November 20, 2019
Michelle O’Neill Live Section Speech Ard Fhéis 2019

Dia daoibh a chairde,

This is a defining moment in the history of Ireland.

And the decisions we make now will shape the direction of our country for the next generation.

We have lived a century apart, and partition has failed.

And the Brexit being imposed on us today serves to further this division.

We cannot allow that.

Our mission is to secure a better Ireland in a better Europe and bring all of the people of this island together.

A reckless Brexit policy is being forced upon us – By a Government that we didn’t vote for – And by a Westminster system that will never ever put our interests first.

The DUP have saddled up to the Tories and have treated the people here with contempt.

 They have acted against our best interests.

Over the past three years I have led a pro-remain alliance.

We have spoken for the majority of people in the north.

We have put the best interests of the people and businesses first.

In 2017 Sinn Féin made a pledge to the people.

We said we would use our influence and our political strength where it counts.

Taking our case to Capitol Hill, 10 Downing Street, the Dáil and to Brussels.

We did that.

We said we would ensure that our special and unique circumstances were understood across Europe.

We achieved that.

We said the DUP would have no Stormont veto.

We secured that.

We said we would protect the Good Friday Agreement, the All-Ireland economy, and prevent a hard border.

We delivered that.

One or two isolated MPs cannot and will not make a difference.

35 SNP MPs could not make a difference.

We have shown that, what does work, is Our Approach outside of Westminster.

Brexit has vindicated the republican analysis that we must turn our back on Westminster as our interests will never be served there.

All these things that we’ve achieved are the least worst outcome. 

We have successfully defended Ireland’s interests.

But there is no good Brexit. 

On Thursday 12th December people will have an opportunity to reject Brexit, reject the DUP and reject Westminster.

Sinn Féin is asking you to re-elect:

§  Derry’s MP Eilisha McCallion

§  Francie Molloy

§  Mickey Brady

§  Paul Maskey

§  Michelle Gildernew

§  Órfhliath Begley

§  Chris Hazzard

Joining the magnificent seven will be John Finucane as MP for North Belfast.

This is the people’s opportunity to stop the Brexit architect Nigel Dodds.

John Finucane represents the Good Friday Agreement generation.

A human rights lawyer, like his father Pat before him.

A Mayor working for of all of the people of the city.

As the MP for North Belfast –  he is the future!

So this is the election of a generation.

And for many – it is the election of a lifetime.

There is now a conversation underway across this island.

A conversation like we haven’t seen before.

It is no longer a question of if – it’s a question of when the referendum on Irish unity will be held.

In April 2017 the EU made an important declaration.

They said that in the event of Irish reunification the North would automatically re-join the EU with the rest of Ireland.

So for many people from all traditions and backgrounds Irish unity is seen as the best way to stay within the EU.

Many of those of a British or unionist identity are now considering the merits of reunification-

Not to become republicans, but to remain European.

The basis for the referendum is within this Agreement the Good Friday agreement.

This agreement cannot be cherry-picked.

The current political impasse at Stormont is unsustainable and unacceptable.

An agreement was reached in February 18, however the DUP regrettably walked off the pitch.

The delivery of rights cannot be avoided.

At the start of the year after years of campaigning same sex couples in the north will be able to marry the one they love.

The injustice of women being criminalised has ended. 

There is now a consultation underway which Sinn Féin will help shape to provide access to compassionate health crae for all women.

After years of waiting the Historical Institutional abuse victims can see some light in their journey for redress.

We should be legislating for these issues in the Assembly.

I stand ready to form a credible executive. 

A New Assembly and a New kind of politics in the New year is what I am working towards.

If the Executive is to be credible, then it must deliver on issues such as public sector pay, safe staffing levels in the health service, economic policies that deliver prosperity for all and that invests in rural communities, and an appropriate welfare mitigation package.

To be credible all of the outstanding issues must be dealt with including an Irish Language Act and reform of the use of the Petition of Concern which the DUP used to block progressive change.

It must also deal with the legacy of the past.

The British Governments refusal to deal properly with the legacy issues is hindering reconciliation and wider political progress.

There must be no special treatment for British soldiers who brought arms to this country and murdered Irish citizens.

There can be no amnesties for British State forces.

Everyone should be equal before the law.

The Stormont House Agreement must be implemented by the British Government immediately.

A cairde,

We live in politically uncertain times.

However, I am certain of two things.

That a referendum on Irish Unity is coming.

That the foundations of a New Ireland are being laid.

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar continues to ignore this reality.

Leo, you need to catch up.

Because the people and society are miles ahead of you.

You said that northern nationalists would not be left behind.

It seems they are leaving you behind.

Unifying Ireland through peaceful means isn’t a new idea, but it’s the big idea of our time and more and more people are coming to that conclusion.

The opportunity now exists over this decade to bring people together.

To build a future together.

A better future.

A prosperous economy;

Decent jobs;

World-class public services ;

A zero-carbon society.

And crucially an Irish national health service that provides healthcare free at the point of delivery.

As we approach the centenary of partition let’s not refight battles of the past.

Let’s look to a better future.

We are entering a decade of opportunity where the freedom to choose our own future will be decided by the people on this island alone.

It is a time for hope.

It is a time to bring people together in harmony and friendship.

It is a time to transform our country.

And it is time to unite all of the people who share this island.

Seizing what is the opportunity of a lifetime.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh

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