Friday, January 12, 2018

Looking for a job?

If you are a member of Sinn Féin, and are interested in an unwaged job, you now have until Friday January 19th to submit your nomination papers for the position of Uachtarán Shinn Féin. As most readers will know two months ago at the November Ard Fheis I told the party membership that it was my intention to step down as Uachtaráin Shinn Féin in the New Year. I asked the incoming Ard Chomhairle to organise a special Ard Fheis to elect a new leader.
There was intense media speculation about when this would happen. The media especially love to speculate – frequently dressing up their guessing with words like ‘it is believed’ or ‘it is understood’ and ‘sources close to the leadership’ or ‘well-placed sources.’ Not infrequently, especially by those renowned for their anti-Sinn Féin bias, it is all just invented.
Some suggested that my departure could take up to a year or that I wouldn’t stand down until the negotiations in the North had concluded, for good or ill. I have to say that none of that played any part in my decision. My one consideration was to provide the new leader with sufficient time to prepare him or herself for the next general election in the South.
I was and am entirely confident and comfortable in the ability of Michelle O’Neill and her team in the North to negotiate with the DUP, the British and Irish governments and manage the challenge of finding a resolution to the crisis here.
Just before Christmas the new Ard Chomhairle of the party met and decided on the timetable for the leadership election. Earlier this week our National Chairperson Declan Kearney announced that the Special Ard Fheis will be on February 10th in the RDS in Dublin. The nomination process for the vacancy for Uachtaráin Shinn Féin opened on Monday morning.
There are two weeks for anyone thinking of running for the job to secure the necessary support for nomination. For a candidate to be nominated they must be a member of the party for a minimum of one year and have renewed their membership for 2018. The prospective candidates also require the support of at least ten of the 300 plus registered cumainn across the island (cumann are essentially local branches) or the support of two registered comhairle ceantair (the next tier of middle leadership that co-ordinates the work of Cumainn in its district). 
There will then be a three week period for the candidates to speak to the party membership at specially convened regional meetings where candidates can debate their respective vision for the party and for the future. On Saturday February 10th each cumann will send three voting delegates to the Ard Fheis. Each of the 50 or so Comhairlí Ceantair will send two voting delegates. And the four Cúigí, representing the four European Parliament constituencies on the island of Ireland, also have two votes each at the special Ard Fheis.
In addition, the 12 directly elected members of the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle will have one vote each, as will the Uachtarán and Leas Uachtarán, and the two treasurers and secretary. That means up to 1200 Sinn Féin members will participate in the democratic process of electing the next leader of the party.
The new leader of Sinn Féin will face many challenges, some of these internal to the party as we seek to continue to grow in political strength and improve the skills of our activists. It is a fact that Sinn Féin is electorally and organisationally stronger than at any time since partition. This is as a result of the great team of political activists that we have consciously developed over recent years. We have to build on this and make Sinn Féin, as a national movement, fit for purpose.
There are also external challenges facing the new leader. These include the need to agree a positive outcome to the negotiations to restore the power sharing, partnership institutions in the North; the all-island bodies established by the Good Friday Agreement; preparing the party for a general election in the 26 counties and potential elections in the North; and charting a course through the madness that is Brexit.
As the only all-island republican party committed to a United Ireland the Good Friday Agreement provides the means by which an end to the Union can be achieved. Political and demographic changes in the North and the outworking of Brexit mean that there is a greater interest in, and willingness to be open to, the possibility of a United Ireland. This is our primary political and strategic national objective and nothing will change that until we achieve that.
So, this is an exciting time to be an Irish republican and to be part of the process of renewal and regeneration in the party. On February 10th we will have a new party leader who will bring their own unique style and vision to the party.
With a new leader at the helm I am confident that Sinn Féin will grow even bigger and stronger in the time ahead. So, if you want a new future, a better future, a future determined by citizens, and not by elites in Dublin or London, then join me and twelve thousand others in Sinn Féin as we write a new and defining chapter in the history of our nation.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh

Next Tuesday January 9th will mark one year from the day Martin McGuinness resigned from the office of First and Deputy First Minister. It was not a decision Martin took lightly. He understood the political ramifications of his resignation. But the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal, the increasing arrogance of our DUP partners in the Executive, and the refusal by them, and by the Irish and British governments, to honour agreements previously made meant that a stand had to be taken.
In the months since there have been two elections which validated Martin’s decision and there have been at least four attempts to restore the political institutions. Some progress has been achieved but not enough to guarantee equality, fairness and respect, and to end the impasse around an Irish Language Act, marriage equality, legacy matters and other longstanding issues like a Bill of Rights. Regrettably, as we begin 2018 there is still no real evidence of a willingness by the leadership of the DUP to embrace the Executive and the political institutions in the way required if they are to serve every citizen.
In a few short months April will see another important anniversary. The Good Friday Agreement will reach its twentieth birthday on April 10th. In the two decades since then this, and subsequent agreements, have made a significant and positive improvement to the lives of citizens. Although the process to implement it is incomplete the Good Friday Agreement is the defining document and agreement which sets out the relationship between the people who live on this island and the people of these two islands. 
Sinn Féin’s objective in any new negotiations that will take place will be to defend the integrity of the Agreement and to ensure that those aspects of it, and of the subsequent agreements, that have not been implemented, are positively resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, and progressed. We are also very mindful of the major differences that exist among potential partners to any new Executive around the Brexit issue. We are also very aware of the danger from Brexit to the fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement. 
A successful conclusion to any fresh negotiations must ensure agreement on a new dispensation which delivers for every citizen on the basis of equality. If the DUP wishes to be part of this and wishes to return to the Executive and the Assembly, it knows precisely what it must do. It means implementing past agreements. It means building respect, tolerance and equality. It also means the two Governments stepping up to the mark as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement.
For example, there is a commitment to a bill of rights in the Good Friday Agreement, but 20 years later there is no bill of rights. There is a commitment to establishing a civic forum, but there is no civic forum. In the St. Andrews Agreement, there is a commitment to an Irish language Act, but there is no such Act. In the Stormont House and Fresh Start Agreements between all the parties and the two governments, measures were agreed to deal with legacy issues. The British Government is blocking these.
Just before Christmas it was revealed that the British government is intending to insert a statute of limitations covering all Troubles-related incidents for British crown forces in a new section of legislation covering the Stormont House Agreement. Sinn Féin was not told about this. To the best of my knowledge the Irish Government only knew about it when Sinn Féin brought it to its attention. This was an act of gross bad faith and is unacceptable. Michelle O'Neill, Mary Lou McDonald and I told the British Prime Minister this directly. The British want everybody else to deal with the past, but they excuse themselves from this responsibility.
So, the big question in any new negotiation is, can the political parties in the North and the two governments resolve outstanding differences?
That is more of a question for the DUP than for a Sinn Féin. Michelle O’Neill and our negotiating team stand ready to engage positively in any talks. Sinn Féin wants the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement to be a positive point in the history of our island.
The call by the DUP Leader for a return to British Direct Rule flies in the face of her party’s devolutionist position. But it also reflects a refusal to face realities. The fact is the DUP is betraying the people of the North and the clear vote against Brexit. In particular it is acting against the interest of a section of its own support base, particularly in the Agri-food sector which will take a huge hit if Brexit goes through on English Tory and Westminster DUP terms. The DUP is also actively denying people in the North rights available everywhere else on these islands. 
The rationale behind the DUP stance is that it is focused on maintaining the Union. But there is no longer any absolute protection for the Union from British Governments the way there used to be. British Government involvement in our affairs will end when a majority vote for that. That is why the Irish government’s recent assertions about Irish Unity are welcome. But of course the Taoiseach needs to move beyond the rhetoric. So far he and the Fianna Fáil Leader are refusing to establish an Oireachtas Committee to discuss and consult on how an agreed new Ireland can be achieved. 
So, 2018 will present many challenges. If progress with the DUP proves impossible then the onus falls on to the Irish and British governments to spell out how they intend to jointly ensure that all past agreements are honoured. A first step toward this will be the establishment of the intergovernmental conference.
In the absence of local agreement the Taoiseach has committed to that. If Arlene Foster wants to make 2018 a better year for everyone, including herself, she needs to focus on the needs of our health service, our schools, our homeless and everyone else. Their interests will be better served and protected by local accountable representatives. Their well-being certainly needs to take precedence over narrow out-dated negative interests. A rights based dispensation is the best way to advance this imperative. 
So Arlene let me wish you and your family a happy, peaceful, prosperous and hopeful New Year. 2018 will be interesting.  Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh.



Friday, December 29, 2017

Refugees need our help

In December 2012 Banksy – the renowned graffiti artist – produced a Christmas Card of Mary and Joseph unable to enter Bethlehem because of Israel’s apartheid wall which now surrounds that Palestinian town. It was a powerful and evocative image. It caught the sense of occupation and oppression faced daily by the Palestinian people and was a reminder of the plight of the five million Palestinian refugees scattered in camps around the Middle East.
Five years later that card is now a potent symbol of those millions more refugees who have been displaced by war and violence across the globe.
When I came across it again today it reminded me of a meeting I had in September with one of the international human rights agencies that is doing amazing work providing health care and support for refugees. Médicins Sans Frontiéres MSF – Doctors without Borders – came into the Dáil to discuss their work, in particular their efforts in Libya. While MSF are involved in many projects in many troubled parts of the world they were especially concerned at the worsening situation in Libya and the treatment of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. Most are being held in detention camps in Tripoli. None of those held have any way of challenging the legality of their detention and most have no access to consular servicers to help them.
There is no oversight and regulation of the camps and no effort to keep records. Some refugees are arbitrarily moved to undisclosed locations or simply disappear. In recent weeks reports have emerged of modern day slave markets in Libya where refugees and migrants are being bought and sold. The International Organisation for Migration has described the situation as dire.Some of those sold end up in makeshift prisons where they are forced to work without pay while their captors demand ransom payments from families. Others are still getting on inadequate boats to cross the Mediterranean Sea for Europe. So far this year at last two thousand men, women and children have drowned on this perilous journey.
Last week MSF also produced a damning report on the situation in Myanmar and the estimated murder of 6700 Rohingya Muslims, including some 730 children under the age of five, by Myanmar forces. In the last four months 640,000 Rohingya, that’s more than the number of people living in Munster, have been forced from their homes. They have fled to Bangladesh where they are currently housed in huge horrendous unsanitary and dangerous conditions.
MSF reported that most of those killed were shot by Myanmar soldiers, police or militias. Others were burned to death in their homes or beaten to death. There are countless reports of women and children being gang-raped.
These are just two specific examples of the many dangers faced by refugees. There are countless others. The trend throughout recent years has been for the numbers of refugees to increase. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established in 1950 to help the millions of European refugees who had been forced to flee or had lost their homes during the second world war. 67 years later the UN Refugee Agency is witnessing the highest numbers of refugees ever.
At the end of last year there were an estimated sixty-five million forcibly displaced people around the world.  Of these over twenty-two million people are classified as refugees. Over half of these are children under the age of 18.
We have big challenges in Ireland. We have lots to do to build a fair society. Our first duty is to root out injustices in our own place. But most of us are better off than our fellow citizens in other parts of the globe. So, during this festive season let’s not forget those millions of people who have no home, no job, no food security. They are entirely dependent on the courage and hard work of organisations like MSF and UNHCR, and the generosity of millions of very sound people around the world.
I’m sure they would want to wish us all a very peaceful and prosperous New Year. We should do our best to help them to enjoy this also.  
Bliain úr faoi mhaise daoibhse. 



Friday, December 22, 2017

Nollaig Shona Daoibh

As I get older I find myself getting more disenchanted with the Catholic Church. That’s the church I was baptised into when I was a baby. Holy Communion followed when I was a pupil at Saint Finian’s on the Falls Road. I can still vaguely remember that day. Especially my First Confession. I took that very seriously.

Then Confirmation. My sponsor wound me up with his stories about the bishop going to slap me on the cheek. When that point in the ceremony arrived the Bishop, a mild mannered man, barely touched the side of my face with his hand. But he smiled when I winced. In between these high lights of my life in the church the De La Salle Brothers taught us our Catechism. It was all very straight forward. Mortal sins and venial sins and plenary indulgences and the Our Father in Irish. Impure thoughts and fast days.

I was living in Abercorn Street North for most of this time. With my Granny Adams. My other granny, Granny Hannaway, lived a few streets away. When I was a child she wore a shawl. We had three local churches. Or chapels. Saint Pauls. Saint Peters. And Clonard. My Granny Adams loved Clonard. It was much more intimate, brighter and welcoming for some reason than the other two. They seemed slightly duller. Distant. In those days Masses were in Latin. And the priest turned his back to the congregation.

Clonard was also the home of the Boys Confraternity. Thousands of us young Belfast Dominic Savios - Dominic was a boy saint who died for his faith - trooped into Clonard into our Sections to be entertained and uplifted and scared by Fr. McLoughlin and other fiery Redemptorist preachers. Heaven. Hell. Limbo. Purgatory. Impure thoughts. So many sins a young boy could indulge in. Sinning in thought, word and deed.

And singing. I still love church music. And choirs. We raised the roof of Clonard with Faith of Our Fathers. “We will be true to you to Death”. Then “Tanto Mergo make my hair grow”.

My mother’s brother Alfie was very associated with Clonard. For most of his life. My Granny Adams went regularly to Clonard. I went with her. Christmas there was special. Clonard had a great crib. It included a camel. A stuffed one.
And Mass on Christmas Day was special. In those days Clonard Street was packed with worshippers before and after Mass. including week days Masses. It was the same outside every chapel. Every Mass got large crowds not unlike the crowds which flock annually to the Clonard Novena.

When I went to Saint Mary’s Grammar School, in Barrack Street, and the Irish Christian Brothers, we graduated to RE - Religious Education. Theology was the main man. By now I was beginning to think for myself. I was finding out that there were more questions than answers. Which is no bad thing. I liked Jesus. I still do. He was more straight forward than most of the interpreters of his words and works make out. He still is.
My politics was also developing. Ian Paisley was partly responsible for that. I was learning that there were many versions of Christianity. I also heard that one of my uncles was excommunicated. Apparently he walked out of St Peters. I imagined what that must have been like.

Then in 1969 after the pogroms, Bishop Philbin arrived on the Falls close to St Peters to direct us to take down barricades. We refused. Who was he to tell us what to do?
A short few months later he arrived in Corpus Christi Chapel in Springhill to condemn Ballymurphians for resisting the violence of the British Army. I was delighted to be part of a protest against his intervention, mostly by local women led by the indomitable Tess Cahill. We picketed the Bishops Palace. Something profound was happening.

By now I knew Fr Des Wilson. His Gospel was socially just. It was about equality and fairness. Later in Long Kesh I met Fr. Alec Reid. He also embraced a people empowering Gospel. My journey through life was finding its own moral compass. I continued to go to Mass. In the cages of Long Kesh at Christmas Geordie Shannon’s choir lifted us with his uniquely tuneful Oiche Ciuin or as Geordie sang it ‘Eeeky Queuing.’
By now I was challenging Bishop, later Cardinal Daly, publicly over his support for British government policy. Later as MP for West Belfast, I was to try in vain to meet with him on these matters. In those days people regularly walked out off Mass in protest. Or didn’t go. I always went. I liked Mass. I still do.

But I don’t like the unequal status of women in the Church. The anti-womanist nature of it all. I disagree profoundly with that. And with the way the teachings of Jesus, which are about liberation and human dignity, were subverted and turned into controlling mechanisms. The obsession with sex. And the lack of democracy. Or the awful sins committed against children and young people. If you weren’t careful you could get very angry.

That’s why the Christmas story is so important. You know the real story of Christmas. The baby Jesus being born in a stable. It was probably a cave. Probably smelly and bogging as well. The Inn keeper couldn’t bear to see Joseph and Mary on the street when there was no room in his inn. So Jesus’s mammy made do with straw for a bed and brought her son into the world and that good man Joseph minded them.

That’s what I like about Christmas. I don’t like Xmas. Taking ‘Christ’ out of ‘Christmas’  misses the point. The commercialism, the stress and madness of it all.  I don’t like Boxing Day either. Nope. I’m a Saint Stephen’s Day man. Me and Wenceslas.

And Christmas isn’t just for children. It’s for us all. Of course for some people on their own Christmas can be a lonely time. And we all think of family and friends who have died. But we don’t have to be sad about that. That’s life. So we should do our best to be happy and to make others happy as well.

Happiness isn’t just for Christmas. It should be for life. So enjoy it. Live in the nowness. Don’t let any one ruin your happiness. Or your Christmas. Nollaig shona daoibh.



Friday, December 8, 2017

The DUP, Brexit and the on-off deal


It was to be the breakthrough moment on Brexit that the British government and the European Commission had been working toward for over a year.
After months of apparently endless stalemate the weekend saw more positive reports emerging from the intense negotiations between EU and the British government officials. By Monday morning the impression being given– out of Government Buildings in Dublin and the Commission in Brussels – was that a deal was imminent. The new Tánaiste Simon Coveney was on RTE’s Morning Ireland saying that he expected an announcement on an agreement later in the day. The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar called a special Cabinet meeting for 9am to sign off on the communique. At mid-morning Coveney was told by European Commission president Jean Claude Junker that the British had agreed the final draft.
At midday Mary Lou McDonald was among a group of Oireachtas opposition representatives who were briefed by the Taoiseach on the paragraphs relating to the island of Ireland and the border, which were to be in the communique. No one was given sight of the paragraphs. Meanwhile, the media in Dublin were told to expect a press conference with Taoiseach Varadkar at 2.30 pm.
And then it all went pear shaped courtesy of a very loud, very intransigent, very definite NO from the DUP. Theresa May received a call from Arlene Foster and dramatically the deal was off. May and Juncker met the media and said that there were details that still had to be agreed. But no one was fooled. Everyone knew the real story was very different.
That was confirmed when the DUP said, “We will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the United Kingdom. The economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom will not be compromised in any way.”
It was reinforced when the DUP’s Sammy Wilson described the Irish government as “a bunch of political chancers” who were “doing their best to undermine the unionist position.” The following day amidst speculation that Prime Minister May would be going back to Brussels by the end of the week Edwin Poots of the DUP fired a warning shot at Dublin. He said: “Little Leo needn’t think that an unacceptable deal on Monday will be acceptable on Friday. A bad deal is not better than no deal.”
So, where to from here?
Phase one of the negotiations on Brexit was about seeking substantial progress on three broad areas: the settlement bill that Britain would have to pay the EU; the future status of EU citizens, including the people of the North; and the status of Britain’s border in Ireland. Without the EU Council summit next week (December 14th) agreeing that progress on all three issues had occurred the British would not be allowed to move into Phase Two of the negotiations dealing with trade.
In recent weeks the British Prime Minister agreed to pay the EU between 40 and 55 billion euro. It has also been claimed that progress was made in the negotiations on the issue of rights for EU citizens. The big issue that had to be cracked was the border.
Two weeks ago Leo Varadkar warned that his government would block progress to Phase Two unless Britain gave a formal written guarantee that there will be no hard border. On Monday the Taoiseach obviously thought he had got that commitment. But not for the first time the DUP pulled the plug on an agreement. It is also worth noting that the British government has been briefing that there was no agreement. This is clearly at odds with the Irish government’s account.
The reality is that Brexit negotiations are absolutely critical for the future of the island of Ireland and it is vital that they succeed. Sinn Féin believes that what is required is a Designated Special Status for the north within the European Union. We are not precious about what it called. But the North must remain within the Customs Union and the Single Market. This is the only way of ensuring stability and certainty for Irish agriculture, Irish business, Irish people’s lives – our prospects and our prosperity.
These are not the only issues. Citizens’ rights, access the European Court of Justice and to the European Institutions also need to be agreed. As Sinn Féin understands they have not been agreed thus far. Ensuring that these requirements are met is common sense. It is also, crucially, what the people of the North voted for. Despite the claims of the DUP this will not change the constitutional position of the North. I say this as much as someone who is offended every day by the divisions on this island, including partition and the border.
In the following days intense negotiations took place between the EU and British negotiating teams. The Tories also met with the DUP.
On Friday morning an agreement was finally announced. The communiqué does not set the final deal on Brexit. The communiqué sets out broad principles. These have been assessed by the Irish government as sufficient progress to allow the Brexit process to move into the next phase of negotiations on trade.
While the communiqué recognises the unique and special circumstances surrounding the issue of the Irish peace process, the Good Friday Agreement and the border it does not address key areas of concern for many citizens, especially nationalists living in the north and citizens in the border region.
The insistence by the British that Britain and the North must leave the customs union and the single market presents a real and live danger which cannot be understated. This also contradicts the British Prime Ministers claim that there will not be a hard economic border.
The communiqué also throws no light on the future role of the European Court of Justice and in particular the right of EU citizens in that part of the island to be able to access the EU institutions. These are all genuine concerns particularly in light of the British Prime Ministers assertion in a letter she issued addressed to the people of the six counties that the North will no longer be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
The Irish government needs to be very conscious that the refusal to embrace rights is at the heart of the current difficulties in the political institutions and the collapse of the Executive.
While the communiqué represents some progress there are many unanswered questions around key issues and the Irish government must remain focussed and vigilant. Sinn Féin is also very mindful that this Brexit process is a work in progress. Our experience through years of agreements with Britain is that the devil is in the detail.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Léacht Cothaigh 2017


Oráid Uachtarán Shinn Féin Gerry Adams TD chuig Léacht Cothaigh 2017 - 2ú Nollaig 2017
Dia dhaoibh go léir a chairde,
Ar dtús ba mhaith liom a rá go bhfuil mé thar a bheith sásta bheith libh chun Léacht Cothaigh a thabhairt i mbliana
Is ónóir mhór dom labhairt libh agus sibh ag seoladh ‘Glas le Fás’, an straitéis do thodhchaí na Ceathrú Gaeltachta.
Buíochas mór do Jake Mac Seacais agus Forbairt Feirste as an chuireadh agus buíochas mór oraibhse as teacht.
Tá sé iontach scaifte chomh spreagúil fuinniúil a fheiceáil agus tá sé soiléir go bhfuil an fuinneamh seo le feiceáil i muintir na Gaeilge ar fud na cathrach.
Bhí go leor agaibh sa seomra páirteach sa phróiséas seo, mar sin maith sibh uilig!
Mar is eol daoibh, d’inis mé le déanaí do Ard Fheis Shinn Féin i mBaile Átha Cliath go mbeidh mé ag éirí as mar Uachtarán Shinn Féin agus nach mbeidh mé ag dul ar aghaidh chun an chéad toghchán Dála eile.
B’fhéidir go gceapann sibh go mbeidh mé ag éirí as achan rud.
Ní bheidh mé ná baol air!         
Is gníomhaí mé – ar dtús agus i gcónaí.
Níl amhras ar bith orm agus mé ag dul isteach i mo sheachtóidí go mbeidh mé ag plé le gníomhú ar son na Gaeilge sna blianta amach ó seo.
Bhí mé ag mórshiúil Dearg le Fearg i mí na Bealtaine.
Ceann de na hagóidí is fearr riamh a raibh mé ann.
Na dathanna, an atmaisféar, on óige agus an bheocht, bhí said uilig ar fheabhas.
Bhí glúin óg gníomhaithe ann.
Rugadh iad i ndiaidh Chomhaontú Aoine an Chéasta agus próiséas na síochána.
Bhí an splanc céanna iontu is a bhí ionam agus mo ghlúin nuair a thosaigh muidinne ag éileamh ár gceart agus ár comhionannas.
Níl Gaeilgeoirí na cathrach seo sásta glacadh le cúrsaí mar atá siad.
Tá siad ag iarraidh a gcuid ceart agus sin sin.
Tá borradh faoin Ghaeilge sa Tuaisceart agus i mBéal Feirste go háirithe.


Colma McKee, Acadamh Oiliúna Gaeilge, Pilib Ó Ruanaidh, Iontaobhas na Gaelscolaíochta, Niamh Ní Ruanaidh, Taca, Jake MacSiacais, Forbairt Feirste, Padaí Mac an Fhearraigh, Pobal agus Gearóid macAdaimh, Teachta Dála Chondae Lú, Sinn Féin.

Tá dualgas ar na polaiteoirí a chinntiú go bhfuil sé de cheart ag daoine saol trí Ghaeilge a bheith acu más mian leo.
Seo an dúshlán atá romham agus roimh na polaiteoirí uilig
Ach is mar gheall oraibhse – na daoine sa phobal a thug beocht don teanga – sibhse a rinne an obair chrua agus tá mé an-bhuíoch díobhse uilig.
Chuir sibh stad le meáth na teanga a bhí ag tarlú mar gheall go díreach ar na céadta bliain de pholasaí Rialtas na Breataine.
Mar chumhacht impriúil thuig siad an tábhacht a bhain le teanga, dúchas agus cultúr pobail a scriosadh.
Ansin bhí sé níos éasca teacht i dtír orthu, smacht a choinneáil orthu agus seilbh a ghlacadh ar an tír.
Ach bhí mná agus fir chróga ann ó achan aicme agus earnáil a chuaigh isteach sa bhearna baoil le teanga, ceol agus cultúr na hÉireann a chosaint.
Anseo i mBéal Feirste a mhair duine acu - Robert McAdam - Preispitéireach, a bhfuil a ainm ar an Cultúrlann seo.
Tháisitil Robert go forleathan agus bhailigh sé lámhscríbhinní Gaeilge, rinne sé cóipeanna daofa agus tá siad le feiceáil inniu i Leabharlann Bhéal Feirste agus in Ollscoil na Banríona.
Tá go leor daoine ónár linn féin - na daoine a bhunaigh Gaeltacht Bhóthar Sheoighe, nó an Ard Scoil, nó Cumann Chluain Ard, nó Glór na Móna .
Chuir mé féin suim sa Ghaeilge ar dtús nuair a bhí mé ar bhunscoil Naomh Fhinian De la Salle ar Bhóthar na bhFál.
Bhí beagán beag Gaeilge ag mo mháithair, ach Gaelgoirí iad mo uncail Liam agus Alfie.
Ach is ag Scoil Mhuire leis na Bráithre Críostaí a rinne mé ceangal ceart leis an Ghaeilge trí Brother Beausang.
Bhí deis ag cuid again cuairt a thabhairt ar Ghaeltacht Thír Chonaill sna seascaidí.
Cosúil le go leor ó mo ghlúin, an chéad deis eile a fuair mé chun eolas a chur ar an Ghaeilge ná sa phríosún.
Chruthaigh na cimí polaitiúla sna botháin ar an Cheis Fhada botháin Ghaeltachta – áit a raibh an Ghaeilge á labhairt agus le cloisint achan lá.
Bhuail mé le Bobby Sands ansin.
Níos déanaí sna blocanna H ba é teanga laethúil don chuid is mó de na príosúnaigh.
Bhí tionchar mór ag scríobhneoireacht Bobby ar chur chun cinn na Gaeilge sna príosúin agus lasmuigh fosta.
Mar aon le Gaeilgeoirí a raibh grá acu don teanga agus a d’oibrigh go crua chun í a úsáid agus a chur chun cinn, chuidigh an ghlúin nua seo de Ghaerilgeoirí leis na hiarrachtaí a bhí ar siúl nuair a scaoileadh saor iad.
Bhí iar-chimí agus a gclann ag iarraidh a gcuid páisti a thógáil trí mheán na Gaeilge, rud nach raibh acu féin.
Is mar gheall ar na daoine agus le gaelgeoirí eile go bhfeiceann muid an fás iontach inniu.
Tá buíochas ag dul fosta do na múinteoirí a chur an Ghaeilge os comhair ár bpáistí trí oideachas agus spraoi.
Ba mhaith liom obair mo chara Martin McGuinness a mholadh.
Rinne sár-obair son an teanga mar Aire Oideachais agus mar Leas Chéad Aire.
Ba mhaith liom Caral Ni Chuilín atá anseo anocht a threaslú fosta. Bhunaigh sí an clár LÍOFA.
Is cuimhin liom ag freastal ar chruinniú – nuair a bhi mé mar fheisire – le Mo Mowlam a bhí mar Runaí Stáit ag an am agus le daoine ó Bhunscoil Phobal Feirste.
Bhí sí ann le hinsint do bhord na scoile gur aontaigh sí maoiniú a thabhairt dóibh.
Ar ndóigh, ghlac sé seo iontas ar a chuid oifigí.
Níor fuair an scoil maoiniú ó bunaíodh é.
Nuair a bhí muid ag fágáil, duirt cheann de na oifigí - ceapfaim le Ciarán Mackle - “we’ll get you in the long grass”.
Thug mé gach duine ar ais isteach sa seomra agus duirt mé le Mo Mowlam cad a tharlá.
Sin an seafóid a bhí ann ón Bunaíocht agus tá sin ann fós.
Ach fós, tá an Gaeilge ag dul ó neart go neart.
Tá Sinn Féin ag iarraidh oibriú libh san iarracht sin.
Is gné ríthábhachtach í obair ár bpáirtí.
Ní hé sin le rá go ndéanaimid go leor di - ní mór dúinn.
Ní hé le rá nach féidir linn níos mo a dheanamh – is féidir linn nios mó a dhéanamh i gcónaí.
Agus ní hé le rá go bhfuil na freagraí uilig again – níl.
Ach táimid tiomanta don dúshlán a thug an pobal dúinn anuraidh a shárú – sin chun Acht na Gaeilge a bhaint amach.
Ní faoi reachtaíocht amháin atá sé, cé go bhfuil sin tábhachtach.
Ní faoi chaighdeán, Coimisinéar agus maoiniú amháin ach oiread.
Ní faoi na cúirteanna nó faoi comharthaí bóthair atá sé.
Baineann sé leis an ceart do dhúchas náisiúnta agus an ceart do theanga dhúchais a labhairt i do thír féin.
Tá lucht na Gaeilge ó thuaidh ag iarraidh na gceart céanna is atá ag ár gcomharsana in Albain agus sa Bhreatain Bheag agus sna Fiche Sé Chontae.
Níl an Ghaeilge éiginteach do dhuine ar bith; bíodh sin le hAcht na Gaeilge no gan é.
Agus beidh sé ag fás le Acht na Gaeilge, nó gan é.
Tá sí ann dóibh siúd ar mhaith leo a labhairt.
Agus chun leasa achan duine atá Acht na Gaeilge.
Ach is le achan duine í.
Agus bainfimid amach é.
Bígí cinnte faoi sin.
Má tá an cuid is lú again den spiorad, fuinneamh agus aisling is a bhí ag bunaitheoirí Bhóthar Sheoighe, éireoidh linn.
Chuir siadsan an dian obair isteach ar dtús.
Díreach mar a dhéanann sibhse atá linn anocht an dian obair achan lá sa phobal.
Tá bhur straitéis Glas le Fás iontach ar fad agus tréaslaím sibh as.
Tugann sé treoir dúinn.
An pobal féin i gceannas ar a forbairt féin.
Agus mé ag ullmhú do seo smaoinigh mé siar ar an am ar thosaigh sé seo.
Na dúshláin a bhí romhainn – beith ag comhoibriú le pártaithe leasmhara, fostaíocht agus turasóireacht a chruthú.
Ag cur na teanga i lár an aonaigh.
Ag dul i ngleic leis na húdaráis anseo nuair nach raibh siad ag iarraidh labhairt linn.
Ba cheart do dhuine éigin an stair seo uilig a chur le chéile.
Tá an jab éasca ag na polaiteoirí.
Tá an jab deacair agaibh.
Ach tá mo theachtaireacht simplí - lean ar aghaidh le bhur chuid obair.
Sin é bunús Ghluaiseacht na Gaeilge.
An meon sin “ná abair é, dean é”.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The email and the election


When I wrote this column all of the indications suggested that a general election in the south was very possible. There was enormous political and media fall-out from the discovery of emails appearing to show that the former Minister of Justice in the Irish government knew more than she had admitted about the efforts by an ex-Garda Commissioner to smear whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.
On Tuesday Tánaiste and Minister Frances Fitzgerald resigned. With both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil desperate to avoid a general election she had little other choice in the face of mounting political and public anger around the release of additional emails from the Dept. of Justice.
However, the resignation of Frances Fitzgerald is not the end of the issue. The Charleton Inquiry into protected disclosures will examine all of this after the New Year and serious questions remain about the actions of the current Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and the handling of the whole debacle by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
The email and the election
By the time this column is published we will know whether there is to be a general election in the south before Christmas, if the Grand Old Duke of Cork, Micheál Martin, has marched the Soldiers of Destiny up to the top of the hill, and “marched them down again” again or if Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has fallen on her sword.
Over the last four years there have been a series of Garda scandals which have rocked the southern establishment. Alan Shatter, former Minister for Justice resigned in 2014 and a Garda Commissioner resigned/was sacked depending on whose version of the account you believe.
As a consequence An Garda Siochána has become the focus of Reviews, Commissions of Investigation and a Tribunal of Inquiry. These have looked at almost two million falsified alcohol breath tests, as well as thousands of wrongful motoring convictions. There are also serious criticisms of Garda treatment of whistleblowers. In July members of the Public Accounts Committee in the Dáil said that Commissioner O’Sullivan’s position was untenable in light of its findings into financial irregularities at the Garda Training College at Templemore. So grave has been the disquiet and so persistent the allegations of maladministration and worse within the Garda that the government was also forced into establishing a Commission on the Future of Policing to report on its structure, culture and ethos, recruitment, training and management. This came after years of refusal to introduce root and branch reforms.
The current political crisis has its roots in a convoluted saga about the content and timing of a key email that was sent to the Tánaiste and former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, and seven other senior civil servants in the Department of Justice, in May 2015. The email was ‘found’ three weeks ago on November 9th. It was from Michael Flahive, an Assistant Secretary in the Dept. of Justice. It was based on a call he received from a senior figure in the Office of the Attorney General. Its purpose was to alert Minister Fitzgerald to the fact that the legal team for the then Garda Commissioner O’Sullivan had challenged the motivation of Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe at the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation. The O’Higgins Commission had been set up in February 2015 to investigate claims by Sgt McCabe of Garda malpractice in Cavan and Monaghan area.
It was the intention of the Commissioner’s legal team to introduce a serious criminal complaint about an alleged sexual assault on a child, against McCabe in an attempt to undermine his credibility. The complaint had already been dismissed years earlier.
Maurice McCabe is the highest profile whistleblower in the history of An Garda Siochána. For ten years he has spoken out against alleged serious Garda malpractice, including a penalty point scandal which saw some prominent people having their penalty points for driving offences wiped. As a result of this and other accusations McCabe has faced a stream of attacks on his integrity and a malicious whispering campaign. However the Guerin Report in 2014 into the penalty point issue praised McCabe as a man of integrity. Subsequently Minister Frances Fitzgerald had publicly apologised to him in the Dáil. The Minister also met Maurice McCabe and his wife and said she regretted what the state had done to him.
When news of the existence of this vital email emerged last week former Justice Minister Fitzgerald said she couldn’t remember reading it. Given the high profile nature of McCabe and of his allegations, and the clear intent of Flahive to alert the Minister and the department to the Garda Commissioner’s legal strategy, many opposition TDs and citizens found it hard to believe that the Minister either hadn’t read the email or that the Justice Department hadn’t realised its importance.
On Sunday a spokesman for the Justice department confirmed that the Minister had ‘noted the email’. He said: “This is standard civil service language that means read.” The Minister also met the then Garda Commissioner the day after the email was received and did not mention it to her.
It has also emerged in recent days that Commissioner O’Sullivan told a senior official the Justice department in May 2015 about the legal row at the O’Higgins Commission.
So, the Justice Department was alerted on two occasions about the Garda Commissioners legal strategy but did nothing.
Throughout this row the Minister and her Government defenders have repeatedly said that she could not legally interfere in the work of the O’Higgins Commission. Some legal experts have publicly challenged this. But as the Garda Commissioner’s line manager the Minister for Justice could, and should, have questioned the Commissioner’s decision to embark on such a dangerous and reprehensible strategy against Maurice McCabe. Having spoken frequently of her admiration of Sgt McCabe the Minister should have defended him against this bogus allegation. The Minister chose to do nothing.
Instead over the next two years she and the government, including Taoiseach Varadkar, repeatedly expressed their complete confidence in the Garda Commissioner – right up to the point in September when Commissioner O’Sullivan announced her retirement.
In a further damaging postscript for the government to this crisis it emerged that the current Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan was made aware of the email on November 13th, four days after it was uncovered. Despite this neither he nor the other senior civil servants who were aware of it saw fit to inform the Taoiseach. He claimed on two separate days in the Dáil that he had spoken to the Tánaiste and had been told by her that she had no hand, act or part informing the former commissioner’s legal strategy, nor did she have any prior knowledge of the legal strategy the former commissioner’s team pursued. She found out about it after the fact, but around the time it was in the public domain when everyone else knew about it as well.” This was May 2016 – a year after the email was sent to her.
We now know the Tánaiste and at least seven senior civil servants had been told in May 2015.
Sinn Féin gave the Tánaiste ample time to clarify her position.  Her explanations were unsatisfactory. On Thursday of last week Sinn Féin submitted a motion of no confidence in the Minister.
Despite its confidence and supply arrangement with Fine Gael the Fianna Fáil party followed suit and published its own motion of no confidence in the Tánaiste and former Minister for Justice. Now all the talk is of a Christmas election. Without Fianna Fáil’s backing the government cannot survive.
In the days since then there have been a series of meetings between the leaders of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. Leo Varadkar appears determined to back his embattled Deputy leader Frances Fitzgerald. What will Micheál Martin do? Last week Martin described the email as “damning” and claimed that it was not credible for the minister not to remember it. He said what was worse was she did nothing.
Neither of these leaders really wants an election at this time. The opinion polls suggest no outright winner. That is also true for Sinn Féin and other parties in the Dáil. But a blind eye cannot be turned to the dysfunctionality and lack of accountability that is at the heart of this government on this issue, and on housing and homelessness, and the crisis in health. Sinn Féin intends pursuing our motion of no confidence. That will only be averted if the Tánaiste resigns.


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