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Sinn Féin name their price for entering government: a united Ireland referendum

 

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Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald ahead of delivering her keynote speech during her party's ard fheis (annual conference) at the Millenium Forum in Derry. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald ahead of delivering her keynote speech during her party's ard fheis (annual conference) at the Millenium Forum in Derry. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

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Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald ahead of delivering her keynote speech during her party's ard fheis (annual conference) at the Millenium Forum in Derry. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

SINN Féin will seek support for a referendum on a united Ireland within five years as the price of propping up a Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil government.

In a very blatant election pitch, Ms McDonald said Sinn Féin’s manifesto will include:

  • Reducing the pension age back to 65;
  • Cutting the average rent price by €1,500 through a tax break;
  • Legislation for a  ‘living wage’;
  • And the end of third level fees.

She also committed to making childcare a public service and reforming the HSE so that it is closer to the British NHS.

Ms McDonald told close to 2,000 delegates in Derry’s Millennium Forum that while their “fears” about working with Leo Varadkar or Micheál Martin are understandable, “after the election, we will talk and we will listen”.

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Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald (left) and vice-president Michelle O'Neill 
Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald (left) and vice-president Michelle O'Neill Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

PA

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald (left) and vice-president Michelle O'Neill Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

She said the Irish government must convene an All-Ireland Forum to map out the transition to a United Ireland.

“And then the referendum must happen in the next five years.”

While much of her speech was targeted towards the next general election in the Republic, Sinn Féin are currently contesting the Westminster elections.

Defending their policy of abstentionism, Ms McDonald said: “Some claim they will enter Westminster to stop Brexit.  Those making this claim need to give themselves a shake.

“No Irish elected representative can stop Brexit.  That’s the fact.”

The Dublin Central TD argued that Sinn Féin negotiators “stand ready” to work towards the re-establishment of the Northern Ireland Assembly – but called on the DUP to get on board.

“In Dublin, those who lament the absence of Sinn Féin from government in the North are determined to keep us out of government in the South,” she said.

Ms McDonald indicated her preference for a left wing government and claimed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has led “one of the most out of touch governments the state has ever seen”.

However, she told delegates that Sinn Féin could not afford to sit on the sidelines going into the next election.

She said they would be better served by producing a shopping list of policies that Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil would have to agree.

“It’s time to make childcare a public service,” she said.

“Secondary education was not a public service until fifty years ago. Within a decade participation rates doubled.  We need a similar bold move in childcare.”

Ms McDonald added: “This decade, must see the delivery of truly free education. From the first day of school to graduation. This means scrapping third level fees.”

On housing, she promised affordable homes and “the largest public house building programme that Ireland has ever seen”.

“Renters need a break and security.  We will cut rents.  We will reduce rents by up to €1,500 a year through a tax relief and a three-year rent freeze.”

For older people, Ms McDonald said they should be allowed to retire with a state pension at 65. The age to qualify for a pension has risen to 66 and there are plans for it to rise further over the next decade.

Meanwhile, Michelle O’Neill was re-elected as the party’s vice-president at their Ard Fheis.

There was considerable surprise with MLA John O’Dowd launched an unprecedented challenge against the party leadership. No public debates or hustings were allowed.

In a statement afterwards, Ms O’Neill said: “The contest was conducted in a very comradely way across the party where John O’Dowd and I campaigned internally and put forward our platform and vision to the Sinn Féin membership.”

Speaking earlier on Saturday, Mrs O'Neill said the foundations of a new Ireland are already being laid.

"It is no longer a question of if – it’s a question of when the referendum on Irish unity will be held.

"For many people from all traditions and backgrounds Irish unity is seen as the best way to stay within the EU.

"Many of those of a British or unionist identity are now considering the merits of reunification - not to become republicans, but to remain European.

She added: "A referendum on Irish Unity is coming and that the foundations of a New Ireland are being laid.

"An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar continues to ignore this reality. Leo, you need to catch up - Because the people and society are miles ahead of you. You said that northern nationalists would not be left behind. It seems they are leaving you behind.

"Unifying Ireland through peaceful means isn’t a new idea, but it’s the big idea of our time and more and more people are coming to that conclusion.

"We are entering a decade of opportunity where the freedom to choose our own future will be decided by the people on this island alone.

"It is time to unite all of the people who share this island - seizing what is the opportunity of a lifetime."

Online Editors