[Sinn Fein]

16 April 1997

Sinn Fein launch Ard Fheis Clár

Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle member and Monaghan County and Urban District Councillor, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, speaking at the launch of the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis Clár said:

``Sinn Fein's priority is to recreate the opportunity for a real and lasting peace and it is to that overriding project that our energies and resources are directed. We are holding our Ard Fheis this year at a time of great flux and uncertainty but what is certain is Sinn Fein's absolute commitment to our strategy for peace and our determination not to be deflected from it by those who want to return to the past.

``Our Ard Fheis will reflect that certainty and will develop it into practical movement. There are two main thrusts to this Ard Fheis - rebuilding the opportunity for peace and strengthening the Sinn Fein voice north and south in the forthcoming elections. The Ard Fheis is being held in Monaghan, a particularly appropriate location for our Ard Fheis as the debate will be concentrated on the themes of peace, justice and equality for all. Monaghan, a border constituency cut off from its natural hinterland of Tyrone and Armagh has suffered greatly from the economic and social consequences of partition.

``Sinn Fein is an all Ireland party. In the elections, north and south, Sinn Fein are standing on an election platform which emphasises an all Ireland dimension both in our peace strategy and in our social and economic policies.

``Our discussion document `Putting People First' [goes online today] examines the need for fundamental change in the Irish economy. There is at present great optimism about the potential for growth in the Irish economy. It has been described as the Celtic Tiger of Europe, a dazzling image that its creators protect against any probing. But the failure to address the inequality which is manifested in 300,000 people who are unemployed and up to 40% of people on the poverty line is what lies behind that `Celtic Tiger.' The economic boom in the 26 counties has meant unprecedented prosperity for a small minority but it is sustained by workers who have been allowed little share in it.

``In the six counties we still have the highest unemployment rate in Western Europe. The six counties is a crisis economy, forever dependent on subvention. Cut off from the rest of the Irish economy it will continue to stagger on, in permanent sickness and decline. On this small island on the edge of Europe, a divided, fractured economy makes no sense.

``Sinn Fein stands with and for those who want change in all aspects of life. We stand for equality and Sinn Fein have been to the fore in encouraging and facilitating people in communities who demand a change in the inequality of poverty, lack of opportunity and inadequate living conditions. People can create change by organising together and demanding the resources and power to solve social problems that have been neglected for so long.

``This Ard Fheis will also concentrate on the 3 elections that Sinn Fein will be fighting in the coming weeks. Westminster and local elections in the 6 counties and the long awaited general election here in the 26 counties.

``We will be fighting these elections with a clear focus on a new opportunity for peace. The miserable spectacle of a British government and a British Prime Minister afraid to act on their responsibility, not just to Ireland but to Britain, to enter talks that can put us all on the road to a new beginning has not been edifying. We seek the strongest mandate in the history of this party and are confident that the electorate north and south recognise our commitment to honest, open dialogue and will reflect that in the ballot box.''

Speaking at todays launch Sinn Fein Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin pointed to the priority issues for the party which are the main themes of the Ard Fheis - rebuilding the peace process and the elections.

Councillor McLaughlin said:

``This Ard Fheis is taking place at an important time with Sinn Fein fighting what is likely to be three elections in the coming month. The Clár for the Ard Fheis reflects what we stand for as a party and the issues we are raising in these elections - political change, social change and economic change. We are determined to increase our political strength so that we can effect that change.''

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