April 12, 2020
Mary Lou McDonald’s Easter 2020 Speech

Introduction

Inniu cuimhnímid ar na mná agus na fír a bhuail buille ar son saoirse na hÉireann in 1916 agus iad siúd ó gach glúin ó sin amach, a bhfuil bainteach leis an streachailt do neamhspléachas na hÉireann, d’Éirinn Aontaithe, agus do phoblacht uile-oileáin. 

Today we remember all those who stood for Ireland’s freedom in 1916 and those from every generation since, who have struggled for Irish independence, Irish unity, and an all-Ireland republic. 

Ba mhaith liom beannachtaí a ghabháil inniu do na teaghlaigh agus na cairde d’ár tírghráthóirí marbha.

I especially want to send greetings today to the families and friends of our patriot dead.

This year, we remember our them in a different way, but with the same sense of pride, gratitude and admiration. 

We gather together online, all over Ireland and across the world to pay tribute to them all.

Tá muid fíor bhuíoch daoibhse go léir.

1916

One-hundred-and-four years ago, history was made – Irish separatists, republicans, socialists, feminists, and Irish language activists coalesced in a great revolutionary effort to liberate Ireland, to establish a democratic republic on this island.

The republican vision of national independence and equality were reflected in the Proclamation of the Republic, read by Pádraig Mac Piarais outside Dublin’s GPO.

Those ideals motivated each subsequent generation of Irish republicans.

We are proud to stand in that revolutionary tradition and we are determined to achieve those noble aims.

1920-2020

The Easter Rising was followed by the executions of our leaders, the imprisonment of activists, the Sinn Féin election victory of 1918 and the establishment of the revolutionary Dáil Éireann in 1919.

The Irish people had rallied to the cause of an Irish republic.

The British Government refused to recognise the democratic will of the Irish people and instead embarked on a war of subjugation.

1920 was a year of heroism in Ireland but also of suffering and tragedy.

It saw the introduction to Ireland of Britain’s Black and Tans and Auxiliaries.

It witnessed a series of spectacular actions by IRA flying columns.

It was also marked by the deaths of Tomás Mac Curtain, Terence MacSwiney and Kevin Barry and of Bloody Sunday in Croke Park in Dublin.

The war waged by the IRA throughout 1920, supported by ordinary people across this country, became an inspiration for future freedom fighters around the world.

Despite attempts at revisionism by the political establishment, Irish people remember our struggle proudly and unapologetically.

1920 tragically closed with Britain’s Government of Ireland Act, which provided for the Partition of our country.

When partition happened, the northern state became a by-word for discrimination, injustice and denial of rights.

The repression and brutality meted out by the unjust, apartheid unionist state against anyone who dared to challenge it was laid bare for the world to see as the state attempted to beat and brutalise the Civil Rights Movement.

They failed.

Long years of conflict and loss followed. 

They were brought to a close through the recognition of the causes of conflict and the ending of the politics of exclusion.

Real leadership gave us the Good Friday Agreement and a new democratic pathway more than twenty years ago.

COVID-19

Those who fought and died for Irish Freedom were ordinary people who demonstrated extraordinary levels of bravery, selflessness and determination. 

On the morning of the Easter Rising, many volunteers would have held their loved ones close, kissed their children and in a quieter moment, reflected on the enormity of the task ahead. 

This is the stuff of human heroism. 

It is this heroism we call on again today.

Every day, frontline workers, and our healthcare workers in particular, leave the sanctuary of their homes knowing that they will face trauma, sorrow and pain. 

Knowing that they face the possibility of a Coronavirus infection. 

And yet, they still do it. 

They walk into that storm.

They put themselves at risk to help others.

It is often said that;

Courage is not the absence of fear. 

Courage is acting in spite of fear.

Defying fear.

Our frontline workers are now proving this to be true.

Our communities have responded to their leadership. 

Our people are living the meaning of ‘Ní neart go cur le chéile’ – there is no strength without unity.

As we pull together, the values of our nation are seen in our cities, towns and villages.

Generosity, decency and the belief in being a good neighbour.

Our people look beyond concern for themselves to the safety and the well-being of others.

I want to express my admiration and thanks to all those who take the time to check on the elderly and others at risk in our communities.

Nobody is safe unless we are all safe. 

Every act of selflessness, no matter how small, helps in our fight against this virus.

Every act of kindness brings us closer to the shore.

We should never forget the lessons we are have learned in these weeks.

That unequal societies are vulnerable societies, economically as well as socially.

That togetherness and solidarity is the answer. 

It makes our society stronger.

That public services are the bedrock of a decent society.

That those who really keep our economy and our society functioning are not the banks or the hedge funds or the insurance industry, or the vulture capitalists.

No. It’s the nurses, doctors, lorry drivers, shop workers, farmers, ambulance drivers, paramedics, carers, Gardaí and many, many others.

Many of these essential workers are disgracefully low paid. 

Many have only recently had to strike for better conditions.

This pandemic underlines the common-sense need to put the interests of workers and families first.

This must be the case all of the time, not only in extraordinary times. 

The failure by successive governments to address the issues of housing and health over many years has made our fight against the Covid-19 all the more difficult.

Coronavirus thrives in overcrowded and unsuitable accommodation.

It thrives where there is a lack of capacity in the health service.

The refusal of successive governments to stand up to the banks and the insurance industry has resulted in disgusting profiteering even during this crisis.

After the last economic crash, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael forced the people to pick up the tab and bail out the banks.

This must never happen again.

A Government of the people must ensure that the banks and the financial institutions play their part on the other side of this unprecedented crisis in bailing out our people.

We must build a fair society which truly values all those people, those who have stood in the way of danger – sa bhearna baoil – for all of us. 

The Covid 19 crisis highlights yet again the negative impact of partition on our island. 

In the North, Sinn Féin ministers are delivering for the community.

We worked hard to see the establishment of an Executive in the north and our ministers are now to the fore in creating new politics, working with their ministerial colleagues from other parties to protect lives and livelihoods.

I welcome the recent Memorandum of Understanding agreement between the Northern Executive and the Irish Government to tackle Covid-19 and to protect the lives and welfare of everyone on our island.

This agreement commits health services North and South to develop agreed public health measures.

This is essential work.

This deadly virus does not recognise borders. 

Working together in common action is in everyone’s interests and is vital now and in the time ahead to save lives.

Sinn Féin is committed to this.

Government Formation

As we pull together in a great public effort to defeat this pandemic, we also urgently need a stable government to lead and deliver the change that is so badly needed.

February’s General Election saw the greatest result for Sinn Féin since 1918.

Now, people in each of Ireland’s 32 counties are represented by a Sinn Féin TD or MP.

Voters swept aside the old, tired and failed two-party system and reshaped the political landscape.

For the first time, neither Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael won the largest share of the popular vote, and for the first time ever the combined forces of political conservatism failed to win a Dáil majority.

Sinn Féin, advocating a vision of far-reaching political, economic and social change, made huge gains.

So too did other parties who campaigned for change.

Real, tangible change is what people very clearly endorsed.

Change means being able to afford the roof over your head.

It means being able to pay your rent.

Being able to see a doctor when you are sick and an end to scandalous trolley counts and waiting lists.

Change means childcare that doesn’t break the bank.

It means the guarantee of your right to a state pension at the age of 65.

Change means responding to the climate emergency with climate justice.

It means planning for a new Ireland, a United Ireland.

That demand for change is now being frustrated and blocked.

The latest chapter in the drama between Leo Varadkar and Michéál Martin is not about national unity, no more the last four years were about ‘new politics’.

This cosy-club arrangement is not about delivering for people.

On the contrary. It is about facing down the change mandated by the people.

It is about power.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have passed power between themselves for decades and have governed in the interests of the those at the top.

They are determined to keep it that way.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are coming together not out of a sense of public duty.

They have come together to keep Sinn Féin out.

They try to hoodwink the public into believing they are going to implement our policies. 

But you know they can’t be trusted.

Their objective of keeping us out of government, rather than accepting the scale of change Ireland now needs, is cynical and dishonest.

They know this. 

It is particularly so at a time of national emergency.

The politics of exclusion have never worked on this island.

Attempts to exclude Sinn Féin have always failed.

Attempts to disenfranchise our voters have always failed.

As republicans we will not be deterred.

We will stand up for workers and families, we will rally people for the change that is needed.

We will never give up.

Conclusion

For Sinn Féin, 1916 is unfinished business.

Our central political aim is to deliver the type of Ireland envisaged at Easter week.

I know that so many people support Sinn Féin and rely on us to be the party that builds a fair economy, that brings social justice and a new, united Ireland.

Working together, and with the support of the people, we will get there. 

We will not let you down.

So this Easter let us pledge that, together, we will continue that path pursued by those we honour today .

That we are the generation to write the next chapter of our history – a new Ireland, an equal Ireland a United Ireland.

We are living through very difficult times. 

We have had difficult times in our history and we came through them together. 

We will get through this pandemic together and we will build that better Ireland envisaged by our heroes of Easter week.

Ar aghaidh linn le chéile. An Phoblacht Abú!

Happy Easter, my friends.

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