“We seek a New Republic with equality and social justice at its core,” Sinn Fein President and member of the Dail (Irish parliament) Gerry Adams said in his June 15 address at the annual Wolfe Tone Commemoration at Bodenstown, County Kildare.
The address came less than a month after republican party Sinn Fein caused shockwaves in European and local elections by becoming the largest party across all Ireland.
Sinn Fein痴 success was based on its opposition to the brutal austerity imposed on Ireland. In the republic in the south, this is imposed at the behest of the European Union and International Monetary Fund and in the six counties still claimed by Britain, it is imposed by London.
In September last year, the Irish Examinerreported: “Austerity is filling the coffers of the country’s richest 10% and creating poverty among an increasing number of the general population, an EU-wide study has found.”
Shockingly, the Irish Examiner said in January last year that, despite being one of the poorest countries in Europe “Ireland has paid 42% of the total cost of the European banking crisis, at a cost of close to €9,000 [about $13,000] per person”.
Adams, who polls showed in the lead-up to the May vote was the most popular leader across Ireland, said: “Our watchword is equality. We stand for a basic threshold of economic justice ― the right to a home, to an education, to a job, to healthcare, to the pursuit of happiness.”
Wolfe Tone was a founder of the United Irishmen and key leader of the failed 1798 rebellion that sought to free Ireland from British rule. Inspired by the French Revolution, Tone advocated a democratic republic in which all citizens enjoyed equal rights.
On the recent electoral success, Adams said: “Our mandate is for social justice and against unfairness and austerity.”
In response to the frequently hostile response his party faces from the corporate press, Adams said: “Because Sinn Fein challenges the privilege of the elites, we are often vilified by the conservative parties and the establishment media.”
Referring to ongoing partition of Ireland, under which Britain still claims control over six counties in Ireland’s north, Adams said: “Sinn Fein’s mandate is also to pursue an independent Ireland in a Europe that respects the rights of nation states and is based on principles of social solidarity.”
Adams said: “Partition stunts Ireland’s potential ― politically, socially and economically. There is now a peaceful way to end Partition.
“This is a work in progress and there is an onus on nationalist Ireland to persuade our unionist neighbours that their interests lie in a new, agreed Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement [signed in 1998 to help end the armed conflict in Northern Ireland] provides for a referendum on Irish unity.
“A Border Poll provides an opportunity to begin building a new, united Ireland. Sinn Fein believes it is time to let the people have their say.”
However, Adams said: “The British government is refusing to keep agreements made since 1998. Sixteen years after the Good Friday Agreement it has failed to implement important elements, such as a Bill of Rights ...
“Encouraged by this, there has been an effort by [pro-British] unionist parties to reverse progress made since 1998.”
The Sinn Fein president said his party would “continue to stretch out the hand of friendship to our unionist neighbours. We will uphold everyone’s civil and religious rights.
“But we will also stand firmly and robustly against the bigots, the racists and the sectarian fundamentalists.”
On economic policy, Adams said: “Sinn Fein’s focus is on job creation, stimulating the economy, fair taxes, debt restructuring, and protecting public services ...
“The property tax, water tax, removal of medical cards, cuts to social supports, mortgage distress and lack of social housing or adequate health services, including mental health services, have pushed working people to the limit.”
Sinn Fein’s electoral success, Adams said, meant the party “must prepare for government. We must prepare to become a government of national unity and recovery.
“In his day, Wolfe Tone clearly identified the connection with Britain and Ireland’s lack of independence and sovereignty, with the depressing state of the economy and the appalling conditions in which citizens lived …
“Sinn Fein wants to be in government because we want to change Ireland for the better.
“We want to tackle disadvantage, unemployment and inequality and improve the quality of life and standards of living for people across Ireland ― particularly those people who are today struggling under the burden of austerity.
“We want to deliver on issues such as housing, health and jobs. We want to end partition.”
However, Adams pointed to the negative example of the Labour Party entering a coalition with the right-wing Fine Gael party and helping impose brutal austerity measures.
“Sinn Fein will not do is what the Labour Party has done ― we will not give cover to the agenda of conservative parties'” he said. “This Fine Gael/Labour government has betrayed the electorate.”
Concluding his address, Adams said: “We are about creating a new republic, with new politics and a new way of doing things that puts fairness and equality at the heart of how this country is governed.”