Sinn Féin TD for Limerick Maurice Quinlivan has called upon Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to end their satisfaction with partition, and to take part in a real discussion on how a United Ireland can be formed.
Speaking at the annual Seán Sabhat commemoration in Limerick this afternoon, Teachta Quinlivan said:
“Seán Sabhat was a man who thought deeply about Ireland and its future. He was particularly interested in the social, economic and cultural development of the country and its people.
“He could see clearly the terrible damage that partition had caused to Ireland and that the 26 County State was far from being the Republic as envisaged in the 1916 Proclamation and the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil.
“As we stand on the threshold of another decade, one thing that stands out is the challenge and dangers posed by Britain’s imminent departure from the European Union. One obvious solution to Brexit for this island is the great aim for which Seán Sabhat and many others fought and died – the ending of partition.
“It is interesting to see how the southern establishment have reacted to the growing prospect of a United Ireland. In particular Fianna Fáil – the self-styled Republican Party – have made it clear that they don’t even want to talk about unity and that the very idea fills them with dread.
“Indeed, it is very clear that the whole of the political establishment in the 26 Counties have been more than satisfied with the partitionist status-quo, and that if they had their way they would prefer it to continue forever. But unfortunately for them, the future may have other ideas.
“The electorate will have a choice to make in the coming months – we can continue with the failed policies that have marked the past decade in terms of housing, health, employment rights, climate change and general quality of life; or we can embrace the vision of a new and better future.
“After nearly a decade of Fine Gael in government it is time for a change of direction and Sinn Féin is determined to deliver that change and to stand by the working men and women of this country, who remain the backbone of this State in good times and bad.”
Full Address by Maurice Quinlivan TD to the Annual Seán Sabhat Commemoration in Limerick this afternoon:
May I begin by thanking the organisers of this commemoration for inviting me to be the keynote speaker today.
For over sixty years Republicans have come to this spot in the early days of January to honour the memory of Sean Sabhat who lost his life in the struggle for Irish freedom at Brookeborough, Co. Fermanagh on New Year’s Day 1957.
Indeed, I think that it is very true to say that this commemoration has assumed a significant and unique place in the Republican calendar.
Over the years many stalwarts of the Republican struggle have given the main address here and I consider it a particular honour to be able to follow in their number today.
Seán Sabhat was a man who thought deeply about Ireland and its future. He was particularly interested in the social, economic and cultural development of the country and its people.
When he looked around at the state of Ireland in his own time he was driven by a fierce desire not only to end British rule in Ireland but also to end the scourge of mass unemployment, the human waste of mass emigration and the general social and economic deprivation which was such a feature of Ireland in the 1950s.
He could see clearly the terrible damage that partition had caused to Ireland and that the 26 County state was far from being the Republic as envisaged in the 1916 Proclamation and the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil.
The Border Campaign of 1956-62, in which Sabhat lost his young life, was clearly a military and political failure. However, it did bring into the Republican Movement a whole new generation of men and women many of whom would go on to play major roles in the Republican struggle.
The ending of the campaign ushered in a period of soul-searching and ideological ferment within the movement; the results of which are still being felt in our own time.
There is little doubt that had Seán Sabhat lived a longer life that he would have been part of the great debates that marked the Republican movement in the 1960s.
It is, of course, impossible to say with certainty what attitudes he may have adopted to the matters in contention. But I think we can be sure that he would have had his say as he was gifted with the spoken and written word in both Irish and English.
As we stand on the threshold not only of another year but of also of a new decade, we too are inclined to take stock of the state of the country.
One thing that stands out are the challenges and dangers posed by what looks like Britain’s imminent departure from the European Union.
This momentous historical development can have one clear benefit for Ireland in that it brings nearer the achievement of the great aim for which Seán Sabhat and many others fought and died – the ending of Partition and with it the centuries-old British interference in Ireland.
It is indeed interesting to see how the Southern establishment have reacted to the growing prospect of a United Ireland. In particular Fianna Fáil – the self-styled Republican Party – have made it clear that they don’t even want to talk about it and that the very idea fills them with dread.
Indeed, it is very clear that the whole of the political establishment in the 26 Counties have been more than satisfied with the Partitionist status-quo and that if they had their way, they would prefer it to continue forever. But, unfortunately for them, the future may have other ideas.
Speaking at the Sinn Féin Árd Fheis in Derry last November, our Party President Mary Lou McDonald stated that people in Ireland are faced with a somewhat stark choice as we enter a new decade.
We can continue with the failed policies that have marked the decade just finished in terms of housing, health, employment rights, climate change and the general quality of life or we can embrace the vision of a new and better future.
Republicans have made it very clear that we want to be at the forefront of shaping that future. We place ourselves firmly on the side of creating a new and better Ireland – a fairer and more equal Ireland.
We want to see an Ireland in which children are not raised in hotel rooms, nor ill and elderly people abandoned on trolleys in our hospitals.
We want to see an Ireland in which workers are not ruthlessly exploited and denied even the security of having a set number of working hours per week.
We want to see an Ireland in which huge numbers of our people are not living in alienation and despair. In a word we want an Ireland in which the dictates of the financial markets and big business do not always take precedence over the needs and aspirations of ordinary working people.
It has been an honour to work alongside trade unionists from SIPTU, FORSA, Unite ,Mandate, INMO and others since my election on a series of campaigns in support of workers rights.
And I have been proud to stand on picket lines in support of our Nurses, our rail workers and Dunnes Stores workers to name just a few of the disputes during this time.
Limerick needs a voice for trade unionists in the next Dáil. We already have enough millionaire business men, men of property and wealth.
Only Sinn Féin will stand by the working men and women of this country who remain the backbone of this state in times good and bad.
After nearly a decade of Fine Gael in government it is surely time for a change of direction in the affairs of our country. After a decade marked by fiscal conservatism, austerity and the rule of the monied elites the time has come for a fairer and more humane approach.
In a very short time – perhaps a matter of weeks – the people will have the opportunity to face up to that stark choice that I mentioned earlier when they are called upon to vote in a General Election.
Sinn Féin will fight that election on a clear and distinct political platform that will put forward properly costed proposals aimed at creating a better and more equitable society in Ireland.
Of course, the two main conservative parties – Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil – who differ little in basic ideology and policies want the election to be simply a matter of deciding which one of them gets to lead the Government. And in this they are being assisted by most of the mainstream media.
However, Sinn Féin is determined to ensure that it does not only come down to choosing between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, but that it is a contest marked by debate on real policies and the future direction of our society.
The real decision is between the failed and inequitable policies of the past decade and policies inspired by an alternative vision of a fairer and more humane Ireland.
Following the clear setback suffered by Sinn Féin in last year’s local and European elections many of our political opponents and others in the media could not contain their glee and were quick to predict the demise of our party as a serious political force.
The by-elections in November clearly have shown such predictions to be – to the say the least – somewhat premature.
Sinn Féin enter these elections in a buoyant and confident mood. Not only can we hold most if not all of our current Dáil seats, we can indeed make significant gains.
But to do this we need the assistance of all here today and many others who share our Republican ideals.
As we enter a new decade, Republicans can help shape the Ireland of the future. A united Ireland is within our grasp; a better and fairer Ireland is there to be won.
With the hard work, commitment and dedication for which Republicans are renowned we can move forward together towards an Ireland worthy of the sacrifice of Seán Sabhat and the countless others who gave their lives for Irish freedom.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh.