Below is the text of a keynote address by Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD to a meeting of the party’s Oireachtas members this morning:
Before Saturday’s election, I said it could be a historic election and the most important in a generation.
I said the election could shape life on the island of Ireland for the next decade and beyond, and that the result of the election could be seismic for the Irish political landscape.
Lo and behold, I think that assessment has been proven correct.
Together, we in Sinn Féin took our message to the people and to communities right across the State.
People have responded to our message.
We put forward our manifesto – the aim of which was, and is – to give workers and families a break.
It was, and is, a manifesto for change.
Over half a million people agreed.
Sinn Féin won the election.
That there are so many of you here today – as part of a new Sinn Féin team for a new Dáil term – is testament to that fact.
Our platform is now the people’s manifesto.
And it is the basis for a Programme for Government.
A programme of change for a Government of Change.
People are looking to us to deliver.
They are looking to us to lead.
What the election campaign demonstrated is that people trust Sinn Féin to stand up for them.
To work hard for them.
And to make a difference in their lives
They also see that we have a plan and the political will to fix the very real problems in our society.
We have the solutions.
Our objective is a government that builds homes, cuts rents and freezes them.
We want to reduce the pension age to sixty-five.
We will stand up to vulture funds and the insurance industry.
We want to give workers and families a break by taking the first €30,000 out of the USC.
And we want to advance Irish Unity.
This not only possible but necessary at this time.
The process is clear.
A referendum on unity is a key part of the Good Friday Agreement.
It is a duty of the Irish government to commence this process.
Unionists should not fear debate and discussions about the future.
This must be an engaging and forward-looking debate.
Sinn Féin want real change.
We want to implement our solutions, that are grounded in common sense and to implement our policies.
And we have the team with the ability to deliver.
There is a massive appetite amongst the electorate for something different from government.
That is what the people voted for – for change.
Not simply for us to go into government for the sake of it and not to simply have our turn.
They have given us a chance to show that we can improve their lives.
A chance to show that will we honour our commitments.
A chance to shape a government that will finally do right by ordinary people.
Because we are not in politics for self-interest or self-gain.
We are not in politics for power or for status.
We’re not like those that have spent decades in government serving their own interests.
That is old politics.
The politics of the past – where government came and went – but the age-old problems remained.
Sinn Féin is different.
That’s why Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were so determined to keep us out of government.
They said they wouldn’t talk to us.
Some of them still say it.
That they will ignore our democratic mandate.
But that stance has run out of road.
Those days are over.
Now is the moment for change.
Now is our time.
Every so often, a window appears when each of us can steer history in a new direction.
We’ve done that.
We have energised people.
We’ve shown that change is possible.
And there is now an opportunity to elect a government for change.
If we do our job, I believe Sinn Féin can lead such a government.
That is what we want.
I know that is what you want and I know that is why people sent you here.
I said that we would talk to all parties after the election.
Yesterday I met with the Green Party and People Before Profit, I have spoken with the Labour Party and today I will meet with the Social Democrats.
Those talks will continue.
Last night, I also wrote to the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to seek a meeting.
There are big policy incompatibilities between us and Fianna Fáil.
Of that there is no doubt.
Our objective is a Government of Change.
The question is this –
Will Fianna Fáil sign up for that type of change?
The type of change that people voted for?
Fianna Fáil have dominated politics in this State for a very long time.
It will be quite a challenge for them to sign up to this type of Programme for Government, but Micheál Martin has said that he is a democrat, he listens to the people and respects the decision of the people; so he knows that the people want change.
So can Fianna Fáil be part of that change?
That is a big question.
There is an obligation on all of us to act urgently.
We will continue to talk to parties committed to change.
We will do everything to secure a Government of Change and a Programme for Government that meets the housing crisis head on, and solves it, that gets a grip on the health crisis, that ensures dignity and a pension age at 65, that gives families and workers a break.
We must secure a government of the people and deliver the change that people clearly desire.