October 30, 2021
Full text from Mary Lou McDonald’s speech at Sinn Féin Ard Fheis 2021

It’s time for change

Mary Lou McDonald TD

Address to Sinn Féin Ard Fheis 2021



A Chairde, 


Fáilte go mBaile Átha Cliath.


It’s been a while.


It’s great to be with you all again in my hometown. 

I missed you.

Covid separated us.

Some of us got sick and many families have lost a precious loved one.

To those families, I send our love and sympathies. 

Thank you everybody watching at home.

For your kindness, your dedication to community, for being a good neighbour.

It makes all the difference in our fight against Covid. 

We’ll never forget those who show up for us when it counts

Our heroic frontline healthcare workers.

Shop workers, cleaners, bus drivers, truck drivers, carers SNAs, teachers all who work tirelessly to get us through.

Sinn Féin in government will show up for you. 

Decent wages and working conditions, services and supports for every citizen – including mental health and disability provision aren’t luxuries.

They are the basics. We’ll deliver that. 

We meet in our capital city for our great teacht le chéile 

A city rich in our revolutionary history.

A history we will never surrender to property developers and profiteers. 

A chairde, we will save Moore Street.

Greetings to friends and supporters overseas.

Solidarity to all struggling for equality and justice.

For Palestinian Freedom

For an end to the illegal occupation and annexation of Palestinian lands.

For an end to the brutal blockade of Cuba.

At home, we stand with families affected by the Mica and the Pyrite scandal. 

We call again on the government to end your nightmare and to deliver 100% redress.

Nothing less will do.


The pandemic exposed the broken system in a partitioned Ireland.

Politics for the few at the expense of the many.

That brought a housing crisis, rip-off rents,

Overcrowded hospitals, record waiting lists, 

And a crushing cost of living. 

The writing is on the wall for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

They have been in government for far too long. 

Things were bad enough when these parties pretended to oppose each other.

But by god things have gone to the dogs since the boys clubbed together.

They have no answers to the big questions that affect your life.

They are out of touch, out of ideas and out of time.

So, let’s call time on their century-old stranglehold on power, their divisive politics of the have and have nots. 

Their cynical politics that seeks to normalise a housing crisis. 

They say change is impossible.

We’ll never accept that.

We can fix housing and healthcare, we can build a fair and resilient economy in which business and workers rocked by Covid can recover,

Friends, we can unite our country.

To make this happen we need a government that shows-up for you.

A government for the people and a Taoiseach that puts you and your family first – now and always. 

So, to those who told me – again and again – to make sure we run enough candidates at the next Dáil election. 

I hear you loud and clear because – friends – the time for change is now. 


Politics and government is about our people.

That’s the essence of the 1916 proclamation.

Now, our generation amplifies that vision through the things that are important to us. 

Fairness. Equality. Kindness. Community.

An Ireland where you are not forced to put your life on hold or give up on your aspirations.

A society that defends you when you are at your weakest, that encourages you when you are at your strongest.

The appetite for change is growing.

Defying old divisions, building new common purpose.

The people of Ireland are ready.  

We have a generation brimming with talent, ambition and big ideas. 

We have everything we need to create a new Ireland.

We’re in this together. To get the job done.

Sinn Féin will not miss this moment.

We are the party of change. Leading change across Ireland.


Every big step change in Irish life has been made by ordinary people seizing the day. 

From the Easter Rising to Armagh Gaol, and the H-Blocks of Long Kesh, Republicans have led heroically, selflessly in pursuit of the dream of freedom.

Ordinary people creating extraordinary change.

From marriage equality to repeal of the Eighth, people have organised, agitated, persevered and won.

Ordinary people driving home change.

People define change. 

At the last election, you told us it’s an Ireland that is stronger and fairer, where workers and families come first.

Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar couldn’t stomach that.

They clubbed together to stop a government for change.  

In truth, they can block change. They can delay change. But they cannot stop it.

Neither can the DUP.

The Unionist electoral majority is gone. 

The days of domination are over. 

Those who hanker for the past, who disrupt the present and who threaten our future need to realise that there is no going back. 

This new generation is moving on. Together.

The DUP’s boycott of North-South Ministerial Council meetings, their ongoing attempts to scupper the protocol, the electioneering and the showboating are attempts to block the change so many people from all communities demand.

Thug Rialtas na Breatainne gealltanas go mbeadh Acht na Gaeilge ann. Caithfear an gealltanas sin a chur i gcrích gan aon moill eile.

Acht Gaeilge and Abortion are rights long overdue and must be delivered. No more delay.

In the North, we are preparing for the next Assembly election.

If Sinn Féin emerges as the largest party, we will nominate Michelle O’Neill as First Minister.

The days of ‘Fenians need not apply’ are over.

The days of treating any citizen or group of citizens as ‘less than’ or second-class are gone.

And good riddance.

We need a first Minister who will lead, who will truly represent and respect all.

The challenge for the DUP and political unionism is to respect the democratic decision of the people.

We commit to work with everyone to deliver good government and high quality public services.


To everyone who feels that the Ireland of today doesn’t work for you but who believes that the Ireland of tomorrow can, let me say this;

I know you have had it with governments giving tax breaks to millionaire executives while homeless children eat dinner off cardboard on the street.  

Governments for the developers and bankers, for the cosy club and the insiders. 

It’s time now for a government for you and your family. 

That puts workers and families first. 

Sinn Féin will deliver that government for the people. 

We want to lead that government.

I want to lead as Taoiseach if you give us that chance.

Rialtas a tosnaíonn ag an tús, le plean chun na rudaí búnúsach a fháil ceart – agus le fís uaillmhianach don todhchaí.

Rialtas a chuireas deireadh leis an gearrchéím títhíochta; atá chun coras sláinte uile-Éirinn a thogail; atá chun dul i nglic leis an gearrchéim maidir le costaisí maireachtála agus atá chun deánamh cinnte go bhfuil an ceart agat eirí as ar pinsin stáite ag seasca-cúig bliain d’aois.

A government that starts at the start, with a plan to get the basics right in the here and now and with an ambitious vision for your future.  

A government that will end the housing crisis, build an all-Ireland health service, tackle the cost of living crisis and guarantee your right to retire on a state pension at the age of 65.


A secure roof over your head, a place you call home is a basic right.

That’s why our communities Minister in the North, Deirdre Hargey has delivered the biggest transformational housing plan in a generation.

We will tackle the scourge of homelessness

Sinn Féin will build public and affordable housing on a massive scale.

So young people, workers and families on average incomes can afford a home.

We will stand up for struggling renters by cutting rents, banning rent increases for three years, and strengthen tenant’s rights to put an end to illegal and forceful evictions.

And friends, we will put manners on the vultures, the investors and the cuckoo funds.

No more sweetheart tax deals gifted to them by their pals in Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.


Our health service must work for everyone – for patients and for our healthcare workers.

We need to plan for our healthcare workforce. We need more nurses, more doctors and more therapists.

The expansion at Magee University in Derry is a good start but it is only that.

Our student nurses and midwives deserve to be recognised and rewarded. 

We again call on the government to do right by them.

We need to get to grips with record waiting lists. 

That means more beds, recruiting more staff, additional theatre and diagnostic capacity.

The right to healthcare is a fundamental value of the Irish people and that is what we will deliver.



The cost of living is out of control. 

Families are under huge pressure just to meet the bills.

We have seen 31 energy price hikes this year.

That means real hardship.

Older people in particular will suffer.

The government increase in Carbon tax will push bills up further, push more families into poverty.

It won’t change behaviour or reduce emissions. 

It will make life harder. 

The government should scrap these Carbon Tax hikes.

Childcare costs for many families are equivalent of a second mortgage.

These costs must come down substantially and quickly.

Sinn Féin will cut fees by two-thirds over two years in government and improve the pay and conditions of childcare workers.

We have led the way in challenging sky-high insurance costs, mortgage costs and rents.

Families and workers should not be ripped off. We won’t stand for it.




Everyone has a right to feel safe in your home, on your streets, your community.

You also have a right to know that those who rob you of that will be brought to justice.

Criminal gangs bring misery and create real fear,

To stop people standing up to them. To shut people up.

We need to put an end to that.

Our Gardaí must be fully resourced, supported and held accountable in their service to the community. 

This is also true for our courts and judiciary.  

That is why at this Ard Fheis, Sinn Féin has adopted a policy to give the courts powers to tackle these gangs.

To replace eighty-year-old emergency powers with fit for purpose, modern provisions, including the option of non-jury courts in exceptional circumstances.



I salute the working people of Ireland, of all ages and generations.

Sinn Féin in government will restore your right to retire at 65 with a full state pension.

At 65 you have paid your dues. It is a matter of basic decency and respect. 

The government claim we can’t afford decency.

They’re priority – tax breaks for gold plated pensions.

Our priority – ensuring ordinary people having worked a lifetime have the right to retire at 65.


The climate crisis is with us now. We need real action.

Everyone must play their part but we need more than individual actions. 

The state must lead as states across the world did in dealing with the pandemic.

That means incentivising people to make changes to reduce their emissions.

It means taking on large corporate polluters.

It means significant investment in public transport and protecting our coastal communities.

Supporting family farmers as they move to more sustainable food production.

Climate action and social justice must go together to make people’s lives better and more secure.


The partition of Ireland was a catastrophe.

Attempts to dress it up as anything other than a violent division of our people by force are wrong.

It caused generations of injustice and conflict.

It is not history. We live with it today. 

It’s why people in the North suffer Tory austerity.

That’s the price of partition.

This is the time to end partition, not to celebrate it. 

The Tory government now seeks amnesty for perpetrators of British state violence in Ireland.

Shame on them.

Boris Johnson, there is no support in Ireland or internationally for your amnesty.

We stand with families who fight for truth and justice. 

The most powerful force in the world is an idea whose time has come. 

It is time for Irish Unity.

Planning and preparation must start now.

Sinn Féin will a commence a people’s conversation from January next. We want to hear from everybody. 

The onus is on the Irish government to prepare for referendums and reunification.

A Citizens’ Assembly is urgent.

A responsible government would establish it immediately.

That is what a Sinn Féin government will do.



I am proud to lead this party.

Proud of our team leading change across Ireland.

Proud of all of you, because activism is everything.

That motivation to make our country better – that’s a powerful thing.

But most of all, I am proud of the people we represent – the ordinary people of Ireland, workers and families, whose corner we will always have.

We won’t let you down.

We are here to build new and united Ireland in our time.

 The cynics and critics say it can’t be done. They’re wrong.

They are stuck at yesterday. We strive for tomorrow.

 Those of us who desire change have to work harder, be more determined and more united than ever.

There is no limit to what we can achieve.

So, let’s do this. This is the moment. Our moment.

This is the time. Our time.

Let’s change Ireland, together and for each other.

Go raibh mile maith agaibh.

An Phoblacht Abú

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