Mary Lou McDonald’s Presidential Address to the 2023 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald delivered addressed the 2023 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in Athlone this weekend.

Her address can be read below in full:

Friends,

We gather in Athlone, our sights set on building a future where workers, families and communities come first.

Restoring the promise that if you work hard, you can get ahead, and build a secure life for you and your family.

Right across Ireland, it’s time for change.

Change is essential to drive progress, to meet the big challenges, to embrace the big opportunities.

We want to make change real in the lives of ordinary people.

A Nation Home

Love of home is what defines us.

From those who fled famine and persecution, to the generations who left in search of work, to our young people today who seek opportunity across the globe.

Our special affinity with home binds us together.

Home is where you are loved, secure, encouraged to reach your full potential.

Home is where you belong.

We want to build a new Ireland.

A nation home for all.

A unified nation of confidence and compassion, talent and ingenuity, claiming our future, our rightful place among the nations of the world.

A new Ireland.

The Orange and Green reconciled.

No place for racism, Islamophobia, Antisemitism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, or sectarianism.

Where there is no them, only us.

All of us who call Ireland home.

Fixing Housing

A home is fundamental to live a full and free life.

For every child to thrive.

For every family to prosper.

It’s therefore our job to ensure that everyone has a secure roof over their head.

Housing is Sinn Féin’s number one priority.

Under this government, home ownership has collapsed for an entire generation.

House prices – sky-high.

Rip off rents.

Adults living with their parents into their thirties.

Employers struggle to hire workers, schools to hire teachers, hospitals to hire nurses.

Families and children homeless.

Government claims their housing plan is working.

If this is success, may we never see their failures.

They say housing can’t be fixed overnight.

They’ve had over a decade.

Their record – crisis.

We need a new government to bring energy, pace, and the plan to fix housing.

Sinn Féin will build genuinely affordable homes, build enough of them, get the targets right, increase capital expenditure.

Cut rents, giving a month’s rent back to every renter, and ban rent increases for three years.

Implement a real emergency response to the scourge of homelessness.

And we won’t stop there.

We’ll cut red-tape and bureaucracy.

Bring thousands of vacant homes back into use.

Harness new technologies for housing construction.

Deliver the biggest housing programme in the history of the state!

We will roll up our sleeves and get the job done.

The stark choice at the next election is between a worsening housing crisis under this government or a new government, led by Sinn Féin that will fix housing, once and for all.

I’m asking everyone watching tonight to back Sinn Féin’s ambitious vision for housing.

Make that change!

Transforming Healthcare

When you get bad news or a shock diagnosis, in that heart stopping moment you need somebody to catch you.

It’s then when family and home wraps its arms around you.

A nation must do the same for every citizen.

We have record numbers on trolleys.

Hundreds of thousands on waiting lists.

Frontline health workers under enormous pressure.

Thousands battling the system for disability, mental health, addiction services.

All on the watch of a government that has thrown in the towel on health.

Last month, the government left a €1.3 billion hole in the health budget.

Yes, you heard that correctly.

And now, while the system creaks, a stop has been put to the recruitment of vital staff, offers of employment withdrawn.

Not even in the darkest days of the Troika was such an action taken.

We have a plan to deliver the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

To cut the cost of healthcare.

To invest in more beds, more frontline staff, to increase capacity in diagnostics and surgical theatre space, so that no child is left to wait and wait in agony for the spinal procedure that could change their life.

Building Prosperity

Resolving the housing crisis, resourcing health, providing affordable childcare, investing in higher education and skills, delivering infrastructure on budget and on time are key to sustaining our society, economy, and competitiveness. Taking an all-of-society, all-Ireland approach and nurturing Ireland’s flair for enterprise is how we grow and protect jobs now and in the future.

Decent work, well-paid, secure jobs, workers’ rights, high productivity.

The right to retire on your pension at sixty-five.n nThat’s what we’re about.

We’ll work with and support Irish businesses, collaborating on driving economic growth, success, and prosperity for everyone.

The Cost of Living

The soaring cost of living hit business hard, but nowhere has it hit harder than in people’s homes.

Households fleeced by big energy and heating bills, groceries, and the cost of fuel at the pumps.

Now, as winter bites, families tighten their belts again.

Yet government makes parents wait until next September for a cut to childcare fees, excludes so many homeowners from desperately needed nmortgage relief, hiked the price of petrol and diesel twice since September.

A Sinn Féin government would respond quickly to put money back in your pocket.

No half-baked measures.

Decisive action.

Making Community Safe

You have the right to be safe in your home, your community, on the streets.

That means investing in policing.

Resourcing community Gardaí.

It means investing in our communities, in our young people.

Strong communities, safe communities – that’s our aim.

The epidemic of domestic and gender-based violence must be confronted. Women must be safe, everywhere, at all times.

Responding to the Climate Crisis

We live in a global village.

Planet Earth, our home, is burning.

The Climate Crisis is real. The clock is ticking.

Damage caused by recent flooding across Ireland shows the impact of climate change.

Government talks a big game but is short on delivery.

It’s not enough to set targets, you have to clock up achievements.

People must be enabled to play their part.

Under the National Retrofitting Scheme ordinary households haven’t a hope of retrofitting their homes.

We need a new scheme, one that’s actually affordable, and that’s what nSinn Féin would deliver.

Agriculture must be supported as it reduces emissions.

The ecological catastrophe on Lough Neagh, urgently requires a response based on public ownership.

And we need a government with the drive to achieve Energy Independence.

Off-shore wind, solar, and green hydrogen will spearhead Ireland’s energy revolution.

We need pace and scale, a planning system that’s fit for purpose, and strategic investment in our infrastructure.

A chairde,

Is í an tithíocht an tosaíocht is mó atá ag Sinn Féin.

Cuirfimid tithe ar phraghas réasúnta ar fáil agus cuirfimid deireadh leis an ngéarchéim tithíochta.

Tá rialtas nua ag teastáil.

Tugann na toghcháin atá le teacht deis againn chun an athrú sin na bhaint amach.

Is iomaí seans a bhí ag Fianna Fáil agus Fine Gael.

Theip orthu.

Iarraimid ár seans.

An seans chun dul chun cinn agus rathúnas a thiomáint ar fud na hÉireann, tithíocht a réitiú, cúram sláinte a athrú ó bhonn, agus ár dtír a athaontú.

Palestine

We welcome the Palestinian Ambassador.

The Palestinian people have a right to their homeland.

Having endured generations of dispossession, occupation, oppression, apartheid – human rights violations that should shake humanity.

Tonight, hell rains down on Gaza.

Gaza, the graveyard of children.

A child’s life taken every ten minutes.

Israel claims to act in self-defence.

Carpet bombing civilians, Collective punishment, massacring children in their thousands is not defence.

These are not justifiable responses to the horrific attack by Hamas’ on October 7th.

The world sees Israeli actions for what they are.

Barbaric. Hateful. Cowardly.

War crimes.

This is a moment of reckoning for world leaders, for the European Union, a test of commitment to human rights, peace, democracy.

We ask, where is the protection of international law for every child killed in Gaza?

For every Gazan mother holding the cold body of their dead child?

Israel cannot be allowed to commit atrocities with impunity.

The government says that Israel’s actions cannot be without consequences.

I agree.

That is why the Irish government should take the lead and refer Israel to the International Criminal Court.

When the European Commission gives carte blanche to Israel to massacre Palestinians, we say, no. Never.

They do not speak for us.

The world calls for immediate ceasefires.

Some of the most powerful voices come from the Jewish community calling for peace, justice, secure lives for Israelis and Palestinians.

Their call emanates from the unimaginable horrors and collective trauma inflicted on their people, and in the name of humanity, they say – never again.

Not to another people.

We stand with them.

Israel must stop its slaughter in Gaza.

Hamas must release all hostages.

Ceasefires must be called.

Only a peace process, dialogue, international law can deliver peace and Palestinian freedom.

This is the only way that the children of Gaza and of Tel Aviv can have the future they deserve.

So, tonight from Ireland, we say, ceasefire now!

The Good Friday Agreement and Irish Unity

Ireland has known war.

Today, we know peace.

But it wasn’t inevitable.

Twenty-five years ago, brave peacemakers reached beyond the trenches of the past.

They delivered peace.

The Good Friday Agreement stands as testament that even the most intractable of conflicts can be resolved.

That generation wrote Ireland’s chapter of peace.

Now, our generation must write the chapter of unity.

To build a new Ireland.

Government must plan for democratic constitutional change.

That means a Citizens Assembly on unity.

The day is coming when everyone on this island will have their say in referendums.

Each vote counting equally, no vetoes, no shifting of the goal posts.

Momentum is building, the conversation is live, history is happening now.

Irish Unity is the very best opportunity for the future.

In the words of Rita O’Hare, “We must keep going. A United Ireland lies ahead”.

Elections

The next twelve months provide the opportunity to choose change, to make history.

We’re on our marks for a General Election, Local and European Elections in June.

For a Westminster Election.

There is a clear choice.

Between the jaded politics of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael or a government for change led by Sinn Féin.

Between devastating Tory austerity or a future of real progress, building public services and prosperity together.

It’s eighteen months since Michelle O’Neill was elected First Minister.

She’s ready to lead for all.

For eighteen months the people of the North have been without government.

People’s patience has run out.

The DUP must end its boycott of government.

The British government must stop endlessly indulging this boycott.

This can’t go on and on.

It’s decision time now.

People want the Executive back working for them immediately.

So, let’s choose progress.

Let’s work together to create jobs, to improve health and public services, to attract investment.

Let’s get the A5 upgraded.

Let’s rebuild Casement Park and enjoy the opportunity and excitement of Euro 2028 together.

Sinn Féin is ready to lead

Ireland is changing and we are ready to lead.

Sinn Féin is the largest party in the Assembly and in local government in the north.

Our ambition is to lead government in the south.

A new government without Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil for the first time in a hundred years. nJust imagine that.

That would be the very best outcome from the General Election.

Of course, the people will make that call.

It’s your decision.

We take nothing for granted.

There are no inevitabilities.

We’ll work hard to win your trust, your support, and your vote to elect enough Sinn Féin TDs to form a government for change.

We have the plans.

We have the team.

We ask for our chance.

The others have had theirs.

The longer they remain in power the worse things get.

I’m asking you to back Sinn Féin.

To back change and the future that you and your family deserve.

Conclusion

A chairde, this is a time of generational change.

A time for belief, courage, and ambition.

We who believe in change can hear tomorrow coming.

We hear the anthem of better days ahead.

And, together, with real determination, we sing that anthem loudly.

The chorus rings with the simple hopes and the big vision of a generation.

We will house our people.

We will make healthcare accessible to all.

We will win the race against climate change.

And friends, in our time, we will unite our country and build a nation home for everyone.

This is the momentous task before us.

But we do not walk alone.

We walk together.

Together, for our people.

Together, for the Republic.

Together, for Ireland.

So, let’s seize the moment.

Let’s seize the day.

Let’s make change happen now.

Let’s make change happen for everyone.

Go raibh mile maith agaibh agus An Phoblacht Abú!