Mayo Sinn Féin Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

Cllr. Thérèse Ruane opening address to Sinn Féin Ard Fheis

Published: 12 April, 2013

Bhur gcéad míle fáilte chuig Ard Fheis Sinn Féin 2013. Fáilte go Caisleán an Bharraigh, go Maigh Eo - the home of Michael Davitt, Ernie O Malley, Frank Stagg and Michael Gaughan, Kathleen Lynn, Seán Mc Bride, Seán Mc Neela and many more … we have a proud republican tradition in this County and we build on that legacy today as we host the first Ard Fheis in Connaught. In recent years Sinn Féin in Connacht has seen significant growth agus is deis iontach a bheidh anseo le borradh a chuir faoi Sinn Féin san Iarthar agus an pháirtí a neartú sna ceantair tuaithe.

This truly is an historic occasion and there are people here from every corner of Ireland from all 32 Counties, Derry, Dublin, Donegal, Cork, Wexford, Laois, Cavan … can't name them all but a special special welcome to each and every one of you. Céad míle fáilte go Caisleán an Bharraigh agus Maigh Eo.

I'd like to acknowledge the hard work of so many people in organising this ard Fheis people in Castlebar, in Mayo, throughout Connaught and the Ard Fheis Committees. A truly mammoth task and we're very proud and happy to say that this is officially the biggest Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in history … and no doubt it'll be the best.

Last Monday, Mary Lou Mc Donald received a civic reception on behalf of the Sinn Féin party from Castlebar Town Council and that generosity of spirit and welcome is replicated throughout the town to all delegates. Mar chomhairleoir an baile seo, is mór an onóir domsa an Ard Fheis 2013 a oscailt anseo i mo bhaile dúchas. Is ócáid stairiúil é seo, an chéad ard fheis riamh in iarthar na hEireann agus tá súil agam go mbainfidh sibh tairbhe agus taitneamh as an deireadh seachtaine ar fad.

Of course, our main purpose here is for political discussion and debate. The economic crisis, Sinn Féin's alternative to the FineGael/Labour/Fianna Fáil 'consensus for cuts', Irish Unity and Rural Regeneration will top the agenda over the next two days. Delegates will debate 252 motions on a wide range of topics including the economy, health, education, public sector and political reform, the family home tax, water charges, agriculture, farming and fishing … The Ard Fheis will also discuss Sinn Féin's strategy for Irish unity and the campaign for a Border Poll.

However, this being the first Ard Fheis in Connaught, there will be a special focus on issues affecting rural Ireland. Rural Ireland is under attack, rural communities have been decimated with unemployment, cutbacks to education and health, closures of rural post offices and garda stations … and our young people (and not so young) are yet again being forced to emigrate .. ar imirce arís! Rural Ireland is being shut down and we must stand up and fight back and Sinn Féin is leading the way in fighting back. Sinn Féin rural Ireland Campaign was launched here in Castlebar in March of last year agus beidh tuairisc le Sinn Féin faoi athbheochan Tuaithe na hÉireann dhá phlé i rith na deireadh seachtaine. Issues of rural regeneration, sell-off of our natural resources, language and Gaeltacht affairs will be central to the debates, all of which will be live-streamed on the internet. So, get tweeting …

As well as the formal debates on policy, there will be workshops and fringe events on topics such as 'Women Changing the World', 'Reclaiming our Natural Resources', 'Ballymurphy Massacre', 'The Campaign to Save Moore St.' a political briefing on Burma and I'd like to welcome our Karen friends from Burma attending this Ard Fheis. Beidh taispeántais ealaíne agus liteartha ann freisin, chomh maith le seastáin ó suas le céad eagraíocht agus grúpa pobail. Míle buíochas to Mayo County Council for loaning the exhibitions on Michael Davitt and Mayo 1798 to this Ard Fheis.

Mayo as a County has always been international and outward looking and is the home of many champions of human rights and social justice … Mary Robinson, a native of Mayo, former president and former UN Commissioner on Human Rights; she has just been appointed UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region in Central Africa and of course, Michael Davitt, fenian, republican, founder of the Land League but he also travelled to many parts of the world and wrote extensively highlighting human rights abuses and challenging racism in Russia, South America, South Africa to name but a few … It gives me great pleasure to welcome all our international guests to Castlebar and to Mayo and to this Ard Fheis. A Céad míle fáilte to Vernon Coaker, Labour Shadow Secretary of State for the North, Dr. Hikmat Ajjuri, Ambassador of Palestine to Ireland, Susan Van Der Merwe, Member of Parliament for the African National Congress, Gorka Elejabarrieta, Head of the International Relations Department of Basque political party, Sortu, Alfred Bosch i Pascual, Leader in the Spanish Parliament of Esquerra, the Republican Left of Catalonia.

We thank the media who will spread the Sinn Féin messages from this Ard Fheis. Míle buíochas to the TF Royal Theatre so helpful and obliging in the organisation of this event. Particular thanks to Shelly for her patience over the days, weeks and months.

Finally, I encourage each and every one of you to engage with the debates, visit the exhibitions, meet with the exhibitors, participate in the fringe events and enjoy a weekend of healthy debate, politics, history and of course … the hospitality and the craic here in Castlebar over the weekend. Bíodh deireadh seachtaine taitneamhach

We hope and expect this to be a great Ard Fheis, an Chéad Ard Fheis i gCúíge Chonnacht, a Sinn Féin Ard Fheis to remember … The Theme of this Ard Fheis is 'A new republic - Stronger together' ... in this context, it's right and fitting to mention Ernie O Malley, a republican, hunger striker, Sinn Féin TD, writer and a native of Castlebar, when he said: I had given allegiance to a certain ideal of freedom as personified by the Irish Republic. It had not been realised except in the mind.

That Republic, imagined by Ernie O Malley and Republicans down through the ages has still not been realised and I hope that when we leave here after this weekend that Sinn Féin and the Republican movement will be stronger together, will be one step closer towards realising that new republic not just in our minds and hearts but rights across this island. Go raibh maith agaibh.

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