A rumour persisted throughout the afternoon that Sinn Féin party president would use the end of his evening address to announce his retirement from the office. Instead the only mystery was the disappearance of a much heralded historic choir who were due to speak at the end of the early evening 1916 “celebration of the centenary” and never quite made it onto the beautifully constructed set.
An hour of motions around the environment and transport (as mentioned in an earlier post) in the morning preceded the traditional two hours of rapid fire speeches [audio] from voices across the party, broadcast live by RTE. After lunch sessions business returned to the motions in the clár before the Ceiliúradh Céad Bliain with music, drama and speech.
While northern voices and issues punctuated the business, southern politics dominated the motions and the debate on Saturday. Speakers argued for the creation of an all-Ireland soccer team, [Ed – timing’s everything – right at the moment we’ve got two good national teams on the island!] gender quotas for Dáil Éireann and Seanad and various party rules. Dissenting voices were heard, but there were no upsets.
Michelle Gildernew warmed up The Convention Centre Dublin audience, whose stalls and circle were finally packed in advance of the leader’s speech. Upper Bann candidate Catherine Seeley welcomed Gerry Adams onto the stage.
100 years ago tonight small groups of men and women were making their final preparations for the Rising. On Easter Monday April 24th they struck for freedom. They took on the largest Empire in human history. Years of training, organising and the procurement of arms had gone into their preparations.
He said “there has been an attempt by some to denigrate the heroes of 1916”.
The popular response to, and the genuine pride in the centenary events is a clear rejection of this shameful revisionism. There has also been a disgraceful effort to suggest that republican history ended in the GPO.
We are told John Redmond opposed violence. That he was right on Home Rule. That Connolly and Pearse and their comrades were wrong. That the British government would have granted independence anyway. Nonsense!
Returning to the Proclamation:
The Proclamation is a manifesto for change. In government, north and south, my commitment to you tonight is that Sinn Féin will deliver this change. We are committed to a vision of a new Ireland that will embrace everyone. A society in which the rights of every citizen will be guaranteed. A society in which every child will have equal rights and equal opportunities.
The historic section of his speech ended:
Sinn Féin is proud of Ireland’s long and distinguished struggle for freedom. We are not Fine Gael or Labour. We are proud of the men and women of 1916. We are not Fianna Fáil. We are equally proud of the men and women of the H Blocks and Armagh and of the 1981 hunger strikers and of the patriot dead from our time. We remember them all here tonight.
On the post-election negotiations:
After the election Sinn Féin said that in the interests of delivering change we were willing to talk to Fine Gael and Fianna Fail. They refused to talk to us.
In nasty little soundbites, which would make the DUP blush, the Fianna Fáil leader in particular, proclaimed that this party, that the people in this Convention Centre, and more importantly those citizens who vote for Sinn Féin, were not fit for government.
That’s the only explicit reference to an Assembly party in the whole speech.
He also said he would not put Enda Kenny back into government. But putting Fine Gael back into power is exactly what he is negotiating. That’s not in the national interest. Fianna Fáil voters did not vote to give Fine Gael another term.
Micheál Martin knows that Enda Kenny will not resolve the homelessness crisis, the health crisis or the crisis in living which many families are enduring. He knows the Fine Gael leadership have little interest in Irish unity. But he would prefer to put them back in government as part of his effort to counter the growth of Sinn Féin.
So, I have a message for Teachta Martin. You promised in your manifesto to abolish Irish Water and to scrap water charges. So, water charges must go. Irish water must go.
Many citizens thought they were voting for an alternative when they voted independent. Some of those TDs now stand with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. How independent is that?
Before the Volunteers left the GPO Pearse told the women that when the history of that week would be written the highest honour and credit would go to them. Seasaimid lenár gcairde ban. There can be no Saoirse na h’Éireann gan Saoirse na mBan.
So a genuine republic would repeal the eighth amendment of the constitution. And Sinn Féin will campaign for this.
These are our commitments at the start of the 32nd Dáil – however long it lasts – a strong progressive Sinn Féin team, working in co-operation with others of like mind, standing up for citizens and against the elites. Sin an gealltananas a thug muid do na daoine a thug vótai dúinn.
And let me be very clear, unlike the establishment parties, this party – Sinn Féin – will stick to our promises and to our commitments!
On the election result and Sinn Féin promises and record of delivery:
Despite a tsunami of negative campaigning by our opponents and from sections of the media Sinn Fein achieved a historic result in the general election. We now have 23 TDs. I thank all our candidates, their families and our voters. We also have an excellent team of candidates going forward for Monday’s Seanad election.
On May 5th the anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands, there will be an election in the North. I want to applaud our Assembly candidates, and their families.
Last September Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil called for the suspension or the adjournment of the political institutions of the Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Féin and others refused to accept this. We successfully negotiated the Fresh Start Agreement. I want to commend the huge commitment and leadership of my friend and comrade Martin McGuinness in building the peace.
Sinn Féin have stood against the British Tory austerity policies. We stopped the introduction of water charges and we guaranteed free hospital care, free GP care and free prescriptions. However, this is not enough.
Marriage equality is still banned in the north. And we are committed to changing that. We are also committed to Acht na Gaeilge and to Irish language rights, including the right to Irish medium education.
No other party will stand up for these rights in the face of unionist bluster; British government opposition, and the Irish governments indifference.
On legacy issues and Brexit:
The British government must be made to honour their commitments on legacy issues including disclosure, legacy inquests and the resourcing of investigations.
That is why we need the biggest number of Sinn Féin MLAs to lead change in the Assembly, and to join all our elected representatives, and you the activists, in delivering change across Ireland.
In June there will be a referendum in June about so-called Brexit. While Sinn Féin believes in a different European Union – a social EU based on equality and citizens’ rights – we will be campaigning for a strong vote against Brexit. The imposition of border controls and economic barriers are not in the interest of the people of this island. Our goal is to break them down and end partition.
A United Ireland for all. The purpose of partition was to prevent the emergence of a united 32 county Irish state. To this day partition prevents the development of communities and is holding back, as Connolly put it: ‘the wheels of progress.’
Yet much has changed. The orange state, established by the Government of Ireland Act, is gone. The Government of Ireland Act is gone also. Yes, the northern state is still in place; and yes the majority of people there are unionists but the union is no longer unconditionally upheld in British law.
The British government is now obliged to legislate for Irish unity if a majority wants that. The duty of the Irish government is to achieve this. That means promoting all-Ireland co-operation and building relationships between our people.
It means an end of partitionist thinking by policy makers; and yes – in the media also. It means enlisting international support for all these objectives. Of course, from a republican and democratic perspective the British government has no right to be in any part of Ireland.
But from a unionist perspective all has changed, changed utterly from the days of a one party state where nationalists were excluded from power; denied equality in housing, employment and voting rights; and where expressions of Irish national identity were criminalised.
Now a peaceful and democratic route to Irish unity exists. Tá go leor obair le déanamh againn go fóill. A United Ireland means the unity of the people of this island, including those who identify themselves as British. A United Ireland means economic and political benefits for all our people. A United Ireland means an end to duplication and waste. A United Ireland must be inclusive, agreed and welcoming for all the people of this island. That includes our unionist neighbours. This is their homeland also.
We love Ireland. We value this small island. But it is the people – orange, green, and all other colours also, who are at the core of our values of equality, liberty and fraternity. We want this to be the best place to grow up in, to grow old in and to enjoy life in. So our resolve must be to end all divisions and to unite our people.
These events will celebrate the vision, bravery and sacrifice of that time. In our own time 35 years ago Bobby Sands was 55 days on hunger strike. Like the men and women of 1916 he and his comrades were all about the future. In his prison diary Bobby wrote:
“If they aren’t able to destroy the desire for freedom, they wont break you. They won’t break me because the desire for freedom and the freedom of the Irish people, is in my heart. The day will dawn when all the people of Ireland will have the desire for freedom to show. It is then we’ll see the rising of the moon.”
The people of Ireland are no mean people. We have great resilience and great potential. We know whose side we’re on. We stand by and for the Republic. It’s time we saw the rising of the moon. Bígí linn. Join the new Rising. Up the Republic – An Phoblacht abú.