November 15, 2019
Pearse Doherty keynote address to Ard Fheis 2019


We gather here in Derry at a critical time for our country and for our struggle.

Ba mhaith liom buíochas ar leith a ghabháil le muintir Dhoire as an fháilte chroíúil atá á chur romhainn an deireadh seachtaine seo.

We gather here this evening conscious of those who are not with us.

I want to pay special tribute to our friend John Downey;

John has been a relentless supporter of the peace process.

He has worked tirelessly to promote reconciliation among the people of this island;

And has been unwavering in his determination to heal the wounds of the past and build a peaceful and prosperous future.

I send my solidarity to John and to his family.

Our people and our nation face many challenges.

Our mission, as Republicans, remains the same.

Ní dhearna Poblachtaigh faillí ina gcuid dualgaisí roimh agus dúshláin a linne le sárú acu. Agus ní bheidh aon difríocht ann anois ach an oiread.

We aim to build a Republic that puts the welfare of workers and families above the interests of banks, speculators and big business.

Workers and families face costs that are rising faster than their wage packets, and public services – in most cases – are in a state of crisis.

Instead of working towards fuller, richer and better lives, too many citizens are just scraping by.

The vast majority of people know what I am talking about.

They are living it every day.

They worry about making it to the end of the month;

And they despair when they look at their bank balance after their bills, childcare costs, their rent or their mortgage has been paid out.

Many in Ireland today are trapped in the present, crippled with rip-off costs and unable to plan for the future.

We in Sinn Féin want to improve their lot.

We want to deliver for workers and for families.

When you take a glance, the economy seems to be doing pretty well.

Profits are soaring and business is booming. 

But that is only part of the story.

Without you this economy wouldn’t work.

You have built this economy. 

And it should serve you.

This government has failed to convert your work and effort into real returns for you and your families.

Instead of going into your pocket, or towards your future, the proceeds of a booming economy are going to the shareholders of big business, to banks, to utility companies and the insurance industry.

Families that are feeling the strain and workers are feeling the squeeze.

If the economy is booming, where is the money going and why is it not going to workers and families?

Why are people not seeing their disposable income grow and their burdens lessen?

This is the broken system we need to fix. 

It demands big ideas.

It demands political will and it demands radical action.

Only Sinn Féin will deliver. 

We cannot afford more of the same. 

To students who are under pressure.

Who face low wages in their part-time work, high rents, rising utility bills and mounting debts, I say to you – we hear you and we recognise you are our future.

We recognise how hard it is hard to navigate the present, never mind think about the future.

That is why Sinn Féin in government will do the right thing and we will abolish student fees once and for all.

To low income workers.

We will make sure your hard work provides you with the least you deserve – a living wage.

And Sinn Féin in government will increase the minimum wage by €2.50 to €12.30 per hour.

Ba cheart go dtugann postanna an deis d’oibrithe chun caighdeán maireachtála sásúil a shaothrú.

For those crippled with extortionate insurance costs;  both consumers and businesses, we hear you.

That is why Sinn Féin will end the insurance rip-off, taking on the industry and reduce costs by banning dual pricing that hits loyal and vulnerable customers with artificially high premiums.

We will make my Insurance Contracts Bill law and increase protections for policyholders.

And we will abolish government levies, reducing premiums by five percent and putting €230 million back into your pockets.

To renters locked out of the housing market and locked in to paying unaffordable rents, we have heard you and we have listened.

While other parties have been slow to respond to the costs faced by renters, Sinn Féin have been consistent.

In government, we will introduce a relief that will put one month’s rent back in the pocket of every tenant and we will introduce an immediate three year rent freeze;

This is something we have called for since 2015, when the average rent stood at €960.

It stands today at €1,400, with other parties now deciding to catch up with Sinn Féin policies.

Let me be clear.

While other parties work in the interests of private landlords and tax-dodging property investors, we in Sinn Féin stand with renters and mortgage-holders.

For too long banks have treated mortgage-holders with contempt.

We have seen this in the sell-off of tens of thousands of distressed mortgage holders’ homes to vulture funds whose only interest is in their profits.

While the government rolls out the red carpet to these vultures, Sinn Féin are working to stop them.

My No Consent, No Sale Bill would stop banks from selling family homes to vultures without the consent of mortage holders.

But despite our best efforts, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have fought against this legislation at every turn.

With Sinn Féin in government, these vultures would have no one left to hide behind.

And neither would the banks.

There is only one party the banks fear being in government and that’s Sinn Féin.

And they should.

Because the banks have not changed and they have not learned.

Only on Tuesday, the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank  said that banks have “repeatedly resisted doing the right thing”.

He warned that bankers were displaying pre-crisis levels of arrogance.

Only this week, the CEO of KBC Bank described the tracker mortgage scandal and the families it affected as ‘nitty gritty’ which the Central Bank should forget about.

He described compensation for the more than forty thousand affected families – some of whom lost their homes – as an administrative burden.

In those words he displayed the contempt banks have for customers,

And a toxic culture that hasn’t gone away.

Some say the arrogant banker is back. 

I say he never left.

But why would they when the banks have been given a free pass by this government to do as they please?

Only Sinn Féin will take on the banks, hold them to account and stamp out the rot at the core of our banking system.

We will start by making sure they pay there fair share of tax.

Déanfaidh muidne cinnte go n-íocann said a gcion féin de cánacha.

We would end the tax break for bailed out banks that was introduced by the Labour Party and Fine Gael in 2014 and which has been kept in place with the support of Fianna Fáil.

This tax break has allowed AIB, Permanent TSB and Bank of Ireland to pay no corporation tax at all.

At the same time, the public pay over one billion every year to service the massive debt these banks saddled us with,

Yet they enjoy a tax holiday while enjoying massive profits.

Sinn Féin will bring it to an end and make them pay their fair share.

Sinn Féin’s approach to the insurance industry, to banks and to companies who exploit their customers is simple.

Zero tolerance.

That is what’s required.

We will also build a tax system that reflects the society we want to build.

One that is fair and just.

The tax priorities of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil favour the richest in our society, and let the rest of us foot the bill.

This attitude must end.

Only last month they agreed to extend a scheme that allows rich multinational employees to write off a third of their salary from income tax.

This means that a millionaire who moves to Dublin is able to dodge over one hundred thousand euros in tax every year.

While at the same time over six hundred thousand low and middle-income workers are on course to see their pay cut when flat-rate expenses to cover the cost of equipment are slashed in January.

This is Leo’s Republic of Opportunity;

Sinn Féin would close tax loopholes and ensure that those most able to shoulder the burden pay what they owe:

The government has reduced its climate action plan to a regressive tax on households which will hit rural dwellers and low-income households, with single parent families hit hardest.

Without alternatives, it will not change behaviour. 

It will just make people poorer.

This is not a just transition.

And not alone that.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael want to keep increasing this regressive tax by three hundred percent over the next ten years;

That’s not fair and it’s not just.

What would Sinn Féin do?

Well, we would introduce a Wealth Tax;

Targeting the wealthiest [[0.25%]] percent in our society.

This millionaire’s tax would provide funding for public services,

And for radical investment to tackle the climate crisis.

Including free transport for all children under the age of eighteen;

We would launch a massive retrofitting programme on homes throughout the State; and we would turbocharge investment in public transport.

That is a what’s needed to build a just transition.

Sinn Féin do not accept the government’s policy of ‘Rural Ireland Can Wait’.

Rural Ireland can’t wait and shouldn’t wait any longer; 

And under a Sinn Féin government, rural Ireland won’t.

We in Sinn Féin would oversee the most radical shift in investment to our regions and small towns in decades.

Chuirfeadh muidne plean infheistíochta is uaillmhianaí i gcrích do na réigiúin.

When we in Sinn Féin talk about rural Ireland, we are not just talking about our farming communities, but we are talking about our towns and villages in the regions outside of Dublin and the big cities.

The forgotten communities that have seen public services squeezed, post offices disappear, roads and infrastructure neglected and young people leave.

Here in the North-West, we know this only too well.

In my own community in Donegal, we have suffered from the neglect of a government that has looked away and refused to listen to the concerns of citizens.

But they just don’t get rural Ireland and our smaller towns and villages.

We in Sinn Féin do and will end the long neglect by delivering a massive capital spending programme in:

Schools, roads, rail and Primary Care centres, upgrading hospitals and giving power to local authorities.

We will fund a massive increase in Garda numbers in rural communities and small towns to ensure that the safety and security of our regions is not a an afterthought but a priority.

We will open up hospital beds in our local hospitals by ending the recruitment ban to ensure these forgotten communities can access the healthcare they deserve.

We will rapidly invest in higher education and institutes of technology in our regions and rural areas to revitalise rural regions as economic hubs for higher education and innovation.

Under Sinn Féin, our regions and rural communities would be seen, heard and invested in like never before.

Sinn Féin will deliver real change to the lives of workers, families and communities.

By raising incomes and reducing costs,

By stamping out corruption and corporate greed,

By creating a just tax system and launching the most radical investment programme in our regions and in rural communities in decades.

We will put workers and families, not vested interests, at the centre of our economy and the top of our priorities.

To build a Republic we can be proud of.

A Republic that serves the people.

A Republic that serves you and your community.

Poblacht atá bunaithe ar chomhionnanas.

Go raibh maith agaibh.

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