McDonald addresses Sinn Féin Away Days

In her opening address to the Sinn Féin Away Days in Cavan this morning, Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD said:

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A chairde, welcome to County Cavan for Sinn Féin’s annual national away day.

Sinn Féin is the all-Ireland party – the only party with representatives in the Oireachtas, the Assembly, the European Parliament and councils the length and breadth of Ireland.

The next two days are an opportunity for us all to strategise and to plan.

And we have much to discuss.

This is my first away day as Sinn Féin President.

It is an honour to be here and lead the discussion at this decisive period for our party and for Ireland.

Since my election, I have started a journey across Ireland.

I have met with many groups and I have listened.

I have met with business groups, with Chambers of Commerce and women’s groups.

I have visited domestic violence shelters, childcare providers and schools.

I have sat with community and youth groups and witnessed the invaluable work they do to support people with mental health issues.

Common to all these people is working hard and wanting better for their families and their communities – wanting a better Ireland and a fairer Ireland.

They are tenants wanting security of tenure and certainty of an affordable rent.

They are the homeless wanting a roof over their heads.

They are the young couple who dream of owning their own home.

I have sat with mothers struggling with back-to-school costs and working to meet the price of childcare.

I have listened to parents glowing with pride at their children getting a place at university only to find they will have no accommodation.

I have met with carers, people with disabilities and with their families who are undervalued and abandoned by this State, who have to fight to secure basic services and entitlements.

I have met with people in border communities who are looking beyond Brexit and towards a united Ireland

Our young people, our LGBT+ citizens, our new citizens and our older citizens want respect, their rights recognised and their place in our nation secured.

Their experiences and reality are what inform and drive our work. We are determined to act on their behalf – to give a voice to those silenced and ignored.

All of them and all of us want a better future, expect a better Ireland and won’t accept anything less.

They must define the new Ireland that is emerging.

A new Ireland and a united Ireland that works for all its citizens.

That is home to all.

This new Ireland will not be built by Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.

It will be a new and united Ireland shaped by its people and built on the principles or equality and respect.

A united Ireland of shared prosperity and equal opportunity.

A new Ireland for all who share this island.

Delivering that new Ireland is the mission statement for our generation of republicans.

It is a task bigger than Sinn Féin, but one that will be driven by Sinn Féin.

So how do we go about this task?

In the coming term we face many challenges.

There are also many opportunities.

And the work starts now. We must robustly challenge the marginalisation and neglect of rural Ireland.

Rural communities in this State have been abandoned by successive Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil governments.

Their latest attack is to close 159 post offices in some of the most rural and isolated communities in the State.

This must be challenged and stopped.

As a matter of priority on the week the Dáil returns, Sinn Féin will table a motion to save these vital rural services.

I challenge Mícheál Martin and Fianna Fáil to stand up for rural Ireland. I challenge him to get off the fence and to support our motion.

Beidh rúin Shinn Féin chun na seirbhísí ríthábhachtacha seo a shábháilt ós comhair na Dála i gcionnn coicíse.

Iarraim ar Mícheál Martin agus Fianna Fáil tacú leis an rin sin má tá siad dáiríre faoi oifigí an phoist.

The upcoming budget will allow us to demonstrate the difference that Sinn Féin would make in government.

Unlike other parties who produce wish lists, Sinn Féin will bring forward a fully costed alternative budget.

We will lay out what could and should be done in the best interests of our people, our economy and our services.

We will show how a  Sinn Féin finance minister would generate and share prosperity.

A Sinn Féin budget and a Sinn Féin government would tackle the cost of living and ensure a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.

Creating and sharing prosperity; is in the interest of all.

Health, homes, schools and security are to the benefit of citizens and business alike.

Sinn Féin would make the difference in housing.

The policy of this government is failing the homeless, failing those renting and those who strive to own a home.

We now have a generation of workers who will never afford to own a home.

We have a Minister who is failing and out of touch.

We have 10,000 people homeless, the population of Longford town homeless,  on his watch and things are getting worse.

This is a national crisis.

This is a scandal.

It is time to call a halt.

It is time for the Minister to go.

l beartais an rialtais ag obair.

Tá Aire againn a bhfuil as teagmháil.

Tá 10,000 daoine againn gan dídean agus tá rudaí ag éirí níos measa.

Is géarchéim náisiúnta é seo.

Is scannal é seo.

Tá sé in am stad a chur leis.

Tá sé in am don aire imeacht.

We will table a motion of no confidence in Minster Murphy in the coming weeks.  It will be decision time.  It will be decision time for the government and for Fianna Fáil.

Does the government and Fianna Fáil stand over the Minister and his appalling record or do they stand with us and say it’s time to go?  Do they stand with the people or not.

A new Ireland is not worthy of the name if it is a place of inequality, of homelessness and hardship.

It is not worthy of the name  if it offers opportunity for the few and crumbs for the rest.

It must be a place that we all call home.

A place where women can trust the HSE. A place where the state does not drag dying women through the courts. A place where a woman’s health is respected and safeguarded.

A place where families of children with autism are supported. A place where every child, including those with autism, have a school place.

That is the Ireland we can and must build.

In February the talks in the north collapsed when the DUP leadership walked away from the deal that they had agreed.

The issues that led to the collapse of the talks have not gone away and are not going away.

This is not about a dispute between two parties.

It is bigger than two parties.

It is about the rights and respect due to all in society.

It is between those that are for equality and respect and those who are not.

These issues cross all sections of the community.

Rights and respect are not orange or green issues.

The rights afforded to citizens in the rest of Ireland and in Britain should be recognised in the north.

The right to marriage equality, to healthcare for women, to the protections of a language act and to access to an inquest.

Ba cheart na cearta a thugtar do shaoránaigh sa chuid eile don tír agus sa Bhreatain a aithint sa tuaisceart.

An ceart do chomhionannas pósadh, do chúram sláinte do mhná agus do ghníomh teanga.

The solution to this impasse is clear – implementing existing agreements, ending the denial of rights and entering into a real powersharing partnership.

The do-nothing British Government  have supported the undermining of their own agreements and the rights of citizens.

The two governments have said they are planning for a further round of talks in the Autumn.

I welcome that. We are up for talks and agreement but any talks must be credible. We cannot have talks for the sake of talking.

It must be about delivery.

If the DUP can’t or won’t deliver, the two governments must make clear their intention to press ahead with the full implementation of the agreements and the extension of rights to the north that are available in the rest of Ireland.

The British government know the position of the majority of political parties and MLAs on Brexit, the Alliance, the SDLP, the Greens and ourselves. They know what the people of the north think. They voted to remain and that should be respected.

Last December the Taoiseach told us that he had a cast iron guarantee on protecting Ireland. It appears that these guarantees melted with the snows of last year.

Our national interest must be protected. That means no hard border, no reduction in rights and safeguarding the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts.

The Taoiseach must make good on his commitment that the north will never again be left behind. He must ensure that citizens in the north continue to have representation in the EU Parliament.

The north is changing. The perpetual unionist majority is gone. Brexit has demonstrated the fundamental anti-democratic nature of the union with Britain.

A new generation is questioning partition. They are looking beyond it. They want to define their place in a new and united Ireland.

It is no longer the case of if there is going to be a unity referendum, but when a unity referendum will take place

We need to secure that referendum, ensure that it is conducted in an informed and respectful way and we must set out to win it.

So it is all to play for in the coming term and the coming years.

The actions we take, the decisions we make and the alliances we build will determine the shape of a new and united Ireland.

So let us look to the opportunities and challenges.

That includes the Presidential election.

This is an opportunity for a national conversation about a new Ireland. An opportunity to elect a new President for a new Ireland. A President for all the people, north and south. A President for the Irish nation at home and abroad.

Is deis seo comhrá náisiúnta a bheith againn faoi Éire nua.

Deis chun Uachtarán nua a thoghadh d’Éire nua.

Uachtarán do na daoine go léir, ó thuaidh agus ó dheas.

Uachtarán do náisiún na hÉireann sa bhaile agus thar lear.

Article three of Bunreacht na hEireann makes clear

“It is the firm will of the Irish Nation, in harmony and friendship to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland.”

The new president must make good that promise to unite our nation in all its diversity and difference.

Uachtarán a n-aontóidh ár náisiún.

Imagine a new president in the Aras and a new  presidency.

Nominations are open, we will ratify our candidate on the 16th September.

We do so because we believe that the people should decide who is president. It is not in the gift of Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. It is the people’s president. And there will be a Sinn Féin candidate in the field.

We have a lot of work to do, a lot of decisions to make and lot of opportunities to take.

What we do today, tomorrow and in the coming terms can make this happen.

It’s in our hands to make the difference.