24 November 2022 Edition
A vision of a new Ireland
There were a range of Sinn Féin speakers including delegates, MLAs, TDs, MPs, and councillors who contributed at the Ard Fheis. Here we highlight edited summaries of a cross section of contributions. The full day’s proceedings are available to watch at the Sinn Féin website. Collectively, they unwrapped a vision of what Ireland could be, a new inclusive Ireland for all.
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Takeaway quote of the Ard Fheis must go to Dublin City Councillor Daithí Doolan when he said:
"One of the areas I represent, Cherry Orchard has two prisons, one playground, one shop, one road in, one road out, but the government has built two fine big prisons in it. That’s not what we need. We need playgrounds. We need recreation facilities. We need youth services, mental health services, addiction services, trauma services. We need less prisons, less criminalisation, and more support of our communities"
Time for change on childcare
Liz Kimmins, MLA for Newry Armagh
• John Finucane, Liz Kimmins and Eoin Ó Broin getting ready to speak at the Ard Fheis
Affordable childcare is fundamental to building a fair society. A fair society in which our children receive the best start in life. And one where hard-working families aren’t struggling every month to meet the cost of their childcare.
Working families’ wages are already being eroded by inflation and the increasing cost of living. Yet, North and South, childcare is fragmented, poorly funded and under-valued.
Childcare fees are far too high and parents simply can’t afford them. Many families are forking out the equivalent of a month’s mortgage or rent every month just for childcare.
This can’t continue - it’s time for change. In the North Sinn Féin Minister Deirdre Hargey introduced upfront childcare costs for the first month for parents on low incomes moving into employment.
However, we are still waiting for the delivery of a childcare strategy for the north which is vital to a fuller understanding of the needs of parents and ensuring we have a sustainable childcare sector providing a high standard of childcare.
In the South, Sinn Féin have set out how we would cut childcare fees by two thirds to make childcare affordable for parents.
Similarly, we would deliver this by creating a scheme where the government would provide significant additional funding to the sector, in exchange for the providers cutting fees by two thirds. This would put money back into families’ pockets.
Sinn Féin want to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy for all. The provision of affordable and accessible childcare is vital to achieving those goals.
‘Healthcare can be fixed. A better way is possible’
David Cullinane , TD for Waterford
I want to extend solidarity greetings from this Ard Fheis to all of those on the frontline – North, South, East, and West – whose daily sacrifices keep our hospitals running and save lives.
The challenges in our health services are failing our healthcare workers and patients. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil would have you believe that the problems in healthcare cannot be fixed.
The fact is that unacceptable waiting lists, long delays in emergency departments, hospital overcrowding, a lack of home care opportunities, and collapsing GP services are a failure of establishment politics to deliver.
A chairde, healthcare can be fixed. A better way is possible. We can make things better. Sinn Féin has the vision, ambition and the plan to deliver the change which the people of Ireland are demanding and which they deserve.
In the Budget just gone, a Sinn Féin Minister for Health in the South would have funded over 600 additional beds across acute hospitals, community care, palliative care, inpatient mental health services, and rehabilitation services.
We would have delivered a 10% increase in surgical theatre capacity next year, and over 100,000 additional diagnostic scans in the public system.
And in the North, we stand ready to invest a billion pounds in the health service and to fund a three year budget to tackle waiting lists and recruit healthcare workers. We stand steadfast with the frontline workers who need an Executive back up and running to deliver for them. For the patients stuck on waiting lists for years.
A Sinn Féin Health Minister would once and for all get serious about workforce planning in healthcare.
A Sinn Féin Minister would transform General Practice, train more GPs, establish a new, modern fit-for-purpose GP contract, and directly hire GPs to provide vital out-of-hours cover.
A Sinn Féin Government would grasp the opportunity to deliver public healthcare in public hospitals for public patients, based on need and not on ability to pay.
Sinn Féin stand ready to transform the deeply unfair and broken two-tier health service into an Irish National Health Service.
DUP wants a hard border in Ireland
Conor Murphy, MLA Newry Armagh
During the Covid-19 pandemic, my department distributed hundreds of millions of pounds to support businesses and workers across the North. Now, as we face the worst cost of living crisis in a generation, the DUP have blocked the ability of the Assembly and Executive to assist vulnerable people and businesses struggling to keep the shutters up.
The DUP claim their boycott of Stormont is a principled stand against the Protocol, taken in all our interests. Let’s be very clear. The DUP’s Brexit agenda has never been principled, has never had our interests at heart.
The majority of people in the North voted to stay in the EU. They did so because they recognised the economic advantages of being a member of the world’s largest trading bloc.
The DUP could have used its influence over Theresa May’s government to deliver a soft Brexit. Instead, the DUP pushed for the most extreme, most economically damaging Brexit possible.
Their aim was to create a hard border in Ireland. But the DUP overplayed its hand. Under pressure from our friends in Europe and America, the British Government proposed the Protocol as a way to give Britain its hard Brexit while protecting the all-Ireland economy.
As with any new trading arrangements, the implementation of the Protocol can be, and should be refined. But the unique ability to sell goods to the British and European markets has enabled local companies to expand their exports, attract inward investment and create good jobs.
Indeed, the DUP initially described the Protocol as a Gateway of Opportunity. But with the TUV preparing to Lundy the party, the DUP was determined to avoid any possibility of being outflanked.
And so, the DUP collapsed the Executive, citing the Protocol it was responsible for creating. The DUP didn’t care that this was in the midst of a deepening cost of living crisis. That families would need help to heat their homes and put food on the table. That businesses would need help, and to keep workers in a job.
If an Executive was in place, the Health Service would have a three-year budget and a billion pound uplift. People would have their £400m electricity discount. Nurses, teachers, and civil servants would have a pay increase. And small businesses would have additional rates relief.
While the DUP makes up costs in relation to the Protocol, these are real costs imposed by its boycott of Stormont. Families are struggling to keep a roof over their heads as mortgages rise while for others owning their own home is no longer an option.
Sinn Féin will bring much-needed clarity and focus on what is required for sustainable economic growth.
Sinn Féin would set four main objectives as part of a new Economic Strategy. Creating good jobs, meaning jobs that pay the Living Wage and that provide a degree of security. Raising productivity, which is a fundamental driver of overall living standards. Promoting regional balance, because everyone should share in growing prosperity. And decarbonising the economy, so that we reach net zero by 2050 at the latest.
And the benefits of the all-Ireland economy, resisted for ideological reasons by the DUP, would be embraced by a Sinn Féin Economy Minister. Because that is in the economic interests of all parts of our island.
Sinn Féin is ready to deliver a transformation in the North’s economic policy and performance, to build an economy based on fairness and regional balance. And to protect our planet for the generations to come.
‘Time for a radical change of housing policy’
Eoin Ó Broin, TD for Dublin Mid-West
Fine Gael have been in government for 11 years. Fianna Fáil have been propping them up for six. We have had five housing ministers. Three housing plans. And countless promises. And yet the housing crisis has never ever been worse. Rents have never been higher, and they are still rising.
House prices have never been higher and are still rising. Homelessness is at record highs and looks set to get even worse. Tonight, more than 4,000 children will sleep in emergency accommodation facing into Christmas with no home and no Christmas tree of their own.
It is time for change, for a radical change of housing policy. A housing policy rooted in hope. A policy which says no more children can be allowed to slip into homelessness. A policy that says working singles and couples should be able to buy a home at a genuinely affordable price. A policy that says renters deserve security and affordability and not to be fearful of the future. A policy that says whether you are a pensioner, a traveller, a person with a disability, or a migrant you too can have a place to call home.
A policy that says housing is a fundamental human right, central to the well-being of every single human being, no matter who you are or where you are from. A policy that meets the housing needs of the homeless, the refugee and every worker and family in between.
In Government Sinn Féin will ensure that all those locked out, denied access to secure, appropriate and affordable housing will not be left behind. We will deliver the most ambitious public housing programme in the history of the state. Good quality homes at prices working people can afford. Making home ownership a reality not a pipe dream.
‘The air we breathe, our rivers and our mountains don’t recognise the border’
John Finucane, MP for North Belfast
We are facing a very real and present climate crisis. We have a massive challenge to counter decades of environmental damage.
Sinn Féin are committed to a fair and just transition to a sustainable society that leaves no one behind. Irish society, North and South, has suffered chronic inequalities in wealth, housing, access to transport, economic regional imbalance and challenges facing workers from low-paid and precarious employment.
The approach of establishment parties and big corporations to the climate crisis is to put the burden of fixing this onto the shoulders of those who can least afford it. This cannot be allowed to continue. Sinn Féin wants to advance social and economic justice side-by-side with climate justice.
In our alternative to the Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael/Green Budget, we set out fair and deliverable proposals to tackle climate change while delivering a more secure and affordable life for workers and families.
We understand that the causes and effects of climate change are not equally shared. We know that indiscriminate carbon taxes not only place a disproportionate burden on those for whom alternatives are either unaffordable or unattainable, but fundamentally fail in deterring the greatest emitters.
Sinn Féin would take the opposite approach by increasing and redirecting state investment to ensure that ordinary workers and families can avail of the alternatives and the benefits of a just transition.
Meeting our climate change target of net-zero by 2050 can only be done successfully if it is done fairly and in partnership with workers, farmers and small businesses in the different sectors.
It also requires us to work together as an island. The air we breathe, our rivers and our mountains don’t recognise the border so our policies to address the significant challenges that exist must be based on the reality that we live in a single geographical entity.
Reaching net-zero emissions, improving our environment, reversing biodiversity loss and developing feasible renewable energy resources requires nothing less.
Across the island, we are working to deliver real, fair and ambitious climate actions. Only with a Sinn Féin led government will this become a reality.
‘We in Sinn Féin won’t rest until you have the Ireland you deserve’
Mairéad Farrell, TD for Galway West
Throughout the day, we have heard from so many inspiring activists of all generations speaking with one voice on the new Ireland we can achieve together. I am proud of the passion and determination of our members as we work across Ireland to secure change.
To deliver a future that younger generations can look to with hope, eager for opportunity and hungry for change. It stands in stark contrast to the current government in Dublin - a government oblivious to my generation. One that has nothing to offer young people and young families.
Instead of real change, we get platitudes, we get patronised and all the while the big issues facing young people just get worse and worse under Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens.
No meaningful action to solve the housing crisis. No meaningful action on climate.
Too little, too late on childcare. Too little to protect us from the cost of living crisis which is hitting people’s pockets from every direction.
This government has now been in office for more than two years and the message that they are sending to our young people loud and clear is that, once again, you are being brought up for export; the mantra of successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments.
Too often, I hear my friends say, “There is nothing for us here”. “We will never own our own home.” “I couldn’t afford to raise a child, even if I wanted to.” They see no future for themselves here in Ireland, so we see the spectre of emigration rearing its head once more. These are the nurses and doctors that have trained in Irish hospitals. They are the tradespeople we need here to build houses.
We in Sinn Féin won’t rest until you have the Ireland you deserve. Until you can feel that hope too. Until you know that there is space for you here, with opportunities to build a life and look to the future.
Together we can build a new economy fuelled by good jobs, decent wages, strong workers’ rights, and the just transition to a green, cleaner world.
We can deliver secure, quality housing. We can deliver childcare that is genuinely affordable. We can invest in our public services, to deliver a national health service across Ireland that meets patients’ needs. We can achieve a new and united Ireland.
Le chéile, is féidir sin é seo uilig a bhaint amach. We can be the generation that says enough is enough - that demands change, that demands what we deserve.
‘Our country is changing. Our people are no longer content with the status quo, the tried and failed ideas of the past’
Pearse Doherty, TD for Donegal
We gather today at a turning point in Irish politics and the direction of our country. With the goal of building a Republic based on equality and social justice there to be won. Of building an economy that puts the rights and interests of workers at its centre. Of building a society that values secure housing as a social right.
We know the opportunity before us, but we also know the responsibility.
Our people face a national emergency and cost of living crisis. Energy bills are up. The cost of a weekly shop is up. Clothing, feeding and sending the kids to school has never been so expensive. Rents are too high, and the spectre of rising mortgage interest rates bears down on households. Households have seen the biggest fall in living standards since the financial crash.
Throughout this crisis, Sinn Féin have held this government to account and brought forward solutions to support workers and families. The cost of living crisis has taken hold when households were already contending with challenges on several fronts.
In housing, rents continue to spiral while an entire generation are locked out of home ownership.
Hospital waiting lists stand at over 900,000; with hospital overcrowding breaking all the wrong records. Patients and our dedicated staff deserve so much better.
The scourge of low pay remains, with too many workers putting in long hours and hard shifts without having enough to secure a decent standard of living.
Things can change, but only if we seize change, make change and vote for change. Sinn Féin is determined to deliver that change in government.
Sinn Féin want to build an economy to deliver a broad-based rise in living standards for all – Regardless of where they come from.
Sinn Féin would tackle high insurance costs, invest in our energy grid and accelerate the transition to renewables to ensure energy security and independence.
Sinn Féin want to build an economy that does not rely on the performance of a small number of multinationals. But instead spreads employment, opportunity and development right across our country – in every corner and region.
We are committed to stability and clarity for Irish enterprise and maintaining the current rate of corporation tax. But the key to our prosperity and development today and in the future is not a race to the bottom, but a race to the top. Innovation is an engine of economic development. It is a basis for improving productivity which in turn drives up employment, wages and living standards.
For too long, investment in research and development has fallen far below other European countries. This has widened the gap between Irish firms and foreign multinationals, between the wages of workers and between regions of our island.
We want to change that. We want to see the State and industry collaborate on an agenda that sees innovation and high wages at the very heart of our economy.
We would also build an economy that puts workers at its centre. For far too long, workers have been getting a bad deal. Ireland has among the highest levels of low pay and pay inequality in Europe, with one in five people in poverty now in work. Sinn Féin are fully committed to legislating for the right to trade union recognition and collective bargaining.
We have much to do. The challenges our people face are great. But Sinn Féin are up to these challenges.