Adams calls for left to provide alternative
Left must unite to ‘take on conservative establishment’, Sinn Féin leader tells ardfheis
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said in his ardfheis speech on Saturday night that the political landscapes of the North and South of Ireland have been changed forever by the emergence of his party as a permanent “major player”. Photograph; Dara Mac Dónaill
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has contended his party has permanently ended one-party rule in the North and “2½-party rule” in the South. He has also called for all parties and groups on the left to come together and establish viable alternative policies.
In his keynote presidential address to the Sinn Féin ardfheis in Wexford Opera House on Saturday night, Mr Adams claimed the political landscapes of the North and South of Ireland have been changed forever by the emergence of his party as a permanent “major player”.
Many of today’s political problems in Ireland, he told over 1,000 delegates, stemmed from a “toxic political culture” which has been prevalent in both jurisdictions since the time of partition. In an attack on the three largest political parties in the South, he asserted “counter-revolutionaries” had came to power who were conservative in nature and had copper-fastened partition.
‘ Abuses of power’
“This toxic political culture led to the abuses of power in planning, in the banks, in church, and State-run institutions, and in the health service,” he claimed. “An elite – politically represented by the Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil leaderships, often supported by the Labour Party – oversaw a culture of corruption and golden circles. These are the same interests that collapsed the Irish economy six years ago.”
In an assertion of his party’s prospects ahead of the local and European elections in May, Mr Adams said Sinn Féin was now a major player in both states on the island and would be running 350 candidates in the forthcoming local and European elections.
“One-party rule in the North has gone and 2½-party party rule in this State is going also . . . However well they regroup, Fianna Fáil will never, ever again be the dominant force they once were.”
In an Irish passage of the speech he said that Sinn Féin had a message for the elites: “Tá Sinn Féin anseo agus níl muid ag dul áit ar bith, ach ar aghaidh. (We are here and we are not going anywhere but forward).” Mr Adams repeated a call for left-wing interests to unite which he made before Christmas.
‘Viable alternative policies’
“The left needs to come together around viable alternative policies and take on the conservative establishment,” he said. While the political situation in the South dominated his speech, he said
progress had been made in the talks chaired by Richard Haass in December. He signalled a determination to resolve issues such as the Irish Language Act, a Bill of Rights and the Long Kesh site. He said issues of identity and contentious parades would be addressed and said he was willing to meet the Orange Order at any time.
“I want to see the Orange Order treating its Catholic neighbours with respect. I want to see it upholding law and order. The Orange Order of Ireland is one of our national traditions. Orange is one of our country’s national colours,” he said. The half-hour speech, delivered to a packed auditorium, was critical of the Government on a wide range of policies, including property tax, water charges, health, arts and what he said were excessive wages at the top of the public sector.
He promised that Sinn Féin in power would ease the tax burden on ordinary people by removing the property tax. He also said the party would unveil comprehensive plans for local government reform in the coming weeks. The speech also contained a tribute to Nelson Mandela, who Mr Adams described as a “friend of Ireland and Sinn Féin”.