'We have a major part to play in starting to right all the wrongs'


Delegates were in upbeat mood and expect Sinn Féin to do well in the European and local elections in June, writes DEAGLAN DE BREADUN

SINN FÉIN delegates were in upbeat mood at the party’s ardfheis in the RDS at the weekend. Welcoming the call for Left unity from Gerry Adams, they expected Sinn Féin to do well in the European and local elections in June.

Ciarán Doherty (25), who is originally from Donegal but now lives in Dublin, believes the party’s fortunes are on the up: “People are looking for alternatives in terms of getting the country out of the mess it’s in.

“There’s a real anger there with the present Government. We are very well-positioned to provide the alternative that people want.”

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Waterford delegate Dave Cullinane, a candidate for the city council in the June local elections said: “This is my 10th ardfheis. I thought it was very upbeat. Obviously the focus was going to be on the economy and putting out our policy platform on job-creation and job-retention.”

Regarding the call by Gerry Adams for a broad coalition of the Left, he said: “It’s something that the country needs. If people want a real alternative it has to be without the two big parties.”

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Muireann Meehan Speed, chair of the Uí Chadhain/Tone Cumann in Trinity College Dublin said: “Sinn Féin is an alternative voice. We are a socialist republican party that believes in unity for Ireland and equality for young people.”

On the economy she says: “Our generation is probably going to suffer most in terms of job prospects: third-level fees is a huge issue for young people.”

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Niall Ó Donnghaile (23), a delegate from the Short Strand in Belfast and an honours graduate in Politics from the University of Ulster said: “Activists from across the country were in a very, very positive mood.”

Regarding the Adams call for left unity he said: “At times like this it becomes evidently clear why the Left needs to stand together and why the Left can offer a very, very real and dynamic alternative to the State politics that have failed.”

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Rose Conway Walsh from Belmullet, a candidate for Mayo County Council said: “Every year I notice there’s more women in attendance – young, competent women. That’s one thing about Sinn Féin in terms of gender equality, they do give women a chance.”

She expects the party to do well in June: “A lot of the discontent that I’m picking up will manifest itself in people voting for Sinn Féin, some of them first-time Sinn Féin voters.”

Martin McGovern from Cavan, a long-time party member, was also in optimistic mood: “All left-wing parties will increase their vote, this has been indicated in the polls. People are abandoning Fianna Fáil because of the cuts in public sector pay.” A retired schoolteacher, he took a break from the ardfheis on Saturday afternoon to attend the trade union march downtown.

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Newry councillor Charlie Casey, a former republican prisoner said: “The last election in the South taught us a lesson – not to take anything for granted.” He continued: “We have taken a further look at it and we’re working very hard in key areas in the 26 counties. I’m optimistic – we can only but improve.”

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Pat McGinn, also from Newry said: “I have been a member of this party for many years and we are coming away from this weekend convinced that we have a major part to play in starting to right all the wrongs and to lift the people and the economy and get back to a politics of the people.”