‘Merger with Fianna Fail – Not on my watch’

Politics.ie has Margaret Ritchie’s speech to the Labour party conference in Galway. She rules out any link with Fianna Fail and gets very cosy with Labour.

(full text below the fold)

Ladies and Gentlemen – Friends

I’m Margaret Ritchie – recently elected leader of the SDLP

I’m delighted to be here.

Many of you won’t know me, but suffice to say that, up home, I have something of a reputation for being direct and to the point – and, so I like to think, a reputation for hard work.

I intend to turn around the fortunes of the SDLP – by showing people we have a unique vision where we are

– Stronger on Jobs and the Economy
– Serious on building a Shared Society
– Credible in our approach to Irish Unity

Our opponents cannot deliver in these key areas

There has been talk of us joining with Fianna Fail and there are some in the SDLP who like such a proposition. But let me make our position clear.

Merger with Fianna Fail? – not on my watch.

Our policy is to maintain good relations with all Parties in the South and, truthfully, I have great regard for Brian Cowen and Enda Kenny as well as, of course, for Eamon.

Now it is normally our practice not to comment on policy issues in the South. But I think the theme of your conference affords me some latitude

So let me give it to you straight:
We are in an economic crisis, North and South, of unprecedented proportions – created for the most part by people who were rich, greedy and reckless.

I believe we have a moral duty to make those people shoulder the burden of correction and not the people who are already struggling to get by – including junior public sector employees and the working poor.

I am not impressed with NAMA – it is simply a Rehab centre for banks. Nor do I think it was the right decision not to close, at the very least, Anglo Irish Bank. This institution is now a byword for toxicity, and its impact is not just numbers on balance sheets or deserted housing developments. Right now it could well cost thousands of peoples’ jobs in the border counties. It should not have been rescued.

The SDLP shares a special bond with Irish Labour.

We are both Parties of principle who will always put people and country before self interest.

We both want to see jobs at the top of the agenda in these difficult economic times. And we are both dismayed by those impostors who after decades of pointless violence would claim the historic legacy of James Connolly and the life’s work of John Hume.

And we both have a proud record of delivery for our people:

The historians have yet to write up the massive contribution Mervyn Taylor and his Labour colleagues made to modernising this country and making it fairer for all its citizens. And in all the praise about the Peace Process, the SDLP will not forget the absolutely vital and central role of Dick Spring.

We forget our friends and there is one person in this room I particularly want to thank for his never-faltering support over many years.

On behalf of the SDLP and from the heart. Thank you Ruairi Quinn.

And thank you too Eamon Gilmore. As a new kid on the block I have watched your leadership with great admiration. You have led your Party with authority and purpose.

With you as leader the election, when it comes, will be a great day for Labour.

And on that night I will be watching a TV, in Downpatrick, looking out for one particular result.

The name Spring, restored to its rightful place, heading the poll in Kerry North.

Thank you