24 November 2022 Edition
Together, we seize the day
“On the threshold of a new era”. With the historic Dáil and Assembly elections of 2020 and 2022 respectively Sinn Féin has established itself as the political party with the largest electoral support in Ireland. This year’s Sinn Féin Ard Fheis culminated in the presidential address of Mary Lou McDonald. We carry here the full text of Mary Lou’s address to the Sinn Féin delegates
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We meet in Dublin in a spirit of ambition, enthusiasm, hope for the future Together we seize the day. To chart new directions. To capture opportunities that lie ahead. A new dawn is breaking in Ireland. We stand on the threshold of a new era. Friends, it’s time for change.
So much has happened since last we met. Things have been tough for so many of you joining us tonight, struggling with an unbearable cost of living. I want to acknowledge your resilience. Under enormous pressure, you’re holding the line. holding it together for yourselves, your families, your community.
This crisis won’t last forever. You deserve political leadership to support you through these difficult times and to match your hopes for the future. That’s the job of good government.
We are ambitious for change. Those ambitions aren’t confined to Ireland. We send solidarity to people who endure imperialism, war, occupation, and the denial of human rights. We send our unwavering support to Palestine.
Ukraine fights for its very survival against Putin’s criminal invasion. We stand with Ukraine. We will support you until that day when your beloved homeland is free from Russia’s war. Russia must end its war. The journey to peace must start now.
Ireland stands on the side of international law, against those who trample on the rights of others. Be it Putin’s war or Israeli apartheid. Though the world has changed. Our values remain strong.
In hard times, when the odds are stacked against us, when hearts are heavy with loss, we come together. In Donegal, following the tragedy in Creeslough, families face the heartbreak of the empty chair. We can only imagine the enormity of your loss. Know that you are not alone. The nation wraps its arms around you.
The outpouring of sympathy for Creeslough stretched far beyond our shores in acts of solidarity and condolence from the Irish abroad. In this moment of profound grief, we saw again that to be Irish is not only to be from a small island but to be part of a very large global family who have built their lives in Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia and beyond.
We are very proud of them. They have kept faith with home. To our young people who once again depart our shores, you have been badly let down, particularly by a failed housing system. I want you to know that we are working hard to change things for you. We will make Ireland the home you deserve.
So, enjoy your experience, work hard but come home and be part of the new Ireland that we must build. We need you.
The demand for change is growing
The demand for change is strong and growing with the energy of a generation impatient to claim their future. To achieve a new Ireland. 100 years ago Ireland was traumatised by Partition, divided by bitter Civil War.
A century on, we strive for a nation that honours and learns from its past but is not held back by it. This spirit for change was so powerfully expressed in May’s Assembly Election. Sinn Féin emerged as the largest party.
For the first time, a republican, a nationalist, a woman from Tyrone, was elected as First Minister in a state designed to ensure that this could never happen. Well friends, it did. Michelle O’Neill, a First Minister for all.
There is no turning back. There is now no job in the land off limits to anyone. The days of second-class citizenship are over.
A new generation moves together, to a new Ireland where everyone has the chance to realise their dreams. To push the boundaries. To exceed expectations. To succeed. To change Ireland. Change means a place called home. A secure, affordable roof over your head. It means access to a doctor, to hospital and to care when you need it. It means real opportunity, good jobs, decent pay, and the right to retire at 65 on a fair pension.
And friends, change means taking those final steps to full nationhood, ending Partition, reunifying Ireland.
• Change can’t be stopped – Michelle O’Neill is a First Minister for all, there is no turning back
Change can’t be stopped
This change is no longer on some distant horizon. Change is now on our doorstep. It can’t be stopped by the DUP who refuse to accept the result of an election and prevent the formation of an Executive.
While they left workers, families, and businesses without support, Ministers like Conor Murphy stepped-up. The people of the North deserve, need, demand a government that works for them.
This stalemate cannot continue. British government dithering must end. They must immediately bring clarity, a timetable for concluding negotiations with the European Union and the restoration of the Executive.
But whatever happens, be clear that a return to Direct Rule from London is not an option. Working together is the only way forward. Change can’t be stopped by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, now so joined at the hip that it doesn’t matter to them which leader is Taoiseach. So long as it’s one of them.
Leo leaves, Micheál goes in. Micheál leaves next month, Leo goes back in. In. Out. In. Out. Political hokey pokey. That’s the cosy club that has run this state for a century. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have had their time, had their chance.
It’s time for a new government. A government of change. A government for the people. Change can’t be stopped by the chaotic Tories in London either. They can’t run their own country without bringing it to the brink of financial ruin. They certainly have no right to tell the people of Ireland how to run ours.
They attack the Good Friday Agreement. An Agreement that has delivered 25 years of peace, a peace won and defended by our partners Europe, in the United States of America and beyond.
They disgracefully seek amnesty for their troops and deny victims of the conflict justice. They attack the Protocol. An Agreement that protects livelihoods and our economy. They care so very little about Ireland.
The Tories should leave governing of this island to the people who live here, and we’ll shape a better future together.
Young people and Ireland’s decade of opportunity
That better future calls to us. Asking the big questions of us. I believe that this generation has the answers. This is our moment. Ireland has three big opportunities this decade. The reunification of our country. The achievement of energy independence. And the power of our young people.
Our young people are brimming with talent, ideas, and energy. Yet those in their twenties and thirties will likely be the first generation worse off than their parents. That’s not right. We must renew the promise that if you work hard, you can get ahead and build a good life. This generation looks with fresh eyes and fresh hearts to the Ireland that can be.
They know Ireland’s success must be driven by inclusion and equality. That there’s a seat at the table for everyone. For our Traveller Community, our ethnic communities, our citizens with disabilities, for our LGBTQ+ citizens.
No words of hate from any pulpit or stage will set us back or divide this generation. Our young people refuse the boundaries of yesterday. They reach for opportunity. For their shot. For their chance. If we give them that chance our young people will transform Ireland.
So, the question for the rest of us is straight and simple - are we prepared to do the work with them? The answer must be - yes, yes, and yes again!
Our young people will change housing. Locked out of affordable homes, locked into extortionate rents, living in a society where children grow up in hotel rooms. Government after government has failed on housing. That’s the truth. Targets set. Targets missed. Deadlines set. Deadlines missed. Big on promises. Short on delivery.
Young people are calling this out, and we will work with them to deliver the biggest affordable and social housing programme that Ireland has even seen!
Our young people will change healthcare. We saw during Covid 19 how student nurses and midwives put everything on the line. Those who have kept our health services together for decades, taught them well. They demonstrated skill and compassion innate to all those who work in health services across Ireland. This generation has no time for inequality in healthcare.
They refuse to accept tired excuses that leave more than one and half million people on waiting lists. Or the jaded alibis that leave people on hospital trolleys. They know overcrowded, two-tier health systems do not work. That a border in healthcare does not work. We need a fair health service. A National Health Service for all of Ireland!
We now have Acht Gaeilge. Tá ár ndaoine óga paiseanta faoin nGaeilge. Is léiriú iad de spiorad an seanfhocail - tír gan teanga, tír gan anam. Is mar gheall orthu go bhfuil athbheochan chultúrtha nua-aimseartha faoi lánseol. Is de thairbhe a bpaisean agus a bhfuinneamh, agus an chaoi nár ghlac siad le dada níos lú, a bhfuaireamar Acht na Gaeilge. Is iad na tréithe céanna seo a spreagfaidh Gaeilgeoirí na todhchaí agus beocht a chur athuair sna ceantair Gaeltachta. Tá an athbheochan seo mar thosaíocht ag Sinn Féin.
Living costs were out of control
We now approach our first normal Christmas for three years, a time of great excitement. Yet, there is tension and uncertainty as the bills stack up. Government has been far too slow to respond. Long before Russia invaded Ukraine, living costs were out of control. You felt it in your pocket every day.
Government had to be forced into action by the opposition and by public pressure. Forced to curb soaring fuel, gas, and electricity prices. Forced to introduce a winter eviction ban. Forced to provide relief for renters. Now they drag their heels as mortgage-holders are walloped with massive interest rate hikes. Just like they drag their heels on rip-off insurance costs.
You shouldn’t have to force your government to protect you. Well, rest assured Pearse Doherty won’t let that drop. Government should be up and at it, on your side. We need that government - with ideas, that can plan, that can deliver.
A strong and vibrant economy is core to our vision for Ireland. We want to support innovation, new ideas, and new businesses to succeed. A strong economy needs certainty, affordable housing, good public services, modern infrastructure, and energy security. The current energy crisis makes one thing very clear. Our island must achieve energy security and energy independence.
We can achieve this by harnessing our abundant renewable resources, building our capacity in wind, solar and green hydrogen. The state must make Ireland’s energy revolution a priority.
Energy Independence will be a game changer for Ireland, transforming our economy, creating new jobs, opportunity, prosperity. Central in turning the tide of climate change and achieving a just transition. So, we need action, we need a plan, and we need pace.
We must sort out the delays in our planning system, invest in our ports so we can pursue offshore energy, and work in collaboration with business, semi-states, and international partners, to realise investment opportunities. This moment cannot be wasted.
A chairde. We live in the end days of Partition. On the cusp of an historic opportunity – the reunification of our country and our people. Shaping a future for everyone. Moving forward in the belief that there is no ‘them’. There is only ‘us’, who call Ireland home. We can build a nation home for all our people.
Some are apprehensive about Irish Unity. I want you to know that in a new Ireland you will be cherished, included, respected as equal citizens. This is your place. This is your home. Be part of shaping its future. Others say yes to unity, but not now. They’re wrong.
The time to plan for peaceful, democratic constitutional change is now. The days of treading water are over.
The Irish government must immediately establish a Citizens Assembly on unity. If this government refuses to hear tomorrow coming, if it does not establish a Citizens Assembly, Sinn Féin in government will.
Sinn Féin is ready
The future is ours for the making. So, we need the right leadership. A new leadership with fresh ideas. Sinn Féin is ready to provide that leadership. Ready to lead government, North and South. We have the team, the policies, the energy to build that better future. We will get basics right in the here and now and drive ambitious plans for the future.
To everyone watching tonight: I am asking you to give us the chance to lead. To deliver for you, for your family, for your community. For all of Ireland. Give us that chance - that chance to lead - and we will get the work done.
Friends, the Ireland we shape today is our legacy for future generations. This is our moment to write our chapter in our nation’s story. We face challenges, but this is a time of hope and opportunity. So, let’s do big things. Let’s change Ireland. Let’s choose courage, ambition, belief. Let’s be the generation that finally unites our country and our people. Let’s build the nation home for all. No one left out. No one left behind.
Our people are ready for change. Sinn Féin is ready to lead. Ireland has seen some great days, but our greatest days lie ahead. Days of unity, equality, and prosperity. Days that belong to everyone. That’s a future worth believing in, worth working for, worth achieving.
I say we can do it. I say we must do it. I say we will do it. And, my friends, we will do it together.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh agus An Phoblacht Abú!