11 March 2010 Edition

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Ard Fheis receives international greetings

Sinn Féin’s Director of International Relations Padraic Wilson sitting with some of the international speakers

Sinn Féin’s Director of International Relations Padraic Wilson sitting with some of the international speakers

Sinn FÉin’s Director of International Relations Padraic Wilson introduced three keynote international speakers at the party’s Ard Fheis on Saturday 6 March. Executive Committee member of the PLO Professor As’ad Abdul Rahman addressed delegates, followed by Baleka Mbete, a national chairperson and former deputy president of the ANC, and Katalina Madriagia, a pro-independence left former MP from the Basque Country.
Abdul Rahman told delegates: “I want to convey the warmest wishes of the Palestinian people to Sinn Féin. On a personal level, I admire your struggle and love your people, Sinn Féin and its leadership, and in particular, my friend Gerry Adams.
“There are major similarities between our peoples and struggles. Palestinians have our own bitter experience of agreements entered into which have not been implemented. I want to congratulate you on the recent agreement made at Hillsborough and know you will keep working tirelessly to ensure that it is fully implemented.”
Katalina Madriagia said she brought with her “special greetings from all the comrades that during recent years had visited Ireland and right now are imprisoned in Spanish prisons”.
“I also bring with me today a message from a man you know very well, currently imprisoned in a Spanish jail, Arnaldo Otegi,” she said.
Otegi’s message read: “As you know the Abertzale Left have during recent months been involved in debating and defining the most effective strategy to advance our goal of national independence. In this debate the lessons of the Irish Peace Process have been very useful.
“The need for change to be brought about through a democratic process; a commitment to exclusively peaceful and political means; and the need for a process of dialogue and negotiation between all political forces governed by the Mitchell Principles  – these are all taken from the road map laid out by Irish republicans over the past 16 years and more – a road map which was again shown to work at Hillsborough.”
Otegi called on the international community “to assist in the construction of a peaceful, fair, stable and lasting democratic scenario in our land”.
ANC National Chairperson Baleka Mbete commended the progress that has been made in Ireland since her last visit here ten years ago. “Like in South Africa, you have found yourselves in institutions and a position that only a short while ago could not even have been imagined – with all the challenges that this can bring,” she said.
Mbete also paid tribute to the PLO speaker and the Palestinian people, saying “What’s happening in Palestine today is worse than apartheid”.
“South Africa is free today because the peoples of the world joined together to say no to apartheid. We can do that again – we must do it again, for the Palestinians.”
“In two years, we will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the ANC,” Mbete told delegates.
“Under the theme of ‘Unity in Diversity’ we will be celebrating the journey of the ANC over the past century – but it is not just our journey, it is yours, and belongs to all the people of the world. We hope you will join us in 2012 at our centenary celebrations.”

• Upcoming issues of An Phoblacht will feature interviews with Ard Fheis international guests

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