The oration by Senator Paul Gavan is available to view here:
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.
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.
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.
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson, Pearse Doherty TD, has said the government has forgotten about the 80,000 families in mortgage arrears. He said the promises in the programme for government have been watered down, put on the long finger or simply dropped altogether.
Speaking at a Public Meeting in Swords organised by Louise O’Reilly TD, Deputy Doherty said:
“In December the Central Bank published its latest figures on mortgage arrears. A total of 79,562 (11 per cent) of accounts were in arrears. This is still a huge crisis happening day in day out for the thousands of Irish people affected, yet it barely gets a mention any more from the government!
“421 properties were taken into possession by lenders during the third quarter of 2016. That is over 4 homes a day being taken over. The government think this issue is gone away, they think it’s in the past. They are wrong.
“Promises to review the insolvency thresholds and set up a new Special Mortgages Court sit on the legislative programme 6 months after they were due to be published. A commitment that the Central Bank would amend the Code of Conduct seems to have been rebuffed altogether by Governor Lane.
“The Abhaile MABS service is up and running but is only scratching the surface in the number of people in arrears it has helped out. This government in permanent crisis has well and truly taken its eye off the ball when it comes to mortgages.
“Sinn Féin will put in place real solutions, not promises.
“We will protect the Family Home in law to a greater degree. My legislation to do exactly that was voted down in 2013. We also do not accept that vultures are part of the solution. If we can’t get rid of them they need to be taxed, regulated and not fed by the State’s own banks.
“The 80,000 families in arrears deserve to be front and centre in political debate. This is not an issue that has gone away.”
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has labelled the government’s social housing delivery for 2016 as “uninspiring and wholly inadequate.” Deputy Ó Broin made the comments on foot of the publication of the Social Housing Construction Projects Status Report for 2016.
He said: “This report shows that only 652 units were delivered in 2016. This is just 8% of the overall number of units currently “in development”. This figure is spread across Local Authorities, Associated Housing Bodies, Capital Assistance projects, rapid builds, regeneration projects, Capital Advance and Leasing projects and turnkey projects.
“Another 21% of the units are on site. However, 34 of the 90 developments described as on site only commenced in the fourth quarter of 2016. The majority of the developments, over 70% of the social housing units announced, are being held up by the cumbersome approval, tendering and procurement rules that the Department of Housing imposes on local Councils. These rules can delay the delivery of social housing by up to 24 months.
“For example, the figures published in this status report worrying show that 89 of the 353 projects stuck in the bureaucratic approvals process have been at the first stage of the process, the capital appraisals stage, since the third quarter of 2015 or before. Over a quarter of the social housing projects currently under development have been stuck at stage one of the approvals and procurement process for 16 months or more.
“This is not good enough given the level of social housing need in this state. Last November I published a document as to how the approval, tendering and procurement regime for social housing could be speeded up. This would consist of a one stage approval process instead of the current four stage process.
“Sinn Féin also recommend that to enable local authorities and Associated Housing Bodies to deliver social housing programmes as quickly as possible the Department of Housing should provide them with, in principle, funding approval for six years to cover the period of the government’s Housing Plan. The Department of Housing must take the time to review its own procedures and see how it can reduce the red tape holding up the delivery of social housing.”
In an appearance before the Finance Committee, Commissioner Margrethe Vestager robustly defended her judgement that €13billion plus interest of back taxes is owed to Ireland by Apple. It is absolutely clear that the government must not proceed with wasting taxpayer’s money appealing the EU Commission’s decision.
Speaking on this Kevin Brunnick – Chair, James Connolly Cumann, Cahir said:
“Point after point put up by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil around so called fantasy money, Ireland acting as a tax collector for the world and arguments around selectivity and tax sovereignty were not only dismissed but destroyed by evidence from the commissioner. Both parties engaged in a concerted effort to misinform the Irish public that this back tax was not due to us, which is shocking.
“It’s is clear from the Commission’s 130 page report, that they have left no stone unturned in arriving at the decision. The report is objective, well researched and the authors have shown a clear understanding of the minutia of Irish tax legalisation.
“Engaging the appeal process would be an abuse of public ownership of these taxes given what we heard in the proceedings of the committee and it is hard to believe that the government would fight this case, which is clearly watertight.
“Cutting through the technicalities, it seems hard to arrive at the conclusion that the EU Commission believes what happened was a misunderstanding or a misapplication of procedure. Rather it appears to be that the Commission is suggesting a calculated, contrived and unique arrangement that was put in place to favour Apple at the expense of other companies such as indigenous companies.
“The government should immediately stop it’s wasting of taxpayers money on the appeal process, from which the only winners, it seems, will be the lawyers and accountants paid by the State.
“This debacle centers on a dodgy deal whereby Apple were able to decide what tax they would pay on an arbitrary basis, not in any accordance with Irish tax legislation.
“It is now time for the government to stand up for citizens and ensure that the money owed to the state is paid without obstruction or unnecessary delays.
“Whatever share of the tax that is due to Ireland would go some way to solve the health and homeless issues we have in Tipperary.”
David Cullinane TD, Sinn Fein Spokesperson for Public Expenditure and Reform, said that reports of drastic reductions across all departments shows the folly of Fine Gael’s tax-cutting budget and opens up serious questions around the competency of Ministers Donohoe and Noonan.
Deputy Cullinane said:
“Last October the government was warned not to cut USC at that time. It went ahead and did it anyway. We now see the results of this folly.
“This government refuses to invest in public services, focusing only on undermining the tax base, at a time when we have critical pressures in health, housing and education.
“Sinn Féin, in its alternative budget, was able to show that it is possible to invest in housing and address the issue of equal work for equal pay.
“Every budget decision needs to be funded. That is just a basic rule.
“I have consistently asked the minister to show us how he would fund the measures the Minister and his colleagues have announced since the start of the new year.
“I got no answer until it was leaked to the newspapers today.
“This government overspent in the previous budget through its destabilising tax-cutting agenda.
“At the same time Minister Donohoe refuses to answer questions put to him by the Budgetary Scrutiny Committee.
“This government is serving from press launch to press launch, doing damage along the way.
“We need a real alternative in government. Only Sinn Féin can provide that alternative.”
Figures provided by the Department of Social Protection this morning reveal an underlying problem with how they are dealing with applications for Disability Allowance, with the high rate of decisions overturned said Denise Mitchell, Sinn Féin’s Junior Spokesperson on Social Protection.
Denise Mitchell TD for Dublin Bay North stated:
“Figures showing that 42% of applicants for Disability Allowance were refused, and on appeal two thirds of these were then accepted, highlight major problems that exist in the application process. This must be rectified.
“There are other payments too with high refusal rates. Sinn Féin’s John Brady TD questioned the Minister in the last two weeks on the large percentage of refusals for Carers Allowance with high rates of appeal going to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. Again, this demonstrated possible flaws in the application procedure.
“The high rate of decisions overturned by the Appeals Office make it clear that problems exist in the Disability Allowance application process. Forcing people who clearly have medical issues and need welfare to go through the extra procedure of an appeal is not acceptable. This needs action from the Minister. I am calling on Minister Varadkar to rewiew these procedures as soon as possible.”
Allocation of a paltry additional €3 million is not good enough
Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Maurice Quinlivan TD, has expressed his deep concern that looming threats from Brexit are not treated with the urgency demanded within the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs launched this morning.
He said that the paltry additional €3 million allocated by the Government highlighted the reality that the government is sleepwalking through the challenge posed by Brexit.
Deputy Quinlivan said:
“Britain is racing towards a hard exit from the European Union, which has the potential to cause catastrophic damage to jobs in Ireland. It is beggars belief that, in their Action Plan for Jobs, the Government has included only an additional €3 million in funding to tackle challenges arising from Brexit.
“I attended a stakeholders meeting In Carrick-On-Shannon on Monday and it was crystal clear from contributions from business organisations, Unions, farmers and other stakeholders that the Government was simply not doing enough to address what could be the biggest challenge to this state in generations in terms of job losses and damage to the economy.
“A recently published report from the EU Committee of the House of Lords on the impact of Brexit noted that Dublin’s limited infrastructure and shortage of housing could deter financial firms from relocating there. I have repeatedly raised this issue with the Minister.
“It is very clear the question of infrastructure is of critical importance not just in relation to Dublin but to the rest of the country.
“For example, data from the Department of Finance’s own assessment found that the food and beverage and the manufacturing sectors are most at risk to the fallout from Brexit with potentially thousands of jobs lost in the Agri-food sector alone.
“Importantly, these sectors are primarily made up of Irish owned SME’s, who are significant regional employers with comparatively low profit margins.
“It is of critical importance that the Minister and her Department grasp the nettle when it comes to capital funding for infrastructure.
“Kevin O’Rourke, Professor of Economics at Oxford University, recently suggested that the Government should allocate €25 million to fund a market diversification and product innovation strategy to support Irish food and drink companies to try and replace UK exports to the EU to compensate for the hit caused by Brexit.
“That analysis provides an insight into how the paltry €3 million extra spend is nowhere near the level of funding needed to meet the challenge of Brexit.
“The Minister needs to accept that the issue of infrastructure is central to efforts to minimize the impact of Brexit, and unfortunately today’s announcement will do little to address that.”
David Cullinane TD, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Public Expenditure and Reform, said today that Sinn Féin will not allow the government and Fianna Fail to row back on their commitment to an inquiry into NAMA.
Deputy Cullinane said:
“It is incredible that the Minister for finance can stand up in the Dail and say that everything is ok with NAMA. This flies in the face of the minister’s own acknowledgement in front of the Public Accounts that Committee that there was a corrupted process in relation to the sale of Project Eagle.
“The C&AG Report into Project Eagle is a shocking exposé of the type of lax oversights and informal relationships that appear to inform NAMA’s engagement with its mandate.
“The question raised by the Report – one that the C&AG is not mandated to address – is a simple one: ‘if a corrupted process such as Project Eagle was allowed to proceed, where else has NAMA been soft on conflicts of interests in order to complete a sale?’
“It is somewhat shocking, but unfortunately not surprising, that Fianna Fail are running scared of an inquiry into NAMA as it was set up under their watch.
“However, the questions surrounding NAMA won’t go away. That is why it needs to be investigated especially in the face of such steadfast reluctance from the establishment parties.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD, speaking in the Dáil during Leaders’ Questions this afternoon, has said that the executive order introduced by US President Donald Trump last week to halt the US refugee programme “is a subversion of acceptable standards of decency and equality”.
He said that the Taoiseach should “assert clearly the Irish people’s total opposition, in the strongest possible terms, to the racist, anti-women and anti-immigration policies of President Trump”.
Teachta Adams said:
“The Executive Order introduced by US President Donald Trump last week to halt the US refugee programme is a subversion of acceptable standards of decency and equality.
“It is disappointing that the Taoiseach has yet to raise this matter with the US administration.
“He should have expressed his opposition to the blanket 90-day travel ban for nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The order will undermine efforts to improve relationships between those of all faiths and nationalities throughout the world.
“As the Taoiseach has said, generations of Irish fled starvation, poverty and conflict in Ireland to make a new life and contribute to building America. Millions of them and their descendants are still there. Let us note that they are among the most outraged over these recent moves.
“I acknowledge he has initiated a review of pre-clearance protocols, which is welcome, but the government’s primary responsibility must be to ensure this fundamentally unjust order is not used in Irish airports.
“The Taoiseach needs to introduce measures, if necessary, to ensure no one is a victim of discrimination and that no international or domestic law is broken. He needs to ensure that this State’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and other international agreements are fully observed.
“The Taoiseach should take the opportunity to advise the undocumented Irish in the USA not to be alarmed by recent developments. I know from my contacts there that many people there are frightened for their futures and the Taoiseach should meet with them when he travels to the USA.
“His primary focus has to be to engage with the diaspora, stand with the undocumented Irish and maintain our strong ties with Irish America, particularly as regards the ongoing process of change on this island.
“He must also assert clearly the Irish people’s total opposition, in the strongest possible terms, to the racist, anti-women and anti-immigration policies of President Trump.”