Speech by Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin TD, Fianna Fáil Wolfe Tone Commemoration, Bodenstown
Published on: 18 October 2015
Táimid bailithe le chéile ag an nóiméad cinniúnach seo i stair na tíre seo. I gceann cúpla mí, déanfaidh pobal na hÉireann cinneadh faoi thodhchaí na tíre bige seo.
Roimh an toghchán, beidh rogha idir scoilt agus easaontas leanúnach nó Éire nua a bhunú a dhéanfaidh freastal ar phobal uile na tíre.
Anois níos mó ná riamh, is den bhfíorthábhacht é a mheabhrú na rudaí is luachmhaire a bhaineann le stair na tíre agus an oileáin seo agus na rudaí atá le foghlaim don am atá romhainn.
Sin é an fáth go bhfuil sé chomh tábhachtach sin teacht ar an láthair seo inniu agus comóradh a dhéanamh ar cheannródaí agus príomhbhunaitheoir an Phobhlachtánachais Éireannaigh.
Theobald Wolfe Tone is not some irrelevant and distant figure in Irish history. The events which he participated in were a noble demonstration of the Irish people’s wish to be free, but he is much more than simply a representative of those times. With his colleagues, he began a tradition which continues to offer us inspiration and guidance today.
The republicanism of Tone is a generous ideal – one driven by trying to unite people rather than divide them.
Everything about Tone’s republicanism involved him refusing to go with the tide and sit quietly enjoying the privileges of his class.
He was a passionate patriot like many others who campaigned for the powers won by the Irish Parliament in 1782. Where he differed from others was that he wanted to use these powers to give political rights to the entire nation and not just an elite few.
Although a member of the Church of Ireland Tone served as Secretary of the Catholic Convention. He was by some distance the most eloquent and active voice for Catholic relief in the decade before his death.
The Society of United Irishmen which he helped to form was a revolutionary movement distinguished by its absolute commitment to overcoming sectarian boundaries.
Their republicanism, the republicanism of their greatest leader, was defined by its struggle not to win power for a small group but to extend it others. They did not see their opponents as enemies to be destroyed – they saw them as people who should remain and be part of a more inclusive society.
Real Irish republicanism is founded on this generous, anti-sectarian and international idealism. It is unusual in the liberation movements of Europe during the last two centuries as it did not try to assert superiority. Instead it saw a united and diverse Irish people who belonged to a community of nations. Its measure of success was always the building of an inclusive society.
This is the unique inheritance of Irish republicanism and it is one that we must always strive to protect from those who would dismiss or dishonour it.
There is absolutely no doubt that Ireland needs this true spirit of Irish republicanism now more than ever.
Today we are becoming a more unfair and divided society. We are experiencing a two-tier recovery which is threatening to deliver a two-tier economy and society. What is worst about this is that this is not happening by accident, it is the direct result of the unjust and unfair policies of this government.
This week’s budget was the fifth in a row where the biggest benefit was given to those who earn the most. It failed to deal comprehensively with even one of the major crises which have erupted in the last few years. Instead it saw the launch of a massive public relations campaign designed to get the government through the few months remaining before the general election.
Enda Kenny said repeatedly during the week that his government had done the job it was elected to do.
He said this with no irony and no equivocation – they have done the job the Irish people elected them to do.
This shows just how out of touch and arrogant this government has become.
Was it their job to create a housing emergency? Every night there are 1,500 children in emergency accommodation, there are 130,000 families waiting for social housing and rising private rents are causing immense hardship.
Was it their job to see the health sector descend into crisis? Chaos reigns in the country’s emergency departments, waiting lists are expanding dramatically, tens of thousands have lost basic supports and hundreds of essential medical jobs are vacant.
Was it their job to let a serious drugs crisis emerge and escalate not just in Dublin but in many parts of the country?
Was it their job to remove basic service from rural communities and stand by when they experienced the terror an unprecedented crime wave?
Was it their job to push people into badly-paid jobs with no security?
Was it their job to single out vulnerable groups like the elderly and people with disabilities for cuts and then to ignore them even with the huge resources available in its pre-election budget?
The same pattern of problems which have arisen directly because of government neglect can be found in area after area of government policy.
When Enda Kenny says his government did the job it was elected to do he is yet again showing that he will not recognise, let alone address, the very real issues facing our country today.
All his effort goes into promoting the fairy-tale of a government which supposedly delivered recovery and created jobs.
This government didn’t deliver the recovery – but it did delay it and make it as unfair as possible.
Ireland is recovering in spite of the government and because of the skills and enterprise of the Irish people. This remains a government of spin and broken promises.
We heard once again in the past few days, that our government let business from holding the Web Summit worth €105 million yearly to our economy leave because its ministers were more eager to get their photos taken then to help address real problems.
Now they are saying that the people have no alternative. We can either return Enda Kenny or face ruin. They say its chaos or stability.
This is already the most negative and cynical re-election campaign ever run by an Irish government.
If you want to find the chaos just look at this government’s health policies, housing policies, drugs policies, crime policies and every other major policy.
No government which created the shambles that is Irish Water can talk about stability. Spending millions on meters which aren’t going to be used, imposing a tax which might even lose the state money and borrowing money at a higher cost than before – this is the record of our government.
There is an alternative – one which will not settle for a country where the few get ahead and many are left behind. The growing division and chaos of Fine Gael and Labour is not inevitable. It is possible to build an Ireland which serves all of its people.
Fianna Fáil worked to expose this government’s many failings and to put the concerns of people on the national agenda. In the election ahead we will fight in every community to promote our positive alternative to an ever-more negative and desperate government.
At the heart of our campaign will be a commitment to decent public services, successful enterprise, enabling home ownership, supporting families and building a recovery for all.
After a deep economic and social crisis this government will end a five year term having changed nothing about how Ireland is governed. In fact they have actually made matters worse – reducing government accountability and shutting down debate.
Elected on a promise of change all they really wanted was power and they are desperate to hold on to it.
We are the only party which is going to offer a centre-ground alternative to this arrogant government and the left-wing parties who offer anger but not answers.
Fine Gael and Labour’s neglect of any commitment to hard-work on long-term issues has caused immense damage. This is particularly true in relation to one of the greatest achievement of democratic politics on our island – the peace settlement in Northern Ireland.
The Kenny and Cameron governments came to office following administrations which had worked tirelessly for peace. Securing and then embedding the peace settlement was an absolute priority for their predecessors.
In contrast they stepped-back and adopted an explicit policy of leaving everything to Sinn Fein and the DUP. Kenny and Cameron often gave it lip service, but never anything more.
Even worse, our own government agreed to be effectively side-lined from discussions which Dublin had previously always asserted its right to be a full participant in.
The exclusion of Dublin from even a discussion of the economic blueprint for the North of this shared island was and remains a disgrace.
The inevitable result of government disengagement has been that Sinn Fein and the DUP have driven the institutions into a deep crisis and undermined hard-won public support.
These two parties have constantly manoeuvred for partisan advantage. The only thing they have always agreed on is the exclusion of others. They have directly enabled a dangerous escalation in sectarianism.
They have undermined the growing trust between communities which was measured before they took complete control of Stormont and their focus continues to be on the next election rather than the next generation.
Both parties continue to show an equivocal commitment to independent institutions. Every time one of their own is arrested or accused of something their first reaction is to condemn whoever is taking action.
For all of its posturing about building bridges, Sinn Fein has increasingly been playing a sectarian card to try and build its support.
One of its Ministers was held by the High Court to have made a major appointment in a sectarian way. This year one of its most senior politicians actually put up posters telling people to vote Sinn Fein to get one over on the Protestants.
Gerry Adams himself addressed a meeting recently where he said about unionists that he intended to “break the bastards” and that “the equality agenda is the Trojan Horse of the republican agenda”.
Sinn Fein has also been exposed for serious funding irregularities such as having councillors’ social security claims paid directly to the party and channelling hundreds of thousands through suspect fronts. Unfortunately the hard journalism behind these stories has largely been ignored in Dublin.
The people of this island North and South gave an overwhelming endorsement to the idea of peace and reconciliation between all groups on our island. We cannot allow the breach of faith which has been seen in recent years.
The potential economic and social benefits from a renewed commitment to peace and reconciliation are huge. Communities on both sides of the Border continue to suffer from the long-term effects of the illegitimate campaign of violence and the misgovernment of past decades.
A failure to reengage and to give a priority to the unfinished business of peace and reconciliation is not just wasting an opportunity it could become a great historical error.
Next year we will commemorate the most important event in the foundation of our state. The republicanism of the men and women of 1916 was directly inspired by Tone. It was a generous, forward-looking and inclusive republicanism.
We in Fianna Fáil are deeply proud of our direct connection to 1916. Markiewicz, de Valera, Lemass and many others of our founders risked all for their country during Easter Week.
However we have said from the very beginning that 1916 belongs to no party or group – it is the inheritance of this nation and its commemoration must be inclusive.
The party which today uses the name Sinn Fein has no right to claim that it represents the men and women of 1916. Founded less than 50 years ago, the Provisional movement waged a campaign in the face of the overwhelming and constantly reaffirmed opposition of the Irish people. It used methods which dishonoured the Republic and its first loyalty has always been to its own and not the Irish people.
Gerry Adams statement last month that Provisional Sinn Fein is “the only republican movement in this island” shows how these people think. Theirs is not the ideology of 1798 and 1916 – it is a mafia-like organisation which is incapable of respecting anyone outside of its own ranks.
How dare they claim to own Irish republicanism.
No organisation which fails to expose child abusers, racketeers and murderers can call itself republican.
And let’s not forget that last month they also said that they could guarantee that the Provisional IRA didn’t exist because they know everything that happens in republican communities in the North.
Yet the people who savagely beat Robert McCartney to death in front of dozens of Sinn Fein member’s years after the peace settlement remain untouched. The people who covered up widespread child abuse continue to benefit from the silence of their movement.
Sinn Fein calls for people to cooperate with the authorities, but no one ever does.
True Irish republicanism belongs to no party or sect it belongs to the Irish people. It serves their interests alone.
At its best it embodies the ideals of a man of status who served the men of no property.
Irish republicanism is a generous, evolving and outward looking ideal, never afraid to learn from mistakes and always focused on the future.
An Ireland which is for all its people that is the spirit to which we again commit ourselves and which we will work tirelessly for.