Sinn Féin leader tells Ardfheis faithful FF and FG ‘out of touch, ideas and time’

McDonald vows party will ‘fix housing and healthcare’ and build fair, resilient economy

Mary Lou McDonald pledged that her party will “fix housing and healthcare” and build a fair and resilient economy in which business and workers rocked by coronavirus can recover. Video: YouTube/ Sinn Féin

 

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald claimed that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are “out of touch, out of ideas and out of time” as she made a pitch to be a taoiseach that “puts workers and families first”.

Ms McDonald pledged that her party will “fix housing and healthcare” and build a fair and resilient economy in which business and workers rocked by coronavirus can recover.

Her speech came at the end of the party Ardfheis in Dublin where Sinn Féin dropped its long-standing policy of outright opposition to the non-jury Special Criminal Court. The party’s stance on the court has been a key line of attack against Sinn Féin by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

The move accepting the need for non-jury courts in “exceptional circumstances” will be interpreted as part of Sinn Féin’s preparations for government in the South. Ms McDonald argued that “the writing is on the wall for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael”, saying the two big parties have been in Government far too long.

“Things were bad enough when these parties pretended to oppose each other. But by god things have gone to the dogs since the boys clubbed together,” she claimed. The Sinn Féin leader added, “let’s call time on their century-old stranglehold on power”, that as “friends, we can unite our country”.

She addressed “everyone who feels that the Ireland of today doesn’t work for you but who believes that the Ireland of tomorrow can”.

Ms McDonald said: “I know you have had it with governments giving tax breaks to millionaire executives while homeless children eat dinner off cardboard on the street. It’s time now for a government for you and your family that puts workers and families first. Sinn Féin will deliver that government for the people. We want to lead that government. And I want to lead as taoiseach if you give us that chance.”

Ms McDonald promised that it would be a government that “will end the housing crisis, build an all-Ireland health service, tackle the cost of living crisis and guarantee your right to retire on a full state pension at the age of 65”.

In a reference to the party’s failure to capitalise on its rise in support ahead of the last general election she said “to those who told me – again and again – to be sure we run enough candidates at the next Dáil election, I hear you loud and clear because . . . the time for change is now. Every big step change in Irish life has been made by ordinary people seizing the day.”

Call for change

She linked examples from “Easter Rising to Armagh Gaol and the H-Blocks of Long Kesh” to marriage equality and the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. She claimed Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar clubbed together to stop a government for change.

“In truth, they can block change. They can delay change, but they cannot stop it. Neither can the DUP.”

She said the unionist electoral majority in the North is gone and Sinn Féin are preparing for the next Assembly election.

“If Sinn Féin emerges as the largest party, we will nominate Michelle O’Neill as first minister. The days of ‘Fenians need not apply’ are over.”

She branded partition “a catastrophe” and said “this is the time to end partition, not to celebrate it”, an apparent reference to events to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland.

“The Tory government now seeks amnesty for perpetrators of British state violence in Ireland. Shame on them. Boris Johnson, there is no support in Ireland or internationally for your amnesty.” said Ms McDonald. “It is time for Irish unity.” And she added that there is an onus on the Irish Government to prepare for referendums and reunification.