November 10, 2023
Michelle O’Neill addresses 2023 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in Athlone

Sinn Féin Vice-President Michelle O’Neill this evening addressed the 2023 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in Athlone.

Her address can be read below in full:

Fáilte romhaibh uilig a chairde,

It’s great to have you all here tonight for the opening of the Sinn Féin Ard Fhéis 2023 here in beautiful Athlone.

I want to begin by expressing my gratitude to all of you who played a crucial role in securing two remarkable election victories for our party within the last 18 months.

These victories in the Assembly and Council elections have granted us a significant mandate for change, making Sinn Féin the largest party in the North. 

We are not merely witnesses, we are active participants in the profound changes occurring at this time on the entire island of Ireland.

The nationalist community in the north, historically marginalised and discriminated against, has achieved what was once thought impossible.

The old Orange State with its entrenched unionist majority is now long gone.

It is a thing of the past.

We have helped shape new realities and created new opportunities for all of us across the political spectrum to come together, and to unite for the common good of the whole community.

The democratic outcome of last May’s assembly election must be respected. 

It is crucial to reaffirm our commitment to power-sharing based on equality, democracy, ensuring inclusive governance for everyone, regardless of their background.

As a First Minister for All I will never treat others the way our communities were treated in the past.

I am determined to continue to demonstrate my commitment to representing and showing respect to every section of our society.

Is gá dúinn obair le chéile ar son gach duine.

The biggest challenge I will have as First Minister in any new Executive is to keep moving our society forward.

A duty and responsibility I take very seriously.

This morning I joined other political leaders at a Remembrance event in Belfast. 

I believe that all political leaders must stretch themselves to seek common ground and that is what I am committed to do.

Twenty-five years on from the Good Friday Agreement we have achieved so much. 

We must now push on and get back on track.

Tá neart le déanamh go fill.

It’s vital to recognise the urgency of the situation, with the democratic institutions of the Good Friday Agreement in a state of paralysis.

The DUP has had more than enough time to address their concerns regarding the Brexit Protocol. 

Public patience has run out.

It is now time to see the assembly and executive restored.

Ministers back running departments.

Decisions being taken to positively to deal with; 

  • public sector pay, 
  • hospital waiting lists, 
  • childcare provision being prioritised for workers and families, 
  • special educational needs of our young people being addressed, 
  • a strategy to end violence against women and girls, 
  • a plan to protect and realise the potential of Lough Neagh, 
  • casement park and the A5 being be built,
  • and all the other challenges that we must overcome.

The boycott of the Assembly by the DUP must end!

But regardless, Sinn Féin will keep moving forward.

Our party’s growth and the growing support for the change we represent indicates a shift in the political landscape across the entire island. 

As we look towards a better future, it is important to acknowledge and respect our differing traditions.

We must ensure that conversations can flourish, and that we address crucial issues such as healthcare, education, employment, and the economy, and ensure the protection of all our diverse identities and cultures.

We aim to represent the whole community, demonstrating that we are committed to inclusive governance, while advocating for constitutional change and reunification. 

In this time of change, careful management is crucial to avoid the chaos and upheaval experienced during Brexit. 

Sinn Féin is committed to steering this transition with maturity and stability.

Fostering a new era of Irish-British relations with the spectre of a new Westminster government in London, and Mary Lou McDonald as the first woman Taoiseach leading government in Dublin.

As we confront the challenges and work to deliver on housing, health and childcare, we must seize opportunities presented over the next 18 months by a cycle of critical election contests where the people will have their say.

We will remain focused on the change that the people of Ireland want and deserve.

We will remain determined to create a bright future ahead for all.

So, lets get the sleeves rolled up.

Let’ get down to the hard work of delivering real improvements in people’s lives. 

I have confidence in us.

I have confidence in the peoples demand for change.

Let’s make it happen.

Go raibh maith agaibh.  

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