23rd May 2002
Five Sinn Fein TDs meet to set agenda for ``constructive opposition''
Call for change in Dáil Standing Orders and co-operation with other parties
The five newly elected Sinn Fein TDs - Seán Crowe, Martin Ferris, Arthur Morgan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and Aengus Ó Snodaigh - met today (Thursday) with the Party's Officer Board, including Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP. Also in attendance were MPs Pat Doherty and Michelle Gildernew. Outlining the outcome of the meeting Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said:
``We want to record firstly our appreciation to those citizens who turned out in such increased numbers to elect Sinn Fein TDs. We owe our renewed and strengthened mandate to them and we are determined to provide the best and most effective representation to all the people of our constituencies.
``Our meeting today emphasised the all-Ireland nature of Sinn Fein's political project, as highlighted by the presence of three of our four MPs from the Six Counties. Advancing the peace process and the cause of Irish unity and sovereignty will be a priority for us in the new Dáil. We look forward to working with others to create a new political dynamic on this island.
``The result of the General Election will most likely see the formation of another Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats Coalition government. Such a government should not simply carry on regardless with the policies of the past five years. While the electorate saw no alternative government on offer they did make clear their dissent from those aspects of government policy which have created gross inequality in our society. This dissent was expressed in the election of such a large number of TDs from smaller parties and of independents. There is an onus on both the incoming government and the opposition to act on their mandate from the electorate.
``We in Sinn Fein will be advancing our equality agenda in the new Dáil. We will be campaigning inside and outside the Dáil chamber for a renewed health service and an end to the two-tier system, for housing, childcare, rural regeneration and the implementation of the people's decision on the Treaty of Nice. We are willing to work with others of all parties to advance this agenda. At the same time we will vigorously oppose any government programme of cuts to public services, privatisation or the clawing back of the advances made by working people in the pact decade.
``Dáil Standing Order must be changed if the mandate of the electorate is to be respected in the new Dáil. Current Standing Orders severely restrict the smaller parties in their ability fully to represent their voters in terms of speaking time, private members' business, introducing legislation and questioning ministers. This is totally undemocratic and must not be allowed to continue. In our meeting with Fianna Fáil, we will be urging that they, as the largest party, take the lead in having Standing Orders amended. With a renewed mandate, Sinn Fein is determined that the rights of our electorate will be fully vindicated.
``In the event that Standing Orders are not changed it will be necessary for Sinn Fein, the Greens and independents to co-operate in the formation of a technical group. This must be composed of a majority of those deputies not elected as part of a party of seven TDs or more. In the coming days we will be conducting meetings with parties and individual TDs to this end. I have been appointed to head our negotiating team.
``There is also a need for co-operation among the broad left in the new Dáil, including the Labour Party, the Green Party, Sinn Fein and like-minded progressive independent deputies. In wide policy areas we have much in common.
``Sinn Fein, the Green and some of the independents took a leading role in the campaign against the Treaty of Nice. The decision of the electorate in rejecting Nice must be respected and we will strongly oppose any re-run of the referendum.
``Our meeting also discussed the possibility of nominating a candidate or candidates for the Seanad. We have not yet reached a conclusion on this matter which will be further considered by our Ard Chomhairle on this coming Saturday.
``Today we have set the agenda for Sinn Fein's role in constructive opposition in the Oireachtas and as a campaigning party throughout Ireland. We look forward to the many challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.''
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