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Ireland: Sinn Fein calls for a republic of freedom, sovereignty and the empowerment of citizens across all 32 counties

[Below is the transcript of Sinn Féin president and newly elected member of parliament Gerry Adam's first speech to Ireland's parliament (video above), on March 9, 2011.]

By Gerry Adams

March 9, 2011 -- I am very proud to stand here as an Ulsterman, as an Irish republican from County Antrim. It is a great honour to represent Sinn Féin in any capacity but it is especially gratifying to receive a mandate from one’s peers.

Ba mhaith liom ár mbuíochas a ghabháil le achan duine a thug vóta do Sinn Féin agus a oibrigh ar son Sinn Féin. I especially commend our candidates, including the republican Deputies present today, and our families. For almost 30 years I represented the people of West Belfast. I am humbled and appreciative of the heroism, generosity and courage of that community. I am equally honoured to represent the citizens of Louth and East Meath and alongside our councillors there I will continue the pioneering work of my predecessor, Arthur Morgan, in that dáilcheantar. It is also a great honour to be part of the Sinn Féin team in the Oireachtas. We will build upon the project started in this House by Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin in 1997.

Sinn Féin is an Irish republican party. Our primary political goal is a united Ireland. Our focus in the new Dáil will be to advance that goal and to deliver on our manifesto to the very best of our ability and to hold the government to account. Ní mise an chéad duine ó Bhéal Feirste a thoghadh mar Theachta Dála. Thirty years ago this June my friend Kieran Doherty, a political prisoner on hunger strike in the H Blocks of Long Kesh, was elected as Deputy for Cavan-Monaghan. Another prisoner, Paddy Agnew, was elected for Louth. Others, including Kevin Lynch, Martin Hurson and Joe McDonnell received sizeable votes in other constituencies.Cara eile liom, Mairead Farrell,whose anniversary is this week, stood in Cork North Central. Bobby Sands was returned as MP for Fermanagh-South Tyrone.

Sinn Féin is part of a proud continuum of struggle for a real republic, for freedom and equality, and against oppression which goes back to 1916 and beyond. That oppression visited upon our people by a foreign government in past times was unacceptable and the economic oppression suffered by citizens under a native government in these times is just as unacceptable.

Caithfear stad a chur leis. Níl mórán difríocht idir polasaithe Fine Gael agus polasaithe Fianna Fáil. An bhliain seo caite, tugadh cibé cuid de sobharnacht an Stát seo a bhí fágtha don EU agus don IMF.

In the election for the 31st Dáil the people voted against corruption, sell-out and economic oppression. They voted for change. The Fine Gael Party in particular benefited from that desire for change but the reality is that Fine Gael and Labour’s program for government implements Fianna Fáil’s policy. Despite their promise of “new ways, new approaches and new thinking”, the government offers little of that. The Fine Gael and Labour program is a far cry from the democratic program of the first Dáil. That document declared that sovereignty extends “not only to all men and women of the Nation, but to all its material possessions, the Nation’s soil and all its resources, all the wealth and all the wealth-producing processes within the Nation”. Our natural resources, especially our oil and gas, which are worth billions of euro, have been given away.

It was Luke Kelly who asked:

For what died the sons of Róisín? Was it greed?. . .

Was it greed that drove Wolfe Tone to a pauper’s death in a cell of cold wet stone?

Will German, French or Dutch inscribe the epitaph of Emmet,

When we have sold enough of Ireland to be but strangers in it?. . .

[Ceist mhór an lae inniu.]

To whom do we owe our allegiance today?. . .

To those brave men who fought and died that Róisín live again with pride. . .

Or the faceless men who for mark and dollar,

Betray her to the highest bidder. . .

The First Dáil was committed to a program to improve the “conditions under which the working classes live and labour”. There is no whisper of this in the 2011 program for government.

The reality today is that more than 100,000 children in this state live in poverty, some 450,000 people are unemployed and 1000 citizens are forced to emigrate every week. Families who cannot afford their mortgage repayments fear eviction. Sinn Féin — and I call on every deputy in this house to join us — will oppose the eviction of any family from their home. Social protections have been slashed to satisfy the diktats of our new international masters. The universal social charge, welfare cuts and stealth taxes mean people cannot pay their weekly bills. The ghost estates that litter our countryside stand as monuments to corruption and greed. The program for government does not tackle any of this. It is a right-wing program driven by a resurgent, right-wing Fine Gael party. It commits the government to implementing Fianna Fáil’s austerity program and to the absolute lunacy of pouring public money into toxic banks. Access to vital public services such as health care, child care and education is determined by ability to pay rather than social need.

There is no meaningful jobs stimulus to push the economy out of recession. Instead there are increased charges on low and middle-income families in the form of water and property taxes. There will be a sell-off of strategic state assets to multinational companies whose sole interest will be profit. Irish citizens will pay the price. The government is determined to cut 25,000 public sector jobs and to undermine further our public services and our small and medium native businesses. In short, this is a Fine Gael program for government supported by the Labour Party.

Voters were told during the election campaign that they should vote “Gilmore for Taoiseach”. Sinn Féin warned that anybody voting for the Labour Party would get Fine Gael. That is what happened. Mar shampla, feicfidh teaghlaigh atá ar mheán ioncaim agus ar ioncaim íseal íocaíocht i bhfoirm cháin ar uisce. Ach tá bealach níos fearr ann. Is é sin, seasamh suas ar son mhuintir na hÉireann agus ar son Éireann. Caithfear saoirse eacnamaíocht a bhaint amach don tír. Tá saoránaigh ag lorg polaitíochta nua.

Every deputy who has spoken agreed that citizens want new politics. There is an alternative. There is the possibility of politics which empower and include citizens, politics which do not pander to the elites and to the greedy but which seek to build a new kind of Ireland. That means making a stand for Ireland, standing up for our country and our people. If politics are reduced to this Chamber then we will have the old politics. Sinn Féin will campaign on all these issues in and out of this Parliament and across this island. I am calling on citizens to make a stand for themselves, for their neighbours, for their communities, for the vulnerable, and for the disadvantaged.

This is a time for active citizenship, for democratically and peacefully asserting our rights as citizens. It cannot be left only to this Parliament. There is no more important time, no more relevant time than this, for republican politics and core republican values. The people of this island are no mean people. We live in a great country. There is a genius, a brilliance, a wisdom and culture, history and tradition in our communities. We need to build on those. Caithfear tógáil ar na buanna iontacha seo. Agus déanfaidh muid teaghlaigh tuaithe agus cathrach a gcosaint.

Sinn Féin will also oppose Fine Gael’s efforts to downgrade the Irish language. We will defend working families, both urban and rural. We will demand that this new government hold a referendum on the banking bailout. If the government expects the people to pay then it must give the people their say. We will campaign for the abolition of the universal social charge and will hold the government to its promise to reverse the cut to the minimum wage. We will oppose, tooth and nail, the introduction of household water charges and property tax on family homes. We will also oppose attempts to sell off or privatise State assets or public services, including the health service. Sinn Féin will continue to put forward constructive costed proposals for the creation of jobs. Getting Ireland back to work is the only way out of this recession. It is vital that politicians lead by example. In this regard, Sinn Féin will introduce legislation within 100 days to cut Ministers’ salaries by 40% and Deputies’ salaries by 20%.

Ireland is greater than the Twenty-Six Counties. As such, we will also raise issues of importance to people in the North and will expose the economic and political damage being done by partition in both states on this island. Partition makes no political or economic sense whatsoever. It is a barrier to prosperity. On the other hand, a united Ireland makes sense. A single-island economy makes sense, economically and politically. Above this Chamber flies the flag of this nation — all Thirty-Two Counties — the flag of green, white and orange. The future unity of our people is represented in those colours. Sinn Féin is proud of the leadership work of the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, and our team in the Northern Ireland Assembly. This government must actively support the peace process and the historic mission to make friends with our Unionist neighbours on the basis of equality.

Our commitment, as the oldest political party represented in this house, as we seek to repair the damage done by a bad Fianna Fáil-Green Party government and to confront the poor policies this new government will seek to implement, is to make progress on all of these fronts. The Taoiseach talks about recreating our proud Republic. That means giving expression to the words of the Proclamation — Forógra na Cásca — and the democratic program of an Chéad Dáil which demands freedom, demands sovereignty and demands the empowerment of citizens across all Thirty-Two Counties. It means moving beyond rhetoric. Change never comes easily. Politics and life are a matter of choices. Those of us — and I am sure there are others outside our party — who stand by the Republic, the real Republic, a new truly national Republic, will have our work cut out in this institution. However, despite the distress, there is a vitality which cannot be extinguished. The Irish people may be bruised but we are not beaten. We are not broken. We are unbowed. There is hope, and because of that everything is possible.

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