Week in Review
11-18 February 2015
Packed Sinn Fein Westminster meeting discusses `choices for 2015’
On 11 February, Sinn Fein MPs hosted a packed public meeting ‘Choices for 2015 and Beyond’ in Portcullis House, Westminster. The meeting heard first-hand Sinn Fein’s political perspectives across the breadth of Ireland. Speakers included MP and party negotiator in the recent talks, Conor Murphy, David Cullinane, Senator and Waterford Candidate for the next Dail General Election; and Catherine Seeley, Deputy Mayor of Craigavon Council and Upper Bann Candidate for May’s Westminster Election.
Conor Murphy reported on the recent talks and outcome of the Stormont House Agreement, and the need for the British and Irish government to actively live up to their responsibilities to drive forward the peace process and ensure the Good Friday and other agreements are fully implemented. He urged the Irish diaspora and wider progressive community in England, Scotland and Wales to maximise their strength in the run up to the Westminster elections, and to press the political parties on their policies and commitments in relation to the peace process. He said that while there was much to continue to do, the recent Agreement had proved a step forward. He said that a future British government could not take the peace process for granted, in the way the current government had done, and had to positively engage in the spirit and letter of the Agreements made.
David Cullinane said that Sinn Fein stood for a new, progressive way forward. He said the party were already “on an election footing” and did not want to enter government for government’s sake; but was actively seeking to “lead an anti-austerity government”. He said the party recognised the distinct difference between being in government and being in power. He extended Sinn Féin’s solidarity to the new SYRIZA government and the Greek people. He condemned Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan for his recent rejection of a proposed European debt conference the fact that the Irish Government had not even sought a debt write-down.
Catherine Seeley’s focussed on the challenges of building a new Ireland. She spoke of her own experience of being the focus of a concerted sectarian campaign which forced her out of her job teaching in a local Protestant school. While this had been a difficult experience she spoke of how heartened she had been by the huge support received from her former pupils. She said that while Ireland has progressed significantly in recent times – there is still a distance yet to be travelled and that the next phase had to be driven forward. The reconciliation process could not be confined to the island of Ireland and the British state also `needs to reflect and discuss how to address its responsibilities for the adversity and conflict it perpetuated in Ireland, and between Britain and Ireland.’
SYRIZA’s Stathis Kouvelakis, speaking from the floor, told the meeting how the new Greek Government had set about reversing the austerity measures of the Troika. He spoke of the `special bond for social and national emancipation’ between Greece and Ireland adding `the best help for SYRIZA at the present time would be the victory of Podemos in Spain and of Sinn Féin in Ireland’ which would show that `Greece is not an anomaly; that what happened in Greece can happen elsewhere.’
The evident enthusiasm and optimism conveyed at the meeting was confirmed the following weekend when a Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll showed that Sinn Féin currently stands at 26% as the most popular party in the 26 Counties.
British must deliver on Pat Finucane Inquiry
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has demanded that the British government `honour its Weston Park commitment and hold a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane on this date in 1989.’
Mr. Adams was commenting on the 26th anniversary of the killing of the human rights lawyer, who was shot in front of his wife, Geraldine, and his children at their home in north Belfast on February 12th 1989.
He commended the family `for their courage and diligence in demanding a public inquiry into his killing’. He said their `trauma and stress has been made all the greater because of the intransigence of the British government and its refusal to honour its commitment at Weston Park to hold a public enquiry’.
In 2001 the British government had, Mr Adams said `agreed with the Irish government to invite Judge Peter Cory to determine the need for an inquiry’ and that `Judge Cory reviewed the files and concluded that there should be an inquiry’.
The British government has refused to implement the Weston Park agreement, which Mr Adams said was `a repudiation of an international agreement between the British and Irish governments’.
He added `Collusion was a matter of institutional and administrative practise by successive British governments. David Cameron has admitted there was collusion in Pat Finucane’s murder and apologised to the family. But the Finucane family want the public inquiry that the Irish and British governments promised.’
He said there was also `an onus on the Irish government to go beyond polite requests to David Cameron that are brushed aside and ignored by the British Prime Minister. When I raised this issue with the British Prime Minister during the Stormont House talks the Taoiseach never said a word.’
He concluded: `The government needs to put in place a vigorous political and diplomatic strategy to raise this case with our international friends in the USA and Europe at every opportunity.’
Adams welcomes union support for ‘progressive platform’ ahead of election
Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD last week welcomed a statement by unions affiliated to the Right2Water campaign endorsing the idea of establishing core principles for a progressive government ahead of the next General Election. The unions involved – the CPSU, the Communication Workers’ Union, Mandate, OPATSI and Unite, are to convene a special May Day Conference to discuss the issue.
Gerry Adams reiterated his previous remarks `that there now exists a unique opportunity to change Irish politics for the better.’ He had called on `those who want real change, and who believe that a government without Fine Gael or Fianna Fail is possible, to work together towards that end.’ He said the five unions comments `mirrors my own suggestion of a Citizens’ Charter, encapsulating the fundamental principles that could take us towards a citizen-centered, rights-based society.’
This, he added `has to involve the widest possible participation of communities, social movements, trade unions, political parties and independents’ and there was a need for `a real debate in advance of the next election about the direction our country should take and the type of society we want to build.’ He concluded: `Today’s development marks another contribution towards this.’
Welfare vote ensures protection for the most vulnerable – Kearney
Sinn Féin national chairperson Declan Kearney said that week’s vote on welfare in the Assembly `ensured unique welfare protections will be in place in the North but vowed the campaign against austerity will continue’.
Mr Kearney, the Sinn Féin candidate for South Antrim in the upcoming Westminster election said society was `measured by how it looks after those least able to care for themselves, adding `the Tory welfare cuts agenda was and is counter to that ethos. So Sinn Féin from 2011 onwards opposed the proposed welfare cuts and insisted welfare protection was absolutely fundamental for all citizens.;
Sinn Féin politically had campaigned against welfare cuts alongside trade unions and grassroots communities, he said, adding `this principle guided our strategy during the Stormont House negotiations and why, in December last, when the other four Executive parties agreed to a deal on welfare, Sinn Féin refused to do so and kept negotiating.’
He said that by `standing firm against the London-Dublin Tory axis, Sinn Féin achieved a welfare system better than the one in Britain, by an average of £94m per year’, and that this `represents the per capita equivalent of a €2.2bn welfare fund in the 26 counties.’
He said the legislation passed confirmed welfare protections in the North `but that cannot be taken for granted’ and that there was an `ideological war by the conservative right wing against the welfare state has not stopped’. He concluded: `the upcoming election is a choice between social solidarity and collective interest or the agenda of the British and Irish political elites and their economic interests.’
Week in Review is circulated by Sinn Fein MPs. Email email@example.com to join the list. For further information visit www.sinnfein.ie or follow us on twitter @sinnfeinireland