[Sinn Fein]

20 November 1997

Peace strategy has challenged politicians

Extracts of a speech delivered by Dublin South West Sinn Fein representative Sean Crowe at a Public meeting at the ATGWU Hall, Dublin 8pm, Thursday 20th

The Peace Process and Sinn Fein's peace strategy have changed the face of politics on this island over the past three years. The effects of that change I believe have been felt in equal measure within both states.

Sinn Fein's peace strategy has put it up, not only to the British government and unionist politicians, but to those people in this state who for all those years claimed ownership of the word `peace'. When it was actually put up to them they were found wanting. They were not interested in peace but in maintaining the status quo.

Years of patient work by Sinn Fein activists throughout the state on issues affecting the communities in which they live has resulted in the gradual development of an electoral strategy and a strong profile on particular issues such as the drugs crisis in Dublin.

The removal of the Section 31 broadcasting ban and a slightly more level playing field in terms of media coverage as a result of the party's central role in the Irish peace initiative improved the conditions under which Sinn Fein representatives could get their message across.

The party's vote in the last general election increased significantly across all 14 constituencies contested-in most cases by 100%. Both myself in Dublin Southwest and Martin Ferris in Kerry North came close to winning seats (giving RTE, Mary Harney and Dick Spring a few worrying moments at the count). It is clear that the republican alternative is winning more hearts and minds.

Sinn Fein's vision is of a new Ireland, a people united in shared prosperity and not the failure of successive administrations to fulfil the egalitarian aims of Irish republicanism. This ongoing failure is starkly evident here in the capital city of the Celtic Tiger.

Advancing the case for a just social and economic order is a priority for Sinn Fein activists in the 26 Counties. Sinn Fein will seek to become the first choice of voters who in the past have plumped for the type of Fianna Fail, Labour and Democratic Left candidates who trawl working-class areas for votes before turning their back once in power.

A major contribution towards the massively increased vote for Sinn Fein across Dublin was the proportion of young and first-time voters who were attracted to our party. They see Sinn Fein as a party of change. That change is coming.

Much good work is being carried out at community level in Dublin by unpaid community activists, the majority of them women. On a daily basis these people are working at the coal face of society's problems, dealing with the symptoms of economic inequality and developing progressive responses to them. This work, whether people recognise it or not, is deeply political.

However, many activists and community workers have no involvement in or affinity with party politics. The party-political system has been seen to fail their communities. Despite the prominence of women in activism at community level there is a serious imbalance in the proportion of women in most of the political parties, including the parties of the Left.

Sinn Fein believes that it can offer an alternative to the politics which has failed to meet people's needs here for generations.

Electoralism on its own will not bring about real change. We need to engage ourselves fully in the struggle for change - on the picket line, in the workplace and on the streets. That is the task of Sinn Fein.

To get us to the goal of a united Ireland we need the support and the activism of people like you. Together we can bring an end to partition - but we need everyone who believes in a united Ireland, the unity of our people and a society based on justice and equality to throw their weight behind Sinn Fein. Give us your support - and help win the support of your friends, families and work colleagues - and, in return, we give you our pledge to continue the struggle for an independent 32-County republic.

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