16 June 2019
Sinn Féin remain determined to deliver on Tone’s vision - Carthy
“We will never be ashamed or shy about celebrating those patriots that kept the flame of the Irish Republic alive. “Sinn Féin has a political vision and regardless of the ups and downs of elections, we will continue to work to deliver a United Ireland and a real republic with social justice and equality at its core. - Matt Carthy MEP
Pádraig Pearse called Bodenstown churchyard the ‘holiest place in Ireland.’
That was because it has been here, at the graveside of Theobald Wolfe Tone, that before, during and after Pearse’s time Irish republicans have come to take stock, to reflect and to remember; but also to set out the way forward.
Because commemorations like this are not just about the past, or even about the here and now, crucially they are about the future.
They are about celebrating the legacy of, but also learning the lessons from and taking inspiration from heroes of the Irish Republican tradition. Ultimately, they’re about recommitting ourselves to finishing their work.
So, where better than here to take stock in the Summer of 2019 than at the burial spot of one of the foremost revolutionary figures in our country’s history?
Where better to remember, reflect, take inspiration and recommit ourselves to delivering the same noble objectives of national independence and equality that inspired the United Irishmen of 1798 and every subsequent generation of Irish Republicans?
We are proud of the tradition of Irish Republicanism from which we hail.
We are proud of those who came before us, who fought for us, who died for our freedom, who refused to bow down in the face of of times impossible odds.
We will never be ashamed or shy about celebrating those patriots that kept the flame of the Irish Republic alive.
Of course, no two generations face the same challenges and circumstances change. No generation can simply replicate tactics from their predecessors just as they can’t be expected to take responsibility for each of their predecessors actions.
We are absolutely within our rights to celebrate those who fought for Ireland, for the rights of the Irish people and for our Independence just as we are correct to adapt to the realities of the circumstances that we face today.
We have taken a set-back in recent weeks. I want to pay tribute today to all of Sinn Féin’s candidates who represented the party in Local Government and European elections, North and South, last month.
I want to congratulate the 186 Sinn Féin councillors who were elected across the island. I want to extend warm congratulations to Martina Anderson who topped the poll in the Six County European Elections.
Through the return of Martina and the election of two anti-Brexit MEPs the people of the North sent a powerful message to Britain and to Brussels that they reject Brexit, just as they did three years ago.
It is clearer now than ever that the DUP do not speak for the people of the North, and Martina and I will continue to bring that message to Brussels and will oppose any attempt to ignore the democratic wishes of the people or any attempt to impose any hardening of the border in Ireland.
Five years ago, we witnessed a dramatic surge in support for Sinn Féin in this state which saw our party win an additional 105 council seats and a European seat in each constituency.
This time around both the EU and local elections here were a major disappointment for Sinn Féin.
Many hard-working and valuable elected representatives failed to retain their positions while many new candidates failed to make the breakthrough they deserved. I want to thank each and every one of them for their work in representing our party – to those who stand among us today I want to let you know that we are proud of your work and your commitment to your community and to your country.
I want to commiserate with my colleagues Lynn Boylan and Liadh Ní Riada, both of whom have been outstanding MEPs, always fighting Ireland's cause in Brussels and Strasbourg. They will be back - you have not heard the last of Lynn or Liadh.
It is vital that Sinn Féin learns the lessons of the elections and quickly. We need to find out what we have been doing wrong and fix it.
Of course, we’ll be getting advice from plenty of sources, some of which are downright hostile to the type of change that Sinn Féin represent.
They’ll say things like the answer lies in Sinn Féin MPs attending Westminister.
They still don’t get us, they cannot comprehend what it is for a political party to say what they mean and mean what they say.
So, let me put it this way, as someone who was re-elected – I would sooner lose my seat than be in a party that has lost its principles. No self-respecting Irish Republican will swear an oath of allegiance to a British Monarach – Full Stop.
Let us remind our detractors again, because it seems they have to be regular reminded – voters in the north make their own choices, every seat held by a Sinn Féin abstentionist MP was previously held by a MP who did swear allegiance to the British Monarchy.
Although, it is also worth reminding, that none were ever held by Fianna Fáil. They still fail to bring their special brand of hypocrisy to the communities that have suffered most from it – the nationalist people of the six counties.
So, while we sometimes have to take lectures from different quarters I can say this unequivocally – we won’t take them from Micheál Martin and his band of partitionists.
The truth is the answers to the questions that now face Irish republicans will be found within us, among our members and amongst the communities we represent. We need to get better at listening and we need to get better at communicating – both between ourselves and with those whom we seek to represent.
We will face this latest challenge in the same way that republicans have faced much greater challenges in the past - we will analyse all of the factors which led to the result and we will take appropriate action, and we will regroup and move forward once again.
We have always known that there are no shortcuts to the republic. We must plan, we must engage with others and we must make changes when necessary. That is the nature of struggle.
Sinn Féin has a political vision and, regardless of the ups and downs of elections, we will continue to work to deliver a United Ireland and a real republic with social justice and equality at its core.
Sinn Féin remains a hugely significant force in Irish politics.
Our elected representatives in the Dáil, in the councils, and in the European Parliament, will continue working to deliver changes that make the lives of all those we represent better.
So, while it is easy for us to drop our heads, it is important to remember that our work is too important to waste time over-indulging ourselves.
We have to remind ourselves why we got involved in politics and remind ourselves that if we don’t do it, it won’t get done.
That is why we come to places like Bodenstown on days this just as so many before us came during their challenging times.
They were, as we were, guided by the example of Tone, and the 1798 Rebellion which saw Irish Protestants standing together with their Catholic neighbours in defiance of British rule and in pursuit of a sovereign Irish republic.
Tone himself set out the task quite clearly. He said:
“To subvert the tyranny of our execrable government, to break the connection with England, the never-failing source of all our political evils and to assert the independence of my country- these were my objectives”.
Tone continued by setting out his methods:
“To unite the whole people of Ireland, to abolish the memory of all past dissensions, and to substitute the common name of Irishman in place of the denominations of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter - these were my means.”
Today we stand here as Irish republicans with a big vision for our country, the same vision of Wolfe Tone.
A vision to unite all the people of Ireland. A vision that together we can achieve our full potential as a nation.
A belief that we can we can lift the burden of inequality and insecurity from our people.
A conviction that our country can achieve so much more - an Ireland that is United, democratic and based on equality – including, crucially, economic equality.
Despite the setbacks it is worth noting that political, social and economic events, here in Ireland and elsewhere, are leading inexorably to an upcoming referendum on the re-unification of Ireland.
The evidence is everywhere. The trajectory is clear and the debate has begun in earnest.
We need now to prepare politically, socially and economically for a United Ireland.
We say today, to those in other political parties in this state and in Government, that sticking your heads in the sand on this issue is reckless, irresponsible and a dereliction of your constitutional duty.
The Irish Government must now urgently establish a national forum involving all political parties as well as representatives of broad civic society to plan how Irish unity can be brought about and what it might look like.
A genuinely united and agreed Ireland requires an essential discussion of the possible shape and nature of new constitutional arrangements.
Sinn Féin, like Tone, seeks a United Ireland that is truly inclusive of all our people, whatever their background, tradition, creed or colour.
To unionists we repeat our commitment that they have nothing to fear in the unity of this island and that those who cherish a British identity can and will be fully accommodated in a United Ireland.
For Sinn Féin, the building of a united Ireland is a process.
We are open to the idea of transitional political arrangements and to being flexible and imaginative in offering and considering proposals aimed at marking a united Ireland a nation that delivers for everyone who shares this great country.
Those other parties who say they support Irish unity also have a duty to become persuaders for it and to convince a section of unionist opinion that their identity, self-interest and quality of life will be best served, secured and guaranteed in a united Ireland.
One thing is clear - a United Ireland is approaching, and Sinn Féin stands proudly in the vanguard of bringing that objective about.
And it is because we believe so fervently in the construction of new, agreed and united Ireland that we want to see the restoration of a power-sharing Executive in the North.
We want to work constructively with unionists to build agreement and to make common cause on the issues that affect all our people.
We want to be in the Executive delivering on issues such as health, housing, education and tackling crime.
Sinn Féin negotiators are currently seeking to move quickly to meaningful and intensive engagement to secure an Executive and Assembly that delivers for everyone in the North.
What this party will not do however, is allow any welching on previous political agreements. We will not tolerate the diminution of the rights of any citizen.
Progress will be made, but only if we implement existing agreements, and if we accept that recognising the rights of one section of the community does not diminish the rights of others.
Everything we do is driven by the belief that Ireland can do much better.
Often, we are frustrated by the failures of others to work with us in creating a better, fairer and united Ireland.
Our opponents say we’re too angry. This is a great country and the Irish people are a great people.
This is the country that produced people like Wolfe Tone, Padraig Pearse and Bobby Sands – patriots that were willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good.
We look around us today and see a partitioned country where our resources and public services are sold off to multinational corporations, where our elderly are denied home help care, where they languish on hospital beds both while living and in death.
We witness Irish citizens being dragged from their homes by the vultures and the banks who have been handed tens of billions of euro of our children’s money.
Where whole communities live in fear of criminal gangs because of garda cutbacks.
Where we have to look our teenagers in the eye and tell them that they’ll probably never own their own home because of the policies of Fianna Fáil & Fine Gael governments.
We look at a society where families with two incomes are barely surviving because their interests have been put second to the vested interest and corporate parasites.
Damn right we’re angry! But, we’re also determined. We’re determined to deliver on the promise of Tone and Pearse and Sands.
We’re determined to tackle the crises in health and housing and public service delivery. We’re determined to put the interests of the Irish people ahead of the profits of ruthless corporations.
We’re remain resolute to deliver the republic.
So, we will learn the lessons of the set-backs and we will get back to work.
Mar a deir an seanfhocal “An té nach bhfuil láidir ní folair dó a bheith glic”.
We will take inspiration from those who came before us but we will be guided in the first instance by our own resolve.
We are Irish republicans. We are the united Ireland party.
We are the people who fight for Ireland.
We are Sinn Féin and we remain proud. Proud of our country, proud of our people, proud of our cause.
Proud to say that we can stand here at the holiest place in Ireland and commit, that in the memory of Theobald Wolf Tone and of all those who have followed in his footsteps:
We will finish the job. Ar aghaidh linn le cheile.