Newry.ie

The Millar Suite in the Canal Court Hotel in Newry was packed to capacity for the third in a series of post-election Sinn Féin meetings throughout Ireland.

Eight hundred plus came along to hear the panel which included Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald, Vice President Michelle O'Neill, Finance Minister Conor Murphy and Liz Kimmins MLA. Several others members of the panel were delayed.

Welcomed with a standing ovation Mary Lou quipped "I'm delighted to be here in this part of Ireland, to be here in Newry and I'm not sure ... am I in Down or am I in Armagh because I have long come to understand that the real border, the real issue of a border is here!

The panel  from left: Conor Murphy, MLA; Mary Lou McDonald, President, Sinn Féin; Michelle O'Neill, Vice President. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
The panel from left: Conor Murphy, MLA; Mary Lou McDonald, President, Sinn Féin; Michelle O'Neill, Vice President. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

adding "Given the aversion of Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar to public meetings, you'll understand that they are not joining us here this evening and venturing to a place as exotic as Newry here in the wee six would be a step beyond them."

Speaking about the election result the Sinn Féin President said "If you sit back and judge what has transpired, the only assessment that can be landed on is that all is changed and changed utterly. For the first time ever neither Fianna Fáil nor Fine Gael won the biggest share of the vote and for the first time ever they failed to win a majority of Dail seats between them, and this represents a seismic shift in the attitude of the electorate, the likes of which in truth we haven't seen in 100 years.

"Parties advocating a left of centre platform have made big gains in the past but never has the result of a party reshaped Irish politics to the extent of that of the election of 37 Sinn Féin TD's.

"So now just as the Unionist majority in the north is gone, so to the historic duopoly of the so-called 'big two is no more and the Irish political landscape is now changed forever, and this was a very conscious decision on the part of the electorate. It wasn't a protest vote, the people have voted for something new, the people have voted for change."

A packed Canal Court Hotel for the Sinn Féin meeting. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
A packed Canal Court Hotel for the Sinn Féin meeting. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Speaking of the party manifesto Ms McDonald said "We in Sinn Féin put forward a manifesto to give workers and families a break, to fix the very real problems we face and of course to advance Irish unity. It was and is a manifesto for change and it is the basis for a programme for government for a government of change and people are now looking to us to deliver, they are looking to us to lead and what the election campaign very clearly demonstrated is that people trust Sinn Féin to stand up for them, work hard for them and to make a real difference in their lives.

"Our objective is a government who builds homes, cuts rents and freezes them. We want to reduce the pension age to 65. We want a government that stands up to the vulture funds and the insurance industry. We want one that gives workers and families a break by taking the first 30,000 of income out of the USC. We want to meet climate change head on, with an agenda for climate justice, and we want to advance Irish unity.

Mary Lou McDonald, President, Sinn Féin speaking at tonights Newry meeting. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Mary Lou McDonald, President, Sinn Féin speaking at tonights Newry meeting. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

"And that is what people voted for, they voted for this real change, not just for Sinn Féin to go into government for the sake of it or because its our turn, but rather that they have given us the chance to show that we can in fact improve their lives, a chance that we can honour our commitments, a chance to shape a government that will finally do right by ordinary people, and that is why Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are determined to keep us out of government because they don't want change. They have had it all their own way for 100 years and now faced with new realities they are trying everything they can to keep Sinn Féin and the people that we represent out of government, and this is a very deliberate tactic on their part.

"They know exactly what they're at .. and we know exactly what they're at ..and the people know exactly what they're at because really this is all about power. They have had it for themselves for a very long time and they're not minded to give it up. They don't want things to change and right enough nothing will change if Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are back in government together.

A section of the crowd who filled the Millar Suite at the Canal Court for the Sinn Féin post election meeting. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
A section of the crowd who filled the Millar Suite at the Canal Court for the Sinn Féin post election meeting. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

"There certainly won't be a plan put in place for Irish unity if they join forces. Sinn Féin is the only All Ireland party resolutely committed to a united Ireland. Others have no plan for a unity referendum, nor do they have a plan to encourage or prepare for the widest possible conversation across all sectors of society on this island about how best promote and to win a unity referendum, but here's the thing, for all that, they cannot and they will not block the growing demand for unity."

What would Eamonn Have Thought?

Asking what Eamon de Valera would have thought of the  present Fianna Fáil position Ms McDonald added "During the election campaign Micheál Martin Uachtarán Fianna Fáil proudly declared that he would not call for a border poll, even in the face of this growing demand. Now Eamon de Valera once represented this constituency in the Stormont parliament as an abstentionist by the way. What would he say do you think to Micheál Martin's position. What would Frank Aiken say, what would Dan Breen say. What would those who fought for Ireland's freedom say to Fianna Fáil, unwilling to sit down with republicans in the aim of uniting our country. All of our candidates in the election proudly declared ourselves as united Irelander's because that is who we are. So be assured that in all of our discussions about agreeing a programme for government, the desire and the demand for unity is a priority. Sinn Féin wants to be in government across the island, north and south."

Mary Lou McDonald, President, Sinn Féin speaking in the Canal Court Hotel. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Mary Lou McDonald, President, Sinn Féin speaking in the Canal Court Hotel. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Continuing Ms McDonald spoke of her upcoming plans "In the coming period we will be stepping up our engagements with other parties and Independents to bring about a government of change. The politics of exclusion doesn't work. It never has and it never will. We all know that too well. So now is the time for those who refuse to speak to us and by extension dis-respect hundreds of thousands of voters, to come to that conclusion as well and to show some respect.

"Whatever else will come from this historic election, be sure of one thing. The days of the political establishment having it their own way are over and gone, and they're over not because I say so, not because Sinn Féin says so but because the people have said so loudly and clearly and their message must be heard."

Speaking of the party vision Ms McDonald said "We have a vision for Ireland - unity, equality, prosperity and our aim is to bring about real change north and south."

Concluding the Sinn Féin President said "The past is the past, there is no progress to be found there. The future is our destination. We want a new united Ireland and that is what we are committed to delivering. We want a government of change as mandated by the people and that is what we are committed to delivering. We have work to do, much has been done but there is progress to be made yet and we are going to walk this journey together."

 

 

 

 

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