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February 18, 2006

Gerry Adams Presidential Address Ard Fheis

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SF 02/18/06 - Gerry Adams Presidential Address Ard Fheis


Hear Adams’ address at:

Presidential Address Gerry Adams Presidential Address
Ard Fheis 2006

I want to welcome you all once again to this very unique
gathering, the Ard Fheis of Sinn Féin. I want to greet our
international visitors, our delegates, members and
activists. Fáilte mór romhaibh uilig chuig an ócáid
sainiúil seo inniu. Ard Fheis Shinn Féin. Beannachtaí ar
leith dár gcairde idirnáisiúnta, dár n-ionadaithe, baill
agus gníomhaithe.

I want to extend greetings also to republican prisoners and
their families. Special greetings to our Friends of Sinn
Féin from the USA, Australia and Canada. You are all very,
very welcome.

I am also very conscious as we gather here in Dublin of the
suffering of the families bereaved by the Stardust disaster
- this week 25 years ago. Our hearts are with you all.

2006 is an important year for the people of Ireland. It
marks both the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Rising and the
25th anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strikes. Both events in
their own way showed how ordinary people can change the
course of history.

Beidh muid ag cuimhniú ar agus ag céiliúradh an dá ócáid i
rith na bliana.

At this time 25 years ago, the men and women in the H-
Blocks and Armagh had already announced that another hunger
strike would begin on March 1st. Many people of my
generation will remember that time well, although I always
find it difficult to talk about it.

It is difficult to do justice to the memory of those who
died on hunger strike.

I am still amazed that I knew such men. And for those who
were close to the prisoners and their families there
remains a raw emotional wound. It's also hard to recapture
a sense of that time for those who weren't there.

Twenty five years ago Nelson Mandela was in gaol on Robben
Island and apartheid looked set to last forever in South
Africa. Twenty five years ago dictators of various hues
were in the ascendancy. Maggie Thatcher ruled Britain;
Pinochet's Chile was a byword for torture, and war raged on
the streets of the Six Counties. The world was divided
between the two superpowers, the United States of America
and the Soviet Union. This also looked as if it would last

But for many Irish people that period brings back immediate
memories of those long 8 months in 1981 when Bobby Sands,
Francie Hughes, Patsy O'Hara, Raymond McCreesh, Joe
McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Tom
McElwee, and Michael Devine, all died on hunger strike.
Almost 50 died outside the prison. Seven, including three
children, were killed by plastic bullets and hundreds were

Thug said a raibh acú ar son a gcairde faoi ghlas agus ar
son saoirse na hÉireann.

The conditions which led to the hunger strikes were created
when the London government, supported by Dublin, tried to
criminalise republicans. The logic was simple. If there
were hundreds of political prisoners how could the struggle
be depicted as mere wanton criminality. The British decided
that the prisons were to be a breakers yard for the
republican struggle. The British government didn't want a
settlement. It wanted victory.

But the republican prisoners, the women in Armagh and the
Blanketmen, would not be criminalised. In extraordinary
circumstances they took on the entire might of the British

I want to welcome the families of the hunger strikers who
are with us here today. I want to remember Frank Stagg and
Michael Gaughan. I also wish to extend our continuing
support to all their families and the families of all our
patriot dead.

Of course the grief and anger at the death of the ten
hunger strikers extended far beyond their families and
friends. Here in this city the political establishment sat
in silence.

But Dublin came to a standstill. People stopped work, young
people walked out of schools, many businesses closed, tens
of thousands took to the streets in scenes that were
replicated across Ireland and the world.

In censored times, the prisoners cut through all the spin
and disinformation. Everyone took sides. Either you
supported Thatcher or you supported the prisoners.

After the strike ended and 10 men were dead the British
government moved to bring about the prisoners five demands.
The prisoners won but at a terrible price. British
government policy failed, once again.

There are many stories to tell about this time, many
lessons to be learned. Over the coming months I recommend
that people take part in the events which are taking place
to commemorate the Hunger Strikes.

Tá féilire ar fáil ón Choiste Cuimhneacháin Náisiúnta.

1916 Rising

What was it that inspired Bobby Sands and his comrades to
engage in struggle, what was the vision that sustained them
in those prison cells. 90 years ago a small number of men
and women went out onto the streets of this city and
challenged the greatest superpower of the day. They were
poorly armed and for the most part poorly trained. But they
had big hearts, boundless courage and determination, and an
overwhelming desire to free Ireland.

For many of the republicans, especially Connolly and Pearse
they also saw their endeavour in wider global terms and
especially in the context of British Imperialism.

The British Empire was the biggest the world has ever seen.
The Empire on which it was claimed, the sun never set. So
large were its conquests that it stretched around the
world. Over a quarter of the earth's landmass was
incorporated into this Empire and London imposed its rule
over 500 million people and scores of colonies. It is no
accident that these include some of today's worst troubled
regions, from Iraq across the Middle East to Africa, still
dealing with the legacy of colonialism.

The Republic

In Ireland in 1916 things changed utterly, for the British,
but also for the Irish. A Republic was declared. But not
just any Republic. This Republic was uniquely democratic
and determinedly inclusive.

The core values of this republic were mapped out in the

The Proclamation hangs in many homes. It prefaces many
books. I would appeal to you all to read it - really read

The Proclamation is a freedom charter for this whole island
and all the people who live here.

It guarantees religious and civil liberty and is avowedly

It promotes equal rights and equal opportunities for all

And at a time when women did not have the vote it supported
universal suffrage.

The Proclamation is a declaration of social and economic
intent for a rights based society in which the people are

These are not just clever words or empty rhetoric.

These are great words, great ideas, which it is our task to
see implemented.

Those who most immediately understood its significance were
revolutionary Irish women. One of these, Margaret
Skinnider, was wounded during the fighting in Dublin in
Easter week. Afterward she said: "… in the Constitution of
the Irish republic, women were on an equality with men. For
the first time in history indeed, a Constitution had been
written that incorporated the principle of equal suffrage."

This view was echoed by Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, who said:
"It was the first time in history that men fighting for
freedom voluntarily included women." There are lessons for
others and for all of us here.

Honouring 1916

I welcome the Taoiseach's announcement that the state will
mark the anniversary of 1916. How this is done will be
important. And it's good that there will be consultation on
this issue.

Is a military parade of two and a half thousand soldiers
the best way to do this?

I don't think so.

An inclusive, civic and cultural celebration, which
educates us all, particularly about Irish republicanism,
which measures our society against the Proclamation, is the
best way to honour the visionaries of that time.

The reason for the re-establishment of the state event has
been the accusation that Sinn Féin hijacked the legacy of

This party is part of that legacy. We never hijacked 1916.
It is not the sole property of any political group or any
political party.

The truth is that Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour, and all
the rest of them abandoned 1916.

Mo chlann féin do dhíol a máthair, mar a dúirt an Piarsach.

They also rewrote the Proclamation. In their writ the
ownership of Ireland belongs not to the people of this
island but to the giants of globalisation.

In their writ the right of the people of this island to the
unfettered, indivisible and sovereign control of our
destinies has been handed over to the bureaucrats of the
European Union.

In their writ there is no notion of cherishing all the
children of the nation equally. They cherish only those who
can pay for it.

In their writ our right to national freedom and the
happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all its
parts has been set aside in the interests of the few.

So it is a good thing that the state is to mark the 1916
Easter Rising.

The Proclamation of the Republic is the most important and
abiding legacy of that time.

It has outlasted the counter-revolution, the savagery of
the civil war and the partition of this island.

Ireland today is a country in transition. But the core
values of the Proclamation are as relevant in 2006 as they
were in 1916. And a lot of unfinished business has to be
completed if we are to build an Ireland of equals.

Five great strategic challenges

This evening I want to set out the five great strategic
challenges facing Sinn Féin.

First and foremost we must concentrate our efforts on the
current negotiations. Our task is to advance the peace
process and ensure that the Good Friday Agreement is
implemented in full. Included within this will be the
deeply problematic issue of policing in the north.

Another great challenge is the need to develop an entirely
new relationship with unionism. Our engagement with
unionism must deepen and broaden in the time ahead. This is
a major challenge for this party and I would urge everyone,
every activist to take up this challenge personally.

The third great challenge facing this party is to build
support for Irish unity in Britain.

There is a potential to create in Britain a solidarity
movement similar to that in the USA.

Another great challenge will be to build an Ireland of
equals. We want to advance the all-Ireland agenda, to make
partition history and to campaign for an Ireland of equals.
Our task, like that of all other progressive forces in
Ireland, is to actively change Ireland, day by day, based
on the republican principles of equality, liberty and

Our fifth strategic task is to build Sinn Féin. There are
more republicans in Ireland today than at any time in our
history. There are many more republicans on this island
than there are members of Sinn Féin. I want to call on you
to join Sinn Féin, to help us to push forward with our
agenda for change. I especially want to open up our party
and our leadership to women. We need more women involved in
our decision making processes.

Five big strategic challenges - and the biggest challenge
is we have to do all of this at the one time.

Is obair crua a bheas ann, obair trom ach tá muidne reidh

They are all equally important and necessary for the
success of our struggle. But they are no less than this
party is capable of achieving if we plan and organise and
build our capacity properly.

Historic IRA decisions

It is over ten years since the historic decision by the IRA
to call a cessation of military activity. This last year,
in some respects saw an even more momentous decision with
the IRA's decision to formally end its armed campaign and
put its weapons beyond use.
I want to commend the courageous and confident vision of
the Volunteers of the IRA.

As I said in my appeal to the IRA last April:

'In the past I have defended the right of the IRA to engage
in armed struggle. I did so because there was no
alternative for those who would not bend the knee, or turn
a blind eye to oppression, or for those who wanted a
national republic.

Now there is an alternative.

I have clearly set out my view of what that alternative is.
'The way forward is by building political support for
republican and democratic objectives across Ireland and by
winning support for these goals internationally.'

I also said that those who oppose change are not going to
roll over; 'It will always be a battle a day between those
who want maximum change and those who want to maintain the
status quo.

But if republicans are to prevail, if the peace process is
to be successfully concluded and Irish sovereignty and
reunification secured, then we have to set the agenda - no
one else is going to do that.'

The decision by the IRA to move into a new peaceful mode
places an enormous responsibility on all of us to seize the
moment and to make Irish freedom a reality. I believe that
this generation of republicans can make good the promises
of the 1916 Proclamation.

But the decisions by the IRA were undoubtedly deeply
difficult for many. There are republicans still trying to
come to terms with it many months later.

Sheas na hÓglaigh sa bhearna baoil leo féin thar na blianta
fada. Mhol muid iad ansin. Nuair a thaispean said misneach
anuraidh mhol muid arís iad. Agus molaimís iad inniu.

Indeed undoubtedly there are some who believe that the IRA
has made a mistake. They are entitled to their opinion but
to no more than that. No one should harbour the notion that
the republican struggle can be advanced any further by an
armed campaign. This leadership is firmly opposed to such a

The IRA initiatives also present challenges to others. No-
one should under-estimate the contribution Oglaigh na
hÉireann has made to the peace process. The IRA has removed
themselves from the picture and those genuinely interested
in peace need to stop looking for excuses.

The Peace Process

The peace process is arguably the most important issue
facing the people of this island today. Progress will
create stability, will create opportunity, will create
wealth, will improve our standard of living. Success will
generate a confidence, an excitement, an enthusiasm which
will contribute to further progress. All of these things
are interlinked and interconnected.

Failure will set all this back by decades.

So, the months ahead are critical.

I have made it clear from the republican perspective - the
war is over. But, unfortunately, powerful elements within
the British system have both a war mentality and the
resources to sustain this. For them the peace process is
war by other means.

We have told the British Prime Minister that this is not
acceptable. The British government has a responsibility to
dismantle its war machine, to decommission its spy rings
and spymasters and to take to its troops out of Ireland.

In my April appeal to the IRA I made the point that
commitments, including commitments from the two
governments, were reneged on in the past. There have been
further examples of that since then.

History will not be kind to any government, whether it is
the PD/Fianna Fáil coalition here in Dublin or the one led
by Mr. Blair in London, if it puts party political
considerations above the peace process.

There is no possible excuse for the British and Irish
governments to not fully and faithfully implement the Good
Friday Agreement.

This means the Irish government actively promoting the
rights and entitlements of all citizens, including those in
the north. The Taoiseach's decision this week to renege on
his commitment to proceed with northern representation in
the Oireachtas is not acceptable.

There is sufficient support for this within the Dáil - if
the Fianna Fáil party truly supports the participation of
northern MPs - nationalist and unionist. Rhetorical words
about 1916 and the Republic need to be backed up by action.

Is poblachtánaigh uile oileánda sinn agus ní ghlacfaidh
muid le níos lú ná atá i dteideal dúinn.

I want to direct some remarks to other republicans. (To
those who are frequently labeled by the media as

Obviously there are fundamental differences between us but
all republicans and nationalists want a united Ireland, an
end to British government involvement in Irish affairs, the
release of all political prisoners, and an end to the
harassment of the families of prisoners in Irish and
English prisons, and much more.

I am asking that you look objectively at the current
political situation.

I am asking that you carefully consider your options.

And I am calling upon you to debate these matters.

The Future of the Good Friday Agreement

The peace process is in many ways the reworking of the
relationships between unionism and the rest of the people
of this island. And between all of us and the British

British policy in Ireland has historically been the
catalyst for conflict and division in our country.

British policy ultimately needs to be about ending British
jurisdiction on this island.

An bhfuil said reidh go fóill leis an rud ceart a dhéanamh?
Tcífidh muid.

The current phase of the political talks will decide the
future of the Good Friday Agreement.

I have to say I have huge reservations about how the two
governments are approaching these talks.

At this time they are pandering to the DUP.

Sinn Féin will listen attentively and respectfully to
everyone's ideas. But the main objective of these talks has
to be to end the suspension of the political institutions
within a short time-frame.

The Sinn Féin leadership has told both governments, and I
have told both Mr. Ahern and Mr. Blair directly, that there
can be no dilution of the Good Friday Agreement to allow
for a two-tier or two stages approach or British appointed
Commissioners, to run the north.

British direct rule is also not an option.

So, the focus of our negotiators in the weeks ahead is

· An end to the undemocratic suspension of the institutions

· The triggering of the mechanism for electing the

· Delivery on outstanding aspects of the Agreement.

· The conclusion of the debate on policing on the basis set
out in December 2004

· And the delivery of a peace dividend for the north and
border counties.

In other words we look to both governments to honour their
commitments, publicly made and thus far unfulfilled. That
is our agenda for the talks.


I said that we face five strategic challenges. One of these
relates to our relationship with unionism.

Partition has failed. It has failed the people in the
south. It has failed nationalists in the north. It has
failed the very community it was designed to safeguard. It
has failed unionists.

Even within their own rationale partition has no economic
merit. On the contrary all economic advantage lies in
Ireland as a single island economy.

Within the north the large unionist dominated industries
have disappeared.

Discrimination in the workplace is being challenged. The
northern economy has failed. The position of superiority
and influence enjoyed by unionists is being replaced by
equality. That is good for everyone.

Unionist working class communities are ravaged by
unemployment and educational under achievement. This is bad
for everyone.

No unionist leader can believe that British direct rule is
benign. A terrible price is being paid in all of our
communities in the North as a result of British Direct

This includes job losses, privatisation, education cuts,
falling incomes for those working in agriculture, a failure
to produce any strategy to deal with suicide prevention,
and much more.

The best people to make decisions about the lives of people
in the north are people who live there.

An gcreideann duine ar bith in Éirinn nó i dTír na Sasan
fiú nach dtig le daoine áitiúil post níos fearr a dhéanamh
sa rialtas sa tuaisceart?

There are many good people within unionism.

People who care about their community. People who want to
see stability, peace and prosperity.

People, including in the PUP, the DUP and the UUP, who have
worked with Sinn Féin in committees and at councils. People
who want a say in decision making.

So there are challenges for unionism and questions they
need to answer.

I have a question for Ian Paisley - are you ready to begin
the process of building a shared future?

One thing is for certain, Sinn Féin is not going away.

And there is another thing that all of us can be certain of
- change will continue. And the best option for unionists
and the rest of us is to collectively manage the changes
that are coming.

Regardless of the disposition of the DUP, republicans need
to engage with unionist communities. We need to talk about
the future. Everyone has the right to guarantees for their
civil and religious liberties. Republicans need to talk to
unionists about this. We need to listen to their concerns.
We want to talk about Irish unity, about safe guarding
everyones rights and identity.

It is within our collective ability to resolve problems.
For example, the annual crisis caused by the small number
of contentious loyal order parades must be sorted out.

This requires positive political leadership and meaningful
dialogue based on equality and mutual respect.

Sinn Féin has consistently supported such an approach.

We now must deepen our engagement, our understanding of
unionism if we are to have partners in conflict resolution.
The imperative of conflict resolution begs another question
of Ian Paisley - Ian, is your war over?

International solidarity

One of the strategic challenges I spoke of earlier is to
build a solidarity movement in Britain. Our struggle has a
huge debt of gratitude to people there, to people in the
USA, Australia, Canada and Europe, and to the government
and people of South Africa. As we build on that support we
must also be conscious of our responsibilities

Nuair a lás laochra Éirí Amach na Cásca an tine bheo i
mBaile Atha Cliath nócha bliain ó shin spréigh an tine sin
ar fud an domhain.

War in Iraq, conflict in the Middle East, countless wars in
Africa, unimaginable poverty and deprivation across the
globe, hunger, disease, environmental disasters and the
fear of more to come, globalisation and the exploitation of
workers, racism and sectarianism, injustice and oppression,
are all huge issues which need to be tackled.

The reality of our time is that more money is spent on
military projects than on aid or fair trade policies. At
the same time impoverished nations in the developing world
are forced to pay exorbitant foreign debt. If this money
was diverted back into health and education, and the other
goals set by the Millennium summit were implemented, the
lives of 7 million children could be saved each year.

These are just some of the international issues which
confront us. Our party will also continue to try to help in
peace processes elsewhere, including in the Basque country,
the Middle East, and Sri Lanka.

Ireland has a place in the world and a responsibility to
change it. That is why I call again on the Irish government
to immediately suspend the use of Shannon Airport for US
troops traveling to the Gulf.

The recent video footage of British soldiers beating young
Iraqis is a stark reminder of the dehumanizing aspects of
conflict, and a familiar experience for many Irish people.

There should be real democracy in Iraq. Sinn Féin calls for
the British and US governments to withdraw from that
country and allow the Iraqi people to determine their own

An agenda for change - Fighting Inequality

The strategic challenges I have spoken about include the
need to use our political strength to make real our vision
of an Ireland of Equals.

We want to develop a programme which makes republicanism
relevant in the every day lives of citizens. We are about
empowering people. Sinn Féin believes in strong communities
which stand up for themselves and which stand by the weak,
the vulnerable and the aged.

Society in this state is more unequal than it was 15 years
ago at the beginning of this period of economic growth.
Some are much better off, but many people are working
longer hours and commuting long distances because they
cannot afford to live near their place of work.

Caithfidh muid cinntiú go ndéanann an rialtas níos fearr!

There are also - to the Irish government's great shame -
tens of thousands living in poverty. At a time of
unprecedented growth, 15% of all children live in
consistent poverty, while one in four children are deemed
by the government's own statistics to be at risk of

After 15 years of growth it is a disgrace that people are
left waiting for days on hospital trollies, that people
can't afford a home to live in and that the transport
system is gridlocked.


In 1980 there were over 17,500 acute hospital beds in the
Health service. Despite the increasing population there are
now only 12,000.

This state has an under-resourced and over-burdened public
health system, yet it gives tax payers money to a thriving
private health sector. Those who can afford to pay avail of
the best that is available in the private system. This
includes access to private beds in public hospitals. Health
privatization is a reality in the 26 Counties.

Sinn Féin is committed to ending the two tier health

Sinn Féin is committed to the establishment of a public
health system accessible to all on the basis of need and
delivered to best-practice standards.

That's what people work and pay taxes for.

No one should have to languish on a hospital trolley in a
corridor. Not in 2006, in the era of the Celtic Tiger. No
one should be on a waiting list for years.

Comhionnanas do gach duine in Éirinn? Má tá an t-airgead

Every citizen should have access to the same standard of

Why? Because people have rights. That, Ms Harney, includes
the right to a public health system. If you want private
hospitals use your own money. Stop using the taxpayers
money to fund your friends in the private sector.


There are almost 44,000 families on the social housing
waiting list; there are thousands more with mortgages they
can barely afford.

House prices continue to rise faster than wages. Building
land around most of our cities, and especially in Dublin,
is controlled by a tiny cartel of builders and land
speculators who have friends in high places.

They have no interest in letting prices fall - their
interest is bigger profits. This is not sustainable and it
will be ordinary homeowners who will be at risk.

The current system is not working. Affordable and social
housing should be provided directly through local
authorities and voluntary organisations.

The money is there to do this.

But, it will require a government strategy, backed by
sufficient funding and political will to achieve this. A
strategy that puts the needs of the many in front of the
profits of the few.

Does anyone think this government has the will or the
strategy? No chance. But Sinn Féin has.


There was a very belated but nonetheless welcome
recognition by Fianna Fáil and the PDs that their policy on
childcare has failed children and families.

Having recognised the problem, however the government's
response was pathetic.

• They should have brought in an immediate increase in paid
maternity leave to six months, with a rapid extension of
leave to one year thereafter.

• They can also afford to introduce paid paternity leave.
And, the introduction of a comprehensive and free pre-
school system for all under fours.

If these bold steps were taken the other remaining problems
such as supply of places would be much easier to solve.

Irish language

Sinn Féin is in the business of promoting the use and
status of the Irish language. As we celebrate the
anniversaries of the Easter Rising and the Hunger Strikes
let us remember how the language inspired both these
generations of republican activists. The hunger strikers
all made the effort to learn Irish under even in the most
atrocious conditions.

So, let us make time for the language.

Let's continue to

• Promote and develop activities to bring life to the
Language Act in the south.
• Campaign on and support the demand for an Irish Language
Act for the 6 Counties.
• Defend the status of Irish in the southern education
system - teaching methods do need to be improved and
modernised. But any move to sideline Irish should be
opposed. Irish should remain at the core of our education
system as a living, spoken language.

In the near future Sinn Féin's Cultural Department will be
unveiling a draft plan which aims to put activism on the
language at the heart of Sinn Féin activity.

We seek to move from being a party with sound policies on
the language to having a comprehensive strategy which will
see the emergence of a bilingual party with a vision to put
the language back into the lives of the people of Ireland.

Migrant Workers

The experience of the Irish abroad in the 19th and for much
of the 20th centuries is now a depressing feature of life
for others in 21st century Ireland.

The fact is that there has been a gradual EU wide drive to
erode the conditions in which workers are employed.

The EU Services Directive would allow private companies to
undercut public service providers by employing people on
the salaries of their country of origin. Amendments adopted
in the European Parliament this week were deceptive - the
country of origin principle may have been renamed, but it
remains at the heart of the directive.

This would open migrant workers up to even greater levels
of exploitation, with no protection, while creating the
real prospect of indigenous workers being displaced by
migrant workers.

The government and other parties are complicit in this.

This is evident in its lack of commitment to the rights of
migrant workers; and by its ongoing refusal to ratify the
1990 UN International Convention on the Protection of the
Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their

It is also evident in the way in which the Government has
pursued a minimal enforcement of existing labour law.

Sinn Féin welcomes new communities of all nationalities to
our country. We reject racism and discrimination in any
form. It is good that many people are coming here to work.
Immigrant workers are not the problem. The problem is
unscrupulous employers who exploit immigrant workers with
low pay and poor conditions.

Unlike the Labour Party leader, Sinn Féin will not embrace
populist policies which risk setting one group of workers
in the existing workforce, against another group of migrant

Seasann muid le chéile le cosmhuintir na tíre seo agus ní
ghlacfaidh muid le ciníochas ar bith.

You don't have to be an expert on labour law to know that
if Irish and migrant workers have the same pay and
conditions of employment that this removes any financial
benefit for unscrupulous employers who might otherwise seek
to displace their existing work force. That's common sense.

A Fair Taxation system

The reality is that our people do not have to choose
between being economically successful and building a more
equal and successful society. We can do both.

The countries that are at the top of the global tables for
their successful social models are also among the most
competitive in the world

Those countries have high quality social services, health
systems, and education systems and they spend a greater
share of their wealth on those services than Ireland. Sinn
Féin is about building public services.

There is now the wealth in this state to ensure:

• That every sick person who needs a hospital bed gets it
when they need it

• That every child can grow up in modern Ireland without
poverty and with good childcare and education

• That everyone can have a home

• That there can be decent pay and conditions of work for
all sectors.

I want to call on the Social Partners to put the provision
of quality public services at the top of the agenda in
their current partnership talks with the Government.

The well being of a state cannot be measured only by how
much wealth it produces. The real test is in how that
wealth is used for the benefit of citizens.

The real test is the equality test.

This state fails that test - miserably.

In 2005 - the two major banks in this country AIB and Bank
of Ireland made profits of almost 2.8 billion euros - and
are liable for corporation tax at only 12.5%.

These banks are not even the worst cases. Of the top 100
individual earners in the South in 2005, 41 of them paid
less than 5% income tax.

Meanwhile ordinary working people start paying tax at 42%
on anything over €29,400 last year.

Sinn Féin would effectively tax high earners.

Sinn Féin would increase taxes on capital gains, property
speculation and corporate profits.

Of course, our policies will be attacked by those who have
mismanaged the boom years of the Celtic Tiger.

Expect more attacks on Sinn Féin including totally
unprincipled efforts to vilify us in the time ahead.

Don't be distracted by this nonsense.

What we need to do is promote our own agenda and our own

Let the government defend its record. Fianna Fáil attacks
Sinn Féin's economic policies while Fianna Fáil Ministers
waste billions of euros of taxpayers money on failed vanity

Fianna Fáil and the PD's preside over the systematic
destruction of our agriculture industry and what is left of
our fishing industry in this island nation.

They privatise our public highways and give their friends
permission to erect toll booth, after toll booth, after
toll booth.

They sell off public services, penalise working people and
reward the wealthy.

They squander taxpayers money.

They hand over our natural resources to multi-nationals
like Shell and jail the victims of this sell-out. I would
like to take a moment to welcome Vincent and Maire McGrath
and Micheál and Caitlín Uí Sheighin from the Rossport 5
campaign in County Mayo to our Ard Fheis and to assure them
of our ongoing support. The west's awake. Maigh Eo abú.

The Mahon Tribunals have also focused once again on the
payments made to crooked politicians by corrupt developers.

There is a certain irony in the fact that many of these
payments were made in Conway's Bar at the corner of Parnell
Street and Moore Lane close to the spot where Padraic
Pearse brought an end to the Rising.

As Luke Kelly so eloquently put it;

'For what died the sons of Roisin
Was it greed?'

It is little wonder that the establishment abandoned the
1916 commemoration when they did. For many of these people
they probably think of the GPO only as a place to buy brown

New Arena of Struggle - Make partition history

Sinn Féin can look back over the last few years with some
degree of satisfaction.

We have, along with others, been key architects of the
peace process. We have increased our political strength on
both sides of the border. I would like to welcome to the
Ard Fheis our new MP for Newry & Armagh, Conor Murphy and
all of the party's councillors who were elected last year.
I would also like to make a special mention of Gráinne Mhic
Géidigh, who has the proud distinction of being our first
representative on Údarás na Gaeltachta.

But we still have a long way to go.

Of course there have been difficulties. Last year I pledged
our support for the family of murdered Belfast man Robert
McCartney. We continue to support them in their campaign
for justice. Let no one be in any doubt about that.

Our party and our people are travelling through a time of
great hope, great risk and great opportunity. And the road
map is clear.

2006 sees Sinn Féin enter our second century of political
activism in an entirely new area of struggle.

Bobby Sands once remarked; 'Everyone, Republican or
otherwise has his own particular part to play. No part is
too great or too small, no one is too old or too young to
do something.'

I believe that there now exists for the first time since
partition an opportunity for all political parties which
espouse Irish unity, and democrats generally, to build a
broad movement to debate and plan the type of Ireland we
want to live in. A political strategy to deliver unity and
independence is required - a strategy which addresses the
concerns of unionists but which also carries forward the
necessary work of making partition history.

Ireland and the world is a different place today from when
the leaders of the Rising assembled on Easter Monday. It is
a different place from when Bobby Sands began his hunger
strike on March 1st twenty five years ago.

Our struggle has changed but our values and objectives
remain. They are the core values of the Proclamation.

Níl aon amhras orm faoi sin.

Between now and our next Ard Fheis we have a big job of
work to prepare for elections, north and south. Every
party, including the government coalition partners, are
already fighting the election.

So too is this party.

And, don't let the preoccupation of the other parties with
Sinn Féin go to your head.

It will be the voters who will choose their

Hard work, sensible planning, good candidates and common
sense policies - well presented - will make a difference.

We are serious about making change. This weekend Sinn Féin
has published three major policy documents on enterprise
and job creation, all-Ireland healthcare and Irish re-
unification. We are serious about implementing these
policies, north and south.

We will be in a power-sharing government in the north once
again. And if we have the mandate and if we can secure an
inter-party government and a programme for government which
is consistent with our republican objectives, we will look
at being in government in the south.

But we have no interest in any of these positions for the
sake of it. Or for ministerial perks or to make up the
numbers. Others have shown themselves more than suited to
this task.

Our sole purpose of going into government is to bring about
the maximum amount of change. We will never meekly serve
our time. Our objective is an all-Ireland parliament for
all of the people of Ireland.

The men and women of 1916 were visionaries. So were the
hunger strikers.

We need to be visionaries too.

This is a time to be confident.

And to have faith in the changes we are making.

It has become almost a national pastime for Irish people to
run ourselves down. Occasionally it is good to remind
ourselves that Ireland - all 32 counties - is a great
country. And we are proud of it.

Let's make it a better place for everyone who lives here.

Deanaimís cinnte go mbeidh saol níos fearr ag ár gcuid
páistí ná an saol a bhí againn féin.

Bobby Sands had a word for all of us.

'Never give up' he said.

'No matter how bad or black or painful or heartbreaking,
never give up, never despair, never lose hope.'

We, who live in much better times, have every reason to be
equally determined and positive.

On Wednesday July 29th 1981 I visited the prison hospital
in Long Kesh to meet the hungerstrikers. By that point
Bobby, Francie, Raymond, Patsy, Joe and Martin were dead.
Kevin, Tom and Micky died later

Among those I spoke to was Kieran Doherty. He died three
days later after 71 days on hungerstrike..

I was awed by his dignity, as he lay propped up on one
elbow, in his prison hospital bed, blind as a result of the

Doc had a word for us all also.

'Lean ar aghaidh' he said. Advance.

'They think they can break us. Well they can't. Lean ar
aghaidh, he said. Tiocfaidh ár lá'

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