for peace. Their decision to vote for Sinn Féin has strengthened the hand of nationalist Ireland in pursuit of peace. That can be further strenghtened in the 26-County elections. The desire for change is as strong here as in the Six Counties. The need for equality is as urgent here.

``Sinn Féin's platform in these elections will assert the right to equality in jobs, housing, education, health care and representation at all levels of government for all the people of this island. We want to strengthen local democracy and our record of work in community politics demonstrates this aim.

``Our party has its biggest electoral mandate for 40 years. We aim to increase that mandate in the 26 Counties so that our message for change, for dignity and respect for all sections of the people is heard and acted upon. We represent a real challenge to the self-serving political system in the 26 Counties - a challenge to a system which puts people last, not first.''

Adams said that Sinn Féin was ``a party of activists and campaigners''. ``That is why Sinn Féin not only identifies with the real problems that affect people, we know what they are at first hand because we come from these communites ourselves. Whether it is Ballymurphy or the Bogside, Tralee or Monaghan'' he said.

Caoimhghin O Caoláin is Sinn Féin's front runner for a Leinster House seat. He has been tipped to cause an upset in Cavan-Monaghan by capturing a seat for the party. He pointed out that with Labour and Democratic Left committed to Coalition with Fine Gael, Sinn Féin was the only party of the left standing on an independent platform across the country:

``We represent that tradition in Irish politics which may be described as the republican left, the legacy of Pearse and Connolly and Mellows. For us the struggle is where the people are and that is reflected in our commitment to community politics and effective local represenatation.

``Increasingly we have seen the acceptance of growing economic division and the development of a low wage economy of `yellow pack' jobs and temporary employment schemes. This is not the inevitable shape of the Irish economy.

``Ongoing revelations of corruption at the highest levels of political life, while no surprise, have increased the level of cynicism felt by the electorate. This general election will provide voters with a chance to challenge this culture of privilege and inequality.'' Asked what Sinn Féin's position would be in the not unlikely event that it could hold the balance of power in Leinster House if there was an inconclusive election, Gerry Adams said that they would use their vote in pursuit of their peace strategy. The peace process and social justice would be the key considerations according to Caoimhghin O Caoláin.

Turning to the drugs issue Christy Burke (Dublin Central) said the party had been involved with communities in Dublin fighting this scourge since 1982. What measures have been taken by the government recently have only come about because communities once again had to take to the streets to meet the crisis head on. Larry O'Toole pointed to the positive results of community action against pushers; it meant that there were children alive today in the city who would be addicted or dead if they had been exposed to drug dealing.

Martina Kenna (Dublin South Central) said that Sinn Féin was the firt party to produce a comprehensive policy document to address the crisis - Empowering the Community. Seán Crowe (Dublin South West) said the other parties needed to be challenged on why they were not involved in the anti-drugs movement at community level as Sinn Féin is.

Both Caoimhghin O Caoláin and Pat Doherty (Donegal North East) expressed confidence in Sinn Féin ability to make a breakthrough. O Caoláin said it was the first general election since the end of broadcasting censorship and this, combined with the party's work on the peace process, its remarkable local electoral record in Monaghan and the considerable work it had put in in Cavan, left Sinn Féin well placed to take the Cavan-Monaghan seat.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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