Bodenstown 2017: Advancing towards Irish Unity – in the United Irish tradition

“Every Irish citizen is entitled to a home, an education, comprehensive health care free at the point of delivery, and, equal pay for equal work.” – Declan Kearney.

“To break the connection with England…and to assert the independence of my country, these were my objects. To unite the whole people of Ireland… and to substitute the common name of Irishman, in place of Protestant, Catholic and dissenter, these were my means.” – Wolfe Tone.

This is the address by Declan Kearney at Bodenstown 2017: Advancing towards Irish Unity – in the United Irish tradition

This time 220 years ago Ireland was in the midst of dramatic political and revolutionary change.

It was described as ‘The time of the Hurry’ in the poem ‘The man from God knows where’ dedicated to Thomas Russell.

The United Irishmen were the engine of that change.

Declan Kearney, Sinn Féin National Chairperson.

They took their inspiration from the new democratic and egalitarian ideals of the American and French revolutions.

They were Republican separatists committed to the promotion of anti-sectarianism, fraternity and equality.

They forged alliances across Irish society and mounted an unprecedented military insurgency in every Province.

In my own county the United Irishmen took control of towns like Randalstown and Ballymena. Local United Irish leaders such as Henry Joy McCracken, Roddy McCorley and William Orr remain household names to this day.

Jemmy Hope “The Weaver” from Templepatrick and his farseeing revolutionary vision became an ideological reference point for Fintan Lawlor and later generations of Irish Revolutionaries.

These and others personified the central tenet of emergent Irish Republicanism – the unity of Protestant, Catholic and dissenter.

Wolfe Tone famously summarised the United Irish Republican programme:

To break the connection with England…and to assert the independence of my country, these were my objects. To unite the whole people of Ireland… and to substitute the common name of Irishman, in place of Protestant, Catholic and dissenter, these were my means.”

As modern day Irish Republicans in the tradition of Tone, we are dedicated to the establishment of a national Republic, built upon equality, fraternity, unity and reconciliation between all citizens in Ireland.

Our primary aim is for an agreed, multicultural united Ireland, which celebrates diversity and equality, and shuns bigotry and discrimination.

Sinn Féin stands against all forms of sectarianism, racism, homophobia, sexism, and intolerance in society.

Today’s Ireland is one of huge social change and political realignment.

Partition continues to be the central fault line at the heart of Irish politics and society.

The imposition of the Brexit decision upon the people of the six counties has now magnified that fault line.

We are clear; Brexit is a by-product of partition and continued British jurisdiction in the North of our country.

It has now become a catalyst for a new realignment of politics in Ireland; in relations between this island and Britain: and, it is redefining politics in the British State and Europe itself.

Irish Unity has become central to the political discourse. 

Next Saturday in Belfast at the Waterfront our party will host a major national conference on Irish Unity to build on that discussion.

Many citizens are now looking beyond the Brexit fall out and towards new constitutional and political opportunities.

In the North, greater numbers of ordinary people are now more engaged with politics.

Young people have become increasingly politicised.

All that is reflected in the Assembly and General election results in March and just last week.

The election of 27 Sinn Féin MLA’s and 7 MPs with 239,000 votes is an historic high in electoral support for our party, and for progressive politics.

I want to thank every activist and supporter and all their families who contributed to these spectacular achievements; and also to all of our voters.

There is a building momentum for Irish Unity and in support of anti-unionist and progressive politics.

There is also a new, popular expectation of real, and substantial political change.

The people of the North have spoken.

Sinn Féin respects the mandate secured by the DUP.

But make no mistake Sinn Féin’s electoral mandate is a vindication of our pledge that there will be no return to the status quo: and I repeat; no citizen or section of society will be put to the back of the bus again.

In 1967 our parents and grandparents and others in this gathering set out to demand civil rights in the North. They were beaten and shot off the streets.

Fifty years later an equality revolution is happening in the six counties and it is being led by young people.

Agus tá siad tiomanta agus diongbhailte. Tá siad dearg le fearg agus tá muid go léir dearg le fearg.

For the first time since partition electoral support for political unionism has fallen below 50%.

These are the new realities.

And this is the new context for the current round of political talks.

Let us be clear – the political crisis in the North can be resolved.

The political institutions can be re-established.

However, that means the DUP and British government need to get the message – which they have ignored since Martin McGuinness’ resignation on 9th January.

So I will spell it out.

The equality and rights agenda is not negotiable.

Agreements previously made on equality, rights, parity of esteem and legacy must be implemented.

The Good Friday Agreement cannot be unpicked.

The political institutions must not be misused to advance institutionalised bigotry.

Continued refusal by the DUP and British government to accept these fundamental positions will create only one outcome: a future of permanent political instability.

The DUP have spent the last week in talks with the British Government trying to strike a deal which will keep the Tories in power.

As with Brexit, any deal with Tories will be bad for the economy, public services and for citizens.

This Tory government cares as little for working-class unionists as it does for working-class republicans.

Working-class unionists did not vote for Tories.

The DUP leadership know that. They know the north is of no consequence in Westminster.

Even Edward Carson recognised this nearly 100 years ago. He said:

“What a fool I was… in the political game that was to get the Conservative party into power.”

The central fact is the political process in the North remains overshadowed by financial scandals.

That is why Sinn Féin stood the DUP leader down from her position last January.

The focus on her future role in an Executive is completely misdirected and premature.

That discussion will only arise when there is an acceptable implementation plan to restore public confidence in the political process and ensures that the institutions will work on the basis of proper power sharing, equality, respect and integrity.

This is a serious situation, which demands a serious focus by all parties.

It is not a game, and it is certainly not a dance.

If the DUP really wants to go into the Executive, that party needs to decide whether it is now prepared to embrace a rights-based approach to government in the North.

Instead of pretending that a crisis does not really exist, the DUP should get with the programme.

If the DUP imagines it can wind back the clock, with a Tory side deal or not, and reestablish the institutions without adherence to equality and rights, then the DUP is indeed living in a fool’s paradise.

As for the two governments, instead of talking up the prospect of a successful outcome to these talks, they and the DUP should reread Martin McGuinness’ resignation letter on the 9th January.

It sets out exactly what is required to restore public confidence, and to create the conditions for proper government in the North.

We don’t need optical illusions; we expect change!

The new Irish government now carries a huge responsibility.

The failure of the last Irish government to fulfil its obligations as a co-guarantor for the Good Friday Agreement is a national scandal.

This dereliction of political leadership must end.

The new Taoiseach and his administration should now publicly disassociate itself from the pro-unionist, partisan position of the British government.

This Irish government should bring forward a comprehensive plan for Irish reunification, including:

     – A joint Oireachtas committee on preparing for Irish unity;

     – A government White Paper on national reunification; 

     – And, specific proposals for a unity referendum on the island.

This month 40 years ago and here at Tone’s grave our comrade Jimmy Drumm correctly observed that the achievement of national and social liberation relied upon the development of a popular progressive movement for change throughout Ireland.

Today we live in an Ireland of endemic financial scandal, political corruption, gombeen elites, discrimination and sectarianism.

The strategic position articulated by Jimmy Drumm in 1977 is now more relevant than ever.

The austerity programmes imposed by Fine Gael and the British Tories have entrenched social inequality, both North and South.

None of our children should have to live in fear from poverty or austerity; inequality or discrimination; or from intolerance or sectarianism.

Social inequality is the antithesis of values enshrined in the 1916 Proclamation and the democratic programme of 1919.

Every Irish citizen is entitled to a home, an education, comprehensive health care free at the point of delivery, and, equal pay for equal work.

Instead social inequality, political corruption and financial scandal have become bywords for public policy under Fine Gael.

The new Taoiseach seems determined to take his government further to the right.

If that is his intention, then he should call a general election now, and let the people cast its verdict on that political programme.

In those circumstances Sinn Féin will go forward with our progressive political agenda.

We know where we stand, and it’s not with the gombeen men, the crooks, or fat cats.

To paraphrase Tone Sinn Féin stands with:

That numerous and respectable class of the community, the men of no property.”

Irish unity has never been more achievable. 

But that goal is only inevitable when Republicans successfully persuade sufficient numbers of our people that an agreed, united Ireland will serve their interests.

The refusal of significant sections of political unionism to embrace a shared future, and divisions caused by deep-seated sectarianism, create enormous challenges for Republicans.

Yet despite that, we must continue to show generosity of spirit, and reassurance to our unionist neighbours in the North.

As agents of change it is up to us to reach into the wider unionist constituency.

As republicans in the United Irish tradition we have to demonstrate how their rights, traditions, and identity will be accommodated in a new constitutional framework of an agreed Ireland.

It is for us to convince them that it is far better for Irish unionists to exert their influence over a progressive Ireland, instead of being reduced to stage props for a right-wing British Tory government.

Sinn Féin’s policies on reconciliation and anti-sectarianism represent genuine contributions towards the development of reconciliation between Republicans and unionists, within Irish society, and, between Ireland and Britain.

These need to be internalised and mainstreamed within our political work, both North and South.

Our generation of Republicans are history makers.

Martin McGuinness atá anois ar shlí na fírinne, and whom we greatly miss here today, as well as others in our leadership, have brought us to this point.

Now it is for the rest of us to finish that work.

We must become the nation builders.

We must continue the transformation of Irish society.

Meeting these responsibilities requires a step change in our party.

We need to be always strategically focused, cohesive, flexible and creative.

Let us be clear: building popular support and political strength is not a plan for opposition.

Our political strategy is a road map for governmental power.

So that means Sinn Féin being in government North and South.

This is our road map to achieving national democracy and a united Ireland.

But being in government is not a vanity contest.

This party is not interested in acting as a prop for the status quo North or South.

Political institutions are not ends in themselves: they should be made to work as the means to make positive change.

And of course, we must avoid being defined by the nature of the political institutions.

Sinn Féin participation in the Dáil, Assembly, all-Ireland institutions and European Parliament must be at the heart of a broader momentum for political and social change in Ireland.

If change is to be people centred, then change must be driven by the people.

A popular democratic movement for transformation needs to be developed across Ireland.

That is a progressive coalition of political, civic, community, cultural and labour activists united in support of economic democracy, sustainable public services, equality, rights, and the welfare of citizens.

These are the means of modern Republicans today.

Ireland is in transition. Our party is in transition.

The process of leadership succession has already commenced.

We have begun to implement a ten-year plan to regenerate our party with more youth and women; and enhanced skills and capacity.

Mar sin, más cearta, cothromas agus Poblacht atá uaibh –  ná habraigí é – eagraigí, tógaigí, agus déanaigí é.

Bígí línne.

If you want equality and rights – if you want fairness in Irish society:

If you really want a Republic – then just don’t vote Sinn Féin:

Join Sinn Féin – and get your family and friends to do the same.

We continue to take our inspiration from Tone.

This afternoon in Bodenstown we stand resolute in the tradition of Henry Joy McCracken, William Orr, Roddy McCorley, Jemmy Hope, Betsy Gray and Mary-Anne McCracken.

Now let us go forward reenergised and confident, to mobilise and organise, and to achieve national independence and Irish Unity.

Uachtarán Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh dátheangach “riachtanach” – Peadar Tóibín TD

Dúirt urlabhraí Gaeilge Shinn Féin, an Teachta Peadar Tóibín gur cheart go mbeadh Gaeilge ag uachtarán Ollscoil na hÉireann ar bhonn riachtanach. Cé go n-aontaíonn Sinn Féin leis an mbille a chuir Eamon Ó Cuív os comhair na Dála inniu chun an cuspóir seo a bhaint amach, léirigh an Teachta Tóibín gur laghdaíodh stádas na teanga in Ollscoil na hÉireann fad is a bhí Fianna Fáil i gcumhacht.

Coláiste Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh.

Dúirt an Teachta Tóibín: “Aontaím leis an mbille seo a chuir Eamon Ó Cuív os comhar na Dála inniu. Tá sé rí-thábhachtach go bhfuil Gaeilge ag uachtarán Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh. Tá stádas faoi leith ag an ollscoil chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn, agus dualgais bhreise leis an teanga a chothú.

“Buille mhór eile don Ghaeilge an cinneadh fáil réidh leis an riachtanas Gaeilge seo roimh an Nollaig. Gach seachtain nach mór, cloisimid faoi ionsaí eile ar ár dteanga náisiúnta. An tseachtain seo caite ceapadh duine gan Gaeilge líofa mar Ard Rúnaí ar an Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta, Gnóthaí Réigiúnacha, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta. Is léir dúinn uilligh an drochmheas atá ag an rialtas ar an nGaeilge.

“Is gá dúinn an teanga a chur chun tosaigh, agus daoine a cheapadh le h-ardchumas teanga acu, go háirithe iad siúd le poist shinseartha, feiceálacha acu. Tá sé práinneach cosaintí a chuir i bhfeidhm leis an teanga a chaomhnú, agus déanann an bhille le Eamonn Ó Cuív iarracht an fhadhb seo a réiteach ó thaobh stádas na Gaeilge in Ollscoill na hÉireann, Gaillimh de.

“Ach is iad Fianna Fáil a bhí i gcumhacht nuair a rinneadh laghdú ollmhór ar an teanga le teacht isteach Acht an Choláiste Ollscoile, Ghaillimh (Leasú) 2006. Bhain na leasuithe seo an riachtanas fostaíochta a bhain le cumas sa Ghaeilge agus sa Bhéarla a bheith ag duine a bhí le hearcú ag an ollscoil. Bhí Sinn Féin go mór i gcoinne an bhille seo deich mbliana ó shin, ach reachtaíodh é faoi chúram Fhianna Fáil in ainneoin ár n-argóintí ina choinne.

“Cé go bhfuil fiúntas leis an bhille ón Teachta Ó Cuív á chur faoinár mbráid inniu, is baolach dom gur sop in ndiaidh na scuaibe atá ann.”


Brexit has wide ranging implications for the school sector – Carol Nolan TD

Speaking after the schools sector forum on Brexit this morning, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education and Skills teachta Carol Nolan has said that there needs to be a thorough analysis of all threats and opportunities of Brexit so that a detailed plan can be put in place to allow schools to cope.

Teachta Nolan said: “The discussion with stakeholders this morning was very informative and shed light on the many ways in which Brexit may impact on the schools sector.

“Particular issues such as access to schools for those in border areas, interreg and other European Funding for school projects and issues such as the mobility of qualifications are perhaps the most pressing issues for the school sector.

“However, the discussion also highlighted a number of longer term planning needs in light of Brexit to address issues such as the potential growth in diversity as people leave Britain and the resulting impact on school places and accessibility as well as the development of appropriate education in areas such as citizenship and foreign languages.

“Issues such as procurement, customs, differing rates of VAT may have a knock on cost implication for schools and may increase funding pressures.

“The issue was also raised in relation to the storage of data as it is reported that a lot of schools have data stored on British servers.

“It is clear that the impact of Brexit will be wide ranging on Irish society and the education sector is no exception.

“I welcome the ongoing sectoral dialogue on these important issues and I have asked that the Education Committee also conduct hearings with stakeholders on the impact of Brexit.

“It is important that there is a thorough analysis of all of the threats and opportunities of Brexit so that a detailed plan can be put in place to equip the sector to face any changes ahead.”

Ionsaí rialtas eile ar Gaeilge – Peadar Tóibín TD


Dúirt an Teachta Peadar Tóibín go raibh an cinneadh chun fáil réidh leis an riachtanas Gaeilge dóibh siúd atá ag lorg post sinsearach i leabharlanna poiblí an-díomách ar fad. Dúirt an Teachta Tóibín gurb é seo an dara h-ionsaí ar sheirbhísí leabharlanna le cúpla mí anuas le teacht isteach na scéime ‘leabharlanna gan foirne’.

Dúirt an Teachta Tóibín:  “Ba mhór an díomá a chloisteáil go raibh an riachtanas Gaeilge le baint agus leabharlannaithe sinsearacha nua á fhostú. Céim siar mhór atá ann – seo an riachtanas deireanach a bhí ann maidir le fostóirí dhátheangacha a earcú sa státchóras.  Is laghdú eile é ar na seirbhísí do Ghaeilgeoirí agus lucht foghlamtha Gaeilge mórthimpeall na tíre.

Peadar Tóibín TD
Peadar Tóibín TD

“In an-chuid ceantar sa tír is iad na leabharlannaithe sinsearaigh a ghlacann cúramaí an Oifigigh Gaeilge chucu féin sna comhairlí. Ní ról lán-aimseartha é i gceantair áirithe. Míníonn na rialacha nua a tháinig isteach, go bhfuil an baol ann nach mbeidh comhairlí in ann a gcuid dualgaisí Gaeilge a chomhlíonadh mar is cóir, toisc nach mbeidh siad in ann teacht ar na hoifigigh páirtaimseartha seo.

“Leanann na rialacha seo an scéim nua atá curtha chun cinn ag an rialtas le ‘leabharlanna gan foirne’ a chur ar fáil. Díoltar dúinn é mar rud forásach – ach i ndáiríre caitheann sé anuas ar ról tábhachtach leabharlannaithe mar gheatóirí eolais agus mar chuiditheoirí léinn.

“Feictear dúinn anois go bhfuil gach seans ann nach mbeidh duine cuí i bhfeighil ar na leabharlanna le linn an deireadh seachtain, nó duine ar bith ar fáil agus Gaeilge acu i rith na seachtaine.  Seo buille eile don Ghaeilge agus do sheirbhísí poiblí.

“Tá ról lárnach ag leabharlanna i saol an phobail – ní áit iad le leabhair a sholáthar amháin – ach spás poiblí inar féidir leachtanna agus taispeántais a chur ar fáil agus eolas a roinnt. Níl aon amhras ach go gcuirfidh cinneadh chun fáil réidh leis an riachtanas Gaeilge bac ar an Straitéis 20 Bliain a bhaint amach.

“Táimid buartha freisin maidir le leabharlanna Gaeltachta agus na dualgais teanga seo bainte ó na leabharlannaithe nua-earcaithe. Táim ag impí ar an Aire an cinneadh seo a chúlú láithreach.”


Another attack on the Irish language by the government – Peadar Tóibín TD

Sinn Féin’s Peadar Tóibín TD has said that the decision to get rid of the Irish language requirement for senior librarians was very disappointing indeed. Teachta Tóibín said that this was the second attack on library services in the past few months following on from the introduction of ‘staffless libraries’.

An Teachta Tóibín said: “I was very disappointed to hear that the Irish language requirement for senior librarians was being removed. This is a big step backwards – this was the last Irish language provision in the recruitment of employees in the state system. It marks a deterioration in the services for Irish speakers and Irish language learners throughout the country.

“In many districts in this state, it is senior librarians that accept the responsibilities of Irish Language Officer in their council. Regrettably, this is not a full time role in certain parts of the country. There is now a danger that councils will not be able to adequately fulfil their duties with the introduction of these new rules, as they will not be able to find suitable part-time officers.

“These rules follow-on from the ‘staffless libraries’ scheme as recently introduced by the government. This has been sold to us as a progressive measure – but in reality it diminishes the importance of the librarian’s role as gatekeeper of knowledge and enabler of learning.

“It appears that there is every chance now that there won’t be an appropriate person in charge of libraries during the weekends – and no-one with Irish available during the week. This is another knock for Irish and for public services.

“Libraries have a central role in civic life – they do not exist for the provision of books alone – but they act a public space in which lectures are given, exhibitions displayed, and information shared. There is no doubt but that the decision to get rid of this Irish language requirement will hinder the ability to achieve the aims of the ’20 Year Strategy.

“We are also concerned about libraries in the Gaeltacht as to whether Irish language requirements have been removed from the recruitment of librarians. I’m asking the Minister to reverse his decision with immediate effect.” CRÍOCH


Minister for Education must publish updated admissions regulations as soon as possible– Carol Nolan TD

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education and Skills, Teachta Carol Nolan, has today called on the Minister for Education and Skills to publish updated regulations to accompany the new admissions to schools bill as soon as possible, after the Minister confirmed in a Parliamentary Question response that the regulations will be updated and published in draft form  following enactment of the Bill.

Teachta Nolan said:

Carol Nolan TD
Carol Nolan TD

“The Education (Admissions to Schools) Bill 2016 gives the Minister extensive powers to regulate in the area of admissions policy, particularly in relation to the criteria that must be applied when a school if oversubscribed.

“The Minister has confirmed in a Parliamentary Question response to me that “these regulations will be updated and published in draft form for further consultation with the relevant education stakeholders following enactment of the Bill.”

“In my view, it is essential for these regulations to be published in conjunction with the Bill so that stakeholders will have a clear view of the impact of the legislation in its entirety.

“Various organisations, including the Irish language sector, disability groups and broader human rights based organisations  have been in touch with concerns in relation to the proposed legislation and the criteria that may be applied in cases of over subscribed schools.

“I am calling on the Minister for Education and Skills to publish the updated draft regulations as soon as possible to allow stakeholders and legislators to make informed decisions in relation to this legislation.”

Underhand cutback to Back to Education Allowance – John Brady TD


Sinn Féin spokesperson for Social Protection John Brady TD has said that despite talk, the minority Government continue with stealth cuts to those who are most in need. Deputy Brady was referring to the new measure whereby those in receipt of Back to Education Allowance may now have their payment reduced in accordance to part time hours worked.

John Brady TD (Wicklow) and David Cullinane TD (Waterford)

Teachta Brady said: “In April of this year, changes to the Back to Education Allowance came into effect which will impact all new applicants for this allowance. Previously part-time work during the academic year did not affect the rate paid.

“Now these changes mean that from the 2016/2017 academic year, the allowance will be reduced in accordance with the quantity of part-time hours worked.

“The costs associated with returning to college are huge and we know that many students already struggle at this time of year.

“While the Government continue to talk about the economic recovery and their success in creating it, the cuts have not ended. This particular cut lies in stark contrast to the Government’s rhetoric of assisting people to return to education by making it even harder.

“This pick pocketing measure needs to be reviewed and reversed immediately.

“I have highlighted this issue to the Minister through a Parliamentary Question and I await his response.”