Adams: `a democratic peaceful way to bring about Irish unity’
On 8 February Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams TD was in Dundalk for a local launch of Sinn Féin’s campaign for a border poll. Mr Adams said that the `disastrous impact of partition is nowhere more evident than along the border corridor’. He also specifically addressed those `who are usually described as dissident’, and urged `all republicans and nationalists, whatever their opinion of the peace process, and irrespective of which political party or tendency they support, to seize this opportunity to advance republican and nationalist objectives’.
He said there was `now a democratic and peaceful way to bring about Irish unity’ and `no reason whatever for any group to engage in or promote or support violent actions’. He said the `challenge for thinking republicans is to find ways to engage with and to listen to the concerns and ambitions of our unionist neighbours’.
Referring to the approaching anniversary of the Easter Rising he appealed directly to groups `which claim to follow in that tradition to reflect on their position’, and said it was `time for them to show courage and in the spirit of the 1916 Proclamation to embrace a peaceful way forward…’
He said that this phase of political activity `is about persuasion; it’s about democratic conversations and winning support for Irish unity’. He added, `violent actions will not assist this process’ and would `make the task of achieving a yes vote’ more difficult.
He concluded that Irish unite made `political and economic sense and… is in the best interests of the people of these islands. The Good Friday Agreement provides a legislative, peaceful and democratic route to Irish unity. A border poll is the means.’ The full text of his remarks can be found on the Sinn Fein website: http://www.sinnfein.ie/contents/25634
Sinn Fein activists out in force for anti-austerity
On 9 February Sinn Féin respresentatives and activists were out in force to support ICTU’s anti-austerity rally today in Dublin. Speaking after the rally party spokesperson on social protection Aengus Ó Snodaigh said Sinn Fein were `proud to have supported ICTU’s ‘lift the burden’ rally today in Dublin’.
He added, `this week the government had an historic opportunity to secure a real reduction in the cost of the toxic banking debt foisted on the people by Fianna Fáil. Not only have Fine Gael and Labour wasted that opportunity, they have increased the cost of that burden for decades to come.’
He condemned the deal, which he said would `mean nothing to the families who are struggling to make ends meet’ and said that the government `is still pressing ahead with plans for water charges and a property tax – measures which will place even more of a burden on hard-pressed families’.
He said he hoped that the rally would be `the start of many popular demonstrations against the government’s reckless mismanagement of the economy’ and concluded: `the message today was ‘lift the burden’ – I am calling on the government to listen to that message and realise that citizens cannot take anymore. We need a change of direction; we need a better fairer way.’
Sinn Fein MPs in London to discuss outstanding Good Friday issues and press local initiatives
The past two weeks saw Sinn Fein MPs Pat Doherty and Paul Maskey in Westminster for a series of meetings with cross-party MPs and peers. Among issues on the agenda were Sinn Fein’s calls for the implementation of outstanding issues from the Good Friday and St Andrews Agreements. Pat Doherty also raised the issue of the border poll and the need for the British political parties to begin a discussion around their attitude and responsibilities in this regard.
Pat Doherty also hosted a visit of an integrated education college in his constituency and spoke with students about a range of issues. Meanwhile, West Belfast MP Paul Maskey held a range of meetings aimed at promoting investment and links with his constituency, which came alongside a launch of a leaflet highlighting several initiatives towards tackling social needs. He also raised the issue of the West Belfast festival with a range of groups and organisations, and the need to promote this hugely successful and growing event with the Irish community, business and others.
l April will see the 15th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and on 17 April Sinn Fein MPs will host `An evening with Sinn Fein’ at a central London restaurant, to coincide with the anniversary and to mark and celebrate the immense progress made. Further information and ticket details will be announced soon.
Sinn Fein back Visteon pensioners at Westminster meeting
On 12 February Sinn Féin MP, Pat Doherty was in Westminster to support the Unite The Union campaign for Visteon (Ford) workers. Mr Pat Doherty MP said he was in London to attend a meeting on behalf of the Sinn Fein MPS where Unite were presenting evidence on behalf of the Visteon pensioners. He said `Gerry Adams the then MP for West Belfast played a leading role in supporting the Visteon workers during their prolonged industrial action in Belfast following the factory closure in 2009. Since his election the present West Belfast MP, Paul Maskey has continued to support the fight for the workers’ pension entitlements.’
He said he was there to demonstrate `Sinn Féin's continued support for the Visteon pensioners.
Mid-Ulster by-election: `Sinn Fein mobilised and energised’
Meanwhile, the Mid-Ulster by-election was finally announce for 7 March. Sinn Fein candidate, Francie Molloy stepped up his campaigning and said that Sinn Féin were `more than prepared for this by election’. The party launched its campaign the previous week in Galbally Community Centre `with over 500 people in attendance, and hundreds of activists have been out over the past 2 weeks delivering 40,000 newsletters to homes across every part of Mid Ulster’ Mr Molloy said. He said they were all `mobilised and energised by this election campaign, and we welcome the announcement today, to give us a date to work towards.’
He added, `my message to everyone is simple: the people of Mid-Ulster can rely on Sinn Fein’s record of results. Martin McGuinness and the entire Sinn Féin team in Mid Ulster have laid a solid foundation, and I will continue to champion the right to hope for citizens and communities in Mid-Ulster. We will seek to develop a range of social economy projects – including an engineering training centre; and new local business opportunities to serve the people of the area. We will prioritise the demand that planning decisions must serve the needs of citizens and communities, not simply lines on a map.’
He concluded: `Sinn Féin will continue to create practical social and economic opportunities and partnerships for the people of this area. We will deepen and strengthen the peace and political process, on the road to Irish unity and independence. So help us continue to build on our record of results, on Thursday 7th March, vote Sinn Féin, vote Francie Molloy.’
Sinn Fein bring motion to Assembly on flags, symbols, emblems and language
On 12 February Sinn Féin MLA Caitríona Ruane said the party had tabled a joint motion with the SDLP for the Assembly to debate the setting up of an Ad Hoc committee to discuss the issue of flags, emblems, symbols and language.
The South Down MLA and member of the Assembly Commission said that the debate would take place on 25 February and added `the place to discuss these issues is the Assembly and not through the Assembly Commission’. As agreed in 2000 by the Assembly Commission, flags and other such matters `are political and best handled in the Assembly’ she said and added `it is hoped that there will be political leadership shown and we call on all parties to support the motion.’
She concluded: `Bringing these issues into the Assembly will ensure that parity of esteem, equality and diversity are best served and the Assembly Commission can get on with its role of managing Parliament Buildings.’
Incarceration of Magdalene women `an illegal act in its own time’
On 12 February, Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD described the State’s complicity in the incarceration of women in the Magdalene Laundries as `an illegal act in its own time’.
Deputy McDonald said there was `a simple truth’ and that the State was `complicit in the incarceration of women in the Magdalene Laundries’. She said that this `flew in the face of the League of Nations 1926 Slavery Convention, the 1930 International Labour Organisation Forced Labour Convention, the 1957 UN Supplementary Slavery Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights’, even though Ireland signed up to all of these legal protections.
She said it was `simply wrong of the government to try and pretend differently, as if to suggest we are now to consider the Magdalene Laundries through a contemporary prism’. She added, `the forced labour and incarceration of the women and girls in the Magdalene Laundries was an illegal act and the States complicity is writ large’.
She said that the surviving women of the Magdalene Laundries `have told their stories in written submissions, personal testimonials and through a wealth of archival evidence’ and it was `not hard to understand the kind of terror the women and girls must have felt held in these institutions’.
She said that `we need to be very clear that what we are looking for is an apology that openly and fully acknowledges failure of the state to protect these women’ and `an unqualified apology that includes every woman and girl held in these institutions’. This apology must she added `include those held Stanhope Street and Summer Hill’.
She concluded: `It will be a profound tragedy if the government succumbs to the circling of the wagon’s by the State bureaucracy in its efforts to protect the state from liability. Fine Gael and Labour’s response to this tragedy is as relevant to women and their role in society today as it was in the decades prior.’
Government spinning promissory notes agreement defeat as victory – Sinn Fein
On 12 February Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty said that the government was spinning a defeat as victory in that evening’s debate on the promissory notes agreement.
Deputy Doherty said that last June the Taoiseach Enda Kenny `said there had been a ‘seismic shift’ and An Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said there had been a ‘massive breakthrough’. That shift was the statement of Eurogroup leaders to separate banking and sovereign debt. It is a measure of the failure of the government that today they are spinning the replacement of the promissory notes with sovereign bonds as a victory.’
He added: `In the space of a few months we have gone from a ‘seismic shift’ to more of the same old failed policies burdening the Irish taxpayer with banking debt. The government’s claim that they had no choices doesn’t hold water. They could have and should have argued for the Eurogroup to follow through on its commitment on separating banking and sovereign debt. They should have made clear that they would not pay one more cent of the Anglo debt.’
He said the government `should have pushed this issue to a conclusion by insisting on a separation of banking and sovereign debt and refusing to pay one cent more of the promissory notes.
Instead we got Frankfurt’s Way.’
He concluded: `In fact I doubt Frankfurt thought it would succeed in such a comprehensive way. They could only have dreamed that the Irish State would voluntarily latch the most toxic of its banking debt to itself. Frankfurt has got its way and Frankfurt knows the Irish people are now committed more than ever before to repaying every cent of the Anglo-Irish mess.’
Earlier on 7 February, Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams TD, challenged the Tánaiste in the Dáil during leaders’ questions on the Promissory Note proposition. The Sinn Féin leader accused the government of ensuring that a young person will be paying this `debt for their entire working life.’
Mr Adams said that the Tánaiste `failed to give any clarity on how today’s deal will benefit citizens suffering under his government’s austerity policies’. He said `any young person lucky enough to get a job in the economy today will be paying this debt for their entire working life.Today Fine Gael and Labour turned a €28 billion promissory note into a sovereign debt for the state which could reach up to €60 billion. The government’s approach will tie this bad debt to citizens for decades to come –our children and grandchildren will have to pay billions. We are handing a legacy debt to them and we have no idea what the economic and political circumstances will be when the bonds mature. That is wrong. It should not be paid for the simple reason we cannot afford to pay it.’