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30 November 2023 Edition

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'In our thousands and our millions, we are all Palestinians'

• Matt Carthy led chants in support of the people of Palestine

Momentous, inspiring, energising, hopeful, historic. These are some of the words used to describe this year’s Ard Fheis when I spoke with various attendees. 

The Sinn Féin Ard Fheis took centre stage this year in the historic town of Athlone. The gathering served as a platform for party members, supporters, and leaders to reflect on the past year’s achievements, discuss key policies, and plan for the future. There was a fantastic mix of members, elected representatives, and also candidates for the upcoming local elections. The standard was established early on thanks to the exceptional quality of contributions from members. The event took place over two days, the party’s first two day Ard Fheis in four years. It brought together a diverse range of voices within the party, promoting an atmosphere of unity and commitment to Sinn Féin’s political goals.

The Ard Fheis featured a series of powerful keynote addresses by Sinn Féin representatives. It was Sorca Clarke, the party’s TD for Longford-Westmeath, who delivered the opening speech at the event. 

In a keynote speech on the first day, Michelle O’Neill urged respect for the results of last year’s Assembly elections and called for the restoration of powersharing in the Northern Assembly. She also commended Sinn Féin’s performance in winning the most council seats in the May local government elections in the Six Counties. 

Party president Mary Lou McDonald’s speech captured the party’s stance on crucial issues such as social justice, economic equality, and Irish reunification. She called on members to actively engage in grassroots initiatives and community building. 

Central to the Ard Fheis were dynamic policy discussions that took place on a wide range of topics, from healthcare and education to housing and climate change. The party’s commitment to progressive policies was evident as members passionately discussed ways to address the pressing issues facing Ireland.

A notable aspect of this year’s Ard Fheis was the focus on party inclusivity and diversity. The party has been actively working to broaden its appeal and this commitment was evident with speakers highlighting the importance of representation in shaping a political movement that truly reflects the diversity of Ireland.

A moment that will remain with me forever was when Matt Carthy led the room in a chant of “In our thousands and our millions, we are all Palestinians.” The room then rose to their feet to welcome the Palestinian Ambassador to Ireland, Dr Jilan Wahba Abdalmajid. 


• Pearse Doherty said we are now in the countdown to the General Election and we need to set out the type of change we will deliver

Following Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza strip since 7 October in which at the time of writing over 11,000 Palestinians have been killed, and nearly half of those are children, it was a poignant and tearful moment of solidarity. 

The ambassador went on to deliver a powerful speech that echoed the spirit of resistance and the pursuit of justice. She started off by expressing her deep gratitude to the Irish people “for being so vocal on the side of justice”. 

Dr Jilan provided a vivid account of the challenges faced by the Palestinian people, touching on the impact of occupation and displacement. She described Gaza as “hell on earth” as she criticised the targeting of hospitals, schools, and bakeries, “This is beyond rage and revenge. Now, there is no safe place in Gaza.”

Calling for greater global support for the Palestinian cause, Dr Jilan noted that the international community has failed Palestinians for decades, “It has allowed Israel to continue its horrific aggression against our people with impunity and in grave violation of international and humanitarian law.” She continued, “Israel must be held accountable for the war crimes committed in Gaza and the West Bank, including in Jerusalem”. 

The Palestinian ambassador praised Sinn Féin for its unwavering commitment to justice and equality and its role as a driving force in Irish politics. This strengthened the bonds between the two movements, emphasising the importance of political solidarity in advancing the cause of justice. 

The presence of Dr Jilan at the Ard Fheis emphasised the global connection of movements for self-determination, drawing parallels between the shared struggles faced by Palestinians and the historic journey of the Irish republican movement. She received a standing ovation following her speech and was embraced by both Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill.

As the Ard Fheis concluded, the focus shifted to the road ahead for Sinn Féin. In Pearse Doherty’s speech, he said that Sinn Féin was now in the countdown to the General Election and the party was setting out the type of change that a Sinn Féin government would deliver if given that opportunity.

The gathering in Athlone served as a platform for Sinn Féin’s continued efforts to influence Irish politics and shape the nation’s future. The Ard Fheis reinforced Sinn Féin’s role as a driving force in shaping the nation’s political landscape. 

Anna Carroll is a Digital Media Officer for Sinn Féin.


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