Sunday, May 22, 2011

Appointment as Group Leader in the Seanad

I am extremely proud and privileged to have been selected as the Sinn Féin Group leader in the Seanad. I will join Kathryn Reilly from Cavan and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh from Galway as part of a strengthened Sinn Féin team in the Seanad and the Oireachtas. We will do our best to provide robust opposition and effective leadership.

In a few short months Sinn Féin has fought a number of elections North and South. We now have 1 MEP, 5 MP’s, 29 Assembly members, 14 TD’s, 3 Senators, an Udarás member and hundreds of city, county and town councillors across the Island. We truly are an all-Ireland party.

I also welcome the announcement of the Taoiseach’s 11 nominees and I am looking forward to the opening of the 24th Seanad on Wednesday. I am glad to see that the nominees are drawn from important sectors in Irish society but disappointed to see no one from the unionist community in the North on the list. Perhaps this was an opportunity missed by the Taoiseach.

As Sinn Féin said during the visit of the British queen to Ireland, gestures must be matched by real political action. I also welcome the Taoiseach’s assurance that the 11 nominees would be independent and that their votes in the Upper House would not be under the party whip.

Sinn Féin has proposals for the reform of An Seanad, but there is no doubt that the addition of such figures as Dr Martin McAleese and senators representing the arts, sport and social activists and campaigners will enrich the Upper House. Those of us who wish to see an upper house remain need to work doubly hard to make the Seanad relevant. However this is impossible without genuine reform aimed at democratising the Seanad and making it fit for purpose. Maybe the people will act where the politicians have failed.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

29 Assembly Seats, 14 Dáil Seats, 3 Seanad Seats and 400,000 first preference votes – the success of an All Ireland Party

In the course of the last few months Sinn Féin has achieved significant electoral success. The General Election in February saw the party triple its Dáil representation and win 14 seats. This was followed by a successful Seanad election last month with the party winning 3 seats. The Northern Assembly elections have brought more success with 29 seats in total. All of this is a vindication of hard work and political leadership.

Winning seats though is not enough. We need to continue the process of change. There is still considerable unfinished business in relation to the peace process and implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Issues in relation to education reform, the Irish language, a Bill of Rights and greater North-South co-operation need to be addressed. The transfer of policing and justice powers needs to be followed by full fiscal powers to the Northern Assembly.

Across the Island far too many people live in poverty. Hundreds of thousands of citizens across the island are out of work. The social and economic challenges are great but not insurmountable. I genuinely believe that there has never been a greater need for real republican politics of fairness, justice and equality. I also know that a better Ireland is not just possible but deliverable. I look forward to being part of the Sinn Féin all-Ireland team as we continue in our good work in the weeks, months and years ahead.