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.

Bus route X7 to go

Meeting to discuss the cancellation of Expressway bus service between Clonmel and Dublin.
(Feel free to use photos)

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Bus Éireann – public meeting in Clonmel

There will be a public meeting held on Thursday next, 2nd March, in the Park Hotel, Clonmel at 20:00.

The meeting is organised by Dermot O’Leary of the NBRU to discuss the proposed closure of the Bus Éireann service between Dublin and Clonmel.

Councillors, TD’s, and the public are welcome.

It is hoped that Labour Councillor Maurice Shorthall will attend, and outline the unfortunate experiences of Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny, when their service was curtailed. A director of Bus Éireann is also expected to attend.

Thursday 2nd March

20:00

Park Hotel, Clonmel

Bus Éireann intend to close the service between Dublin and Clonmel.

Outrageous refusal by NTA to carry out review of private licences issued on public loss-making bus routes as strike looms – Imelda Munster TD

Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Transport, Imelda Munster TD, has questioned what the National Transport Authority (NTA) has to hide, in response to the refusal of the CEO of the NTA to carry out Deputy Munster’s request for a review of licences to private operators on public bus routes.

Speaking at a meeting of the Transport Committee today on the ongoing crisis in Bus Éireann, Deputy Munster requested that the NTA carry out a review of all licences issued to private operators on all bus routes, with a particular focus on routes that have been identified by Bus Éireann as being loss-making.

Deputy Munster raised this issue following the refusal by the CEO to accept that the NTA had a significant role to play in the current crisis, in that too many licences have been issued on some routes, leading to over-saturation and loss-making for the Expressway service.

The CEO said that such a review could not be carried out as the information sought was commercially sensitive, or it was not available to the NTA.

Deputy Munster said:

“I find that incredibly hard to believe. The CEO is saying that the NTA has not asked Bus Éireann which routes are making losses. The NTA and government refuse to acknowledge their role in this situation, and now the NTA claims it has no idea what is going on in Bus Éireann. The NTA is tasked with over-seeing public transport, so I am amazed that today its representatives are saying they have no idea what is going on in Bus Éireann in this time of crisis.

“I am very wary of the lack of information available to us here, and apparently, to the NTA. People’s livelihoods, the public transport network and the needs of many people in rural areas are at stake here. Given these circumstances, the attitude of the NTA is astonishing!”

Sincerity of Bus Éireann management’s approach to finding a resolution is questionable – Imelda Munster TD

Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Transport ,Imelda Munster TD, has today criticised Bus Éireann management for their approach to talks with transport unions in the Workplace Relations Commission on the matter of the crisis in Bus Éireann’s Expressway service.

Deputy Munster said:

“Bus Éireann management did not act in good faith when they sent out provocative correspondence to the workers threatening job losses, pay cuts and changes to terms and conditions on the day that talks were to commence. This is not how talks should be conducted, in what is already a tense environment. We have to ask if this was a deliberate move to destabilize the talks.”

“There are many issues at the forefront of these negotiations, and the number 1 issue is bad policy and decision-making by government and the NTA in relation to over-saturation of profitable routes.”

“How could they not have foreseen that financial loss was inevitable following a policy of oversaturation of certain routes. It’s unacceptable that their primary target now is the workers with no resolve to correct the bad policies.”

“The first thing Bus Éireann management need to do, if they are sincere and genuine about preserving and protecting our public transport network, is to carry out a full review of all licences issued on intercity and rural to urban routes.”

“The government needs to play a part in this too. It’s absurd to think that this can be resolved without government participation, and an admission and re-examination of past policy failures.”

Minister must take responsibility for consequences of his inaction in public transport – Imelda Munster TD

Minister Ross must protect, preserve and enhance our public transport network – Gerry Adams TD

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD, speaking in the Dáil during Leaders’ Questions this afternoon, has said the Minister for Transport needs to engage with all stakeholders to find a resolution to the current crisis at Bus Éireann.

Calling for an increase in funding for the Free Travel Scheme, he said that the Minister’s aim must be to “ensure we find a way to protect, preserve and enhance our public transport network”.

Teachta Adams said:

“The management of Bus Éireann have recently announced measures that threaten the rights of bus workers. By slashing overtime and Sunday rates and cutting pay, management is forcing the issue to an industrial dispute. This race to the bottom when it comes to workers’ pay and conditions is completely unacceptable.

“A huge amount of people, particularly in rural Ireland, rely on Bus Éireann services. They are the young, the old, the poor, the rural dweller, the tourist.

“It is possible with good management, by listening to transport users and workers and taking on board what they have to say, to create a service which will attract more people to use public transport.

“That should be the Government’s position. It is not the position of the Minister for Transport Shane Ross. He has a responsibility to ensure the future sustainability of Bus Éireann.

“There are a range of decisions he could take, including a full review of the Expressway service, a review of loss making routes on which private carriers currently operate and a review of the number of private licenses issued on these routes.

“There should also be an increase in funding for the Free Travel Pass. As it currently stands, the amount allocated covers just 41% of the cost of the average journey. This has contributed significantly to losses at Expressway.

“The Minister needs to provide clarity regarding routes and services that have been identified for potential closure and he needs to engage with all of the stakeholders immediately in order to prevent serious travel disruption.

“His aim must be to ensure that together we find a way to protect, preserve and enhance our public transport network.

“So, I would urge the Taoiseach to ensure that Minister Ross engages with all stakeholders, including the Department of Transport, the National Transport Authority, Bus Éireann and the unions to find a resolution to this issue without delay.”

Public transport is public service – Martin Kenny TD

Speaking in Leinster House on the issue of Bus Éireann, Sinn Féin TD for Sligo, Leitrim, West Cavan and South Donegal Martin Kenny said that public transport is a public service and does not have to be profit-making to be successful.

Deputy Kenny said:

“A successful public transport service is one which provides an adequate transport service to citizens and if that involves subsidy, then so be it.

“There is no denying that Bus Éireann is in trouble at the moment but it is no wonder when it seems to be run in such a way as to ensure it will not break even, never mind make a profit.

“Who takes the bus? In this state at the moment, it is the young, the old, the poor and tourists. In other words, the people who have little choice, but it doesn’t have to be like that.

“It is possible with good management, by listening to transport users and taking on board what they have to say, to create a service which will, by offering more, attract more people to use public transport.

“There are in Government and outside of it, the likes of Michael O’Leary of Ryanair, for example, who constantly suggest that somehow a privatised transport system would improve the service to our citizens. We only have to look across the water to Britain to see what a disaster privatisation of transport was there.

“And of course, there are hundreds of towns and villages all over Ireland which have little or no transport at all. It is government policy that if you live in rural Ireland and you cannot afford a car, or cannot drive for some other reason, then you can stay where you are, even if that means restricting citizens’ access to work, study, healthcare or a social life.

“Rural transport is a vital factor in maintaining life in rural Ireland. Bus Éireann is part of the vital infrastructure which must be maintained and developed.”

Sinn Féin introduce Bill to prevent companies from reneging on pension obligations – John Brady TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson for Social Protection John Brady TD has today introduced a Bill to ensure an end to solvent companies walking away and reneging on their pension obligations to their employees.

The Pensions (Amendment) Bill 2017 was introduced today by Deputy Brady and is co-sponsored by Deputies Denise Mitchell and David Cullinane.

Teachta Brady said:

“In recent years, there has been a concerted effort to close defined benefit schemes regardless of the health of the company. We know this is happening; we saw it most recently in Independent News & Media.

“According to the Irish Association of Pension Funds, the number of active defined benefit schemes has fallen from just over 1,200 at the end of 2006 to less than 500 today. The number of active members in those schemes has dropped from 270,000 to 126,000 at the end of last year.

“In reviewing our pension system in 2012, the OECD clearly identified the allowing of healthy sponsors to walk away from DB pension plans, shutting them down, as another weakness of Irish legislation.

John Brady TD (Wicklow/East Carlow) and David Cullinane TD (Waterford).

“If we, as legislators, do not address what Independent News & Media have done then we

are allowing other companies to do the same. We are saying that this is acceptable and we are actively leaving the door open for other companies to do the same.

“This Bill implements the OECD recommendation which, had legislation been strengthened at that time, the wipe out of members’ pensions at Independent News and Media would not have been allowed.

“I am calling for cross-party support for this Bill so we can send a very clear message to companies that they will not be allowed to consciously wind down their defined benefit pension plans and renege on their pension commitments to members.”

Fianna Fáil happy to take pay increase for TDs while remaining quiet on the demands of teachers and Gardaí – David Cullinane TD

David Cullinane, Sinn Féin spokesperson for public expenditure and reform, has criticised Fianna Fail’s continued defence of pay rises for TDs above teachers and gardaí, saying that pay equality has to be about more than just words and good intentions.

David Cullinane TD
David Cullinane TD

Deputy Cullinane said: “Fianna Fáil has been quiet on the industrial unrest within the public sector. That is no real surprise as they were the party that created the mess of a two-tier pay system in the first place.

“Their confidence and supply agreement with Fine Gael is not about achieving fairness but about maintaining the status quo, even if this means an unprecedented strike by Gardaí.

“Fianna Fáil are quite happy to take their pay rise and to sit on their hands when it comes to low-paid teachers, gardaí and nurses.

“During their time in government they unleashed a sustained attack upon ordinary working families and upon essential public services such as education, health, justice and housing.

“Today, they are more willing to prop up Lansdowne Road instead of seeing past it as Sinn Féin has done and address the core issues of pay equality and pay restoration.

“It is clear that Fianna Fail’s purpose is to keep things as they are.

“It is not interested in changing the direction of this state, even when it is clear that change is needed.”