Michelle O’Neill – Acceptance speech as Leas Uachtarán Shinn Féin

A Chairde agus comradaithe – delegates, comrades, friends.

Ba mhaith liom failte a chuir romhaibh go dtí a comhdháilspeisialta seo.

Welcome each and everyone of you to this historic special Ard Fhéis.

I want to thank you all for your support and the vote ofconfidence you have given me as your new Leas Uachtarán Shinn Féin.

As you will know I am from the wonderful county of Tyrone,but most won’t know that I also herald from cork, being born on Fermoy. So mycolours are truly red and white. I’m claiming those two counties right out, butI’m going to be champion for the 32

It is a huge honour and it’s very humbling for me to beelected, by you – our national grassroots membership – to this role, withinthis great party.

I’m proud to be a link in the unbroken chain of Irishrepublicanism.

To follow others who have held this role like MargaretBuckley, Marie Drumm, my amazing election agent Pat Doherty and our soon to benew Uachtaran Mary Lou.

The chain will never be broken.

Sinn Féin is a growing political force – a national movementfor reunification, for social justice and for economic prosperity.

We stand for progressive republican politics.

We are a party of Government North and South. 

We believe that citizens have fundamental rights and thatGovernment has a responsibility to deliver for all –

• The right to a home

• The right to decent healthcare

• The right to education;

• The right to security;

• The right to equality no matter who you are, where you areborn, what your background is, what your beliefs are or what your sexuality is.

• The right of people with a disability to play a full andindependent role in all aspects of life;

• The right of young people to live and work in their owncountry;

• The right of Irish language speakers to use the languagein every aspect of their daily lives; Act Anois

• And the right of women to be trusted and respected in amodern society – so we not only support the repeal of the 8th amendment – weneed to campaign in order to win the upcoming referendum.

POLITICAL TALKS

The Good Friday Agreement will be 20 years old in April.

Over the past two decades the island of Ireland has beentransformed as a result of the peace process.

I want to put on record my personal thanks and ourcollective thanks to our outgoing President Gerry Adams, who alongside myfriend, my comrade Martin McGuiness, two political giants – true Irish patriots–helped shape and win the peace.

They have been the history makers.

And the greatest Irish political leaders of our time.

Míle buíochas Gerry.

I also want to say a big Thank you to Collette and Bernie asthey also have contributed so much to our struggle, you too have made thecommitment and sacrifice down through the years.

It has been a difficult and testing year since Martin’stragic loss.

Martin resigned last January to force an end to the abuse ofour political process by the DUP and British Government.

My focus for the last 12 months and the objective of ournegotiating team has been to see the political institutions re-established withpower-sharing, respect and equality at their core.

As in any negotiation there has been give and take and atthis point we have not yet resolved or over-come all our differences tosatisfaction.

There is no doubt that Progress has been made, but there areoutstanding issues which remain unresolved.

We will continue to meet with the DUP and both Governmentsand will re-engage on Monday and I anticipate that Talks will conclude nextweek.

I believe that the issues which caused the collapse ofStormont can be resolved with political will and mutual respect.

Issues like marriage equality, an Irish language act, legacyinquests, rights, respect and integrity in government should not be politicallycontentious,

A restored Executive with genuine power-sharing at its heartand acting in the interests of all people.

It can help ensure the needs of our citizens, both unionistand nationalist, the economy and our public services are protected.

That is in the best interests of all people and what we aredetermined to achieve.

NATIONAL RECONCILIATION

A critical part of our work involves reconciliation.

It is necessary work as we build for the future.

I am very mindful that there are many people herewith ustoday that have lost loved ones throughout the conflict. Can I say that we areso very honoured and proud to have you with us at our Ard Fheis.

I know that you understand the Importance of reconciliation.And Part of reconciliation involves recognising everyone’s right to remembertheir dead.

One mummy’s pain is no different to another’s.

We need to recognise the hurt that was caused in the past,we need to help heal the pain of the past.

I am committed to this work.

Our party is committed to this work.

But what’s required is a unionist partner to help lead thiscrucial effort together.

We need to transcend old battles, and give all our people anopportunity to look again at a future beyond sectarianism, division andsuspicion, without demanding the surrender of each others identity, citizenshipor rights.

IRISH UNITY

A unity referendum is a central part of the Good FridayAgreement.

We have to build a mass movement and build momentum forIrish unity – uniting Orange and Green.

We must campaign for a referendum, secure a referendum andwin a referendum.

We must show serious ambition and confidence and takenothing for granted.

We don’t want to face inwards.

We must face outwards and listen who those who don’t want aunited Ireland.

It is our task to persuade those people, sectors andcommunities of why it’s in their best economic and political interests to sharepower across this island.

We must convince them that no one has anything to fearbecause we will shape and we will build the future together.

CONCLUSION

I look forward to getting out around the country in thecoming weeks and months as we begin to roll out our national 10 year plan.

Political organising and campaigning has been the bread andbutter of Sinn Fein since our inception in 1905.

With an increasing membership we need to be welcoming,inviting and build our capacity, train our activists politically to make animpact and to make a difference.

There is a place for everyone in Sinn Féin.

We are so fortunate that we have strong local and nationalcohesion and comradeship, often to the envy of the other parties acrossIreland.

We need to create more space for political analysis,discussion, debate and ideas.

As the party leadership transition moves ahead after today’shistoric Ard Fhéis;

I look forward to our onward journey and to leading ourparty alongside Marylou and our national leadership team.

And most of all with each and everyone of you.

Let’s commit ourselves to building better National cohesionof our party;

To defending the integrity of our struggle;

To learn together;

To struggle together;

and always be in the frontline of more radical change byputting the people and communities we serve first,

By always acting in the best interests of the Republic westrive to deliver.

Comrades we are on the cusp of that Irish Republic. Let’s goout and grab it.

It’s a time for confidence, being rooted, for beingrelevant, for being revolutionary and most of all for being republican.

Beirgí bua.

Míle buíochas.

Agus go raibh mile maith agaibh.

ENDS

Source:

Sinn Féin

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