Sinn Féin, president Gerry Adams TD, speaking at the MacGill Summer School in the Glenties, County Donegal said this state is “not the republic envisaged by those who wrote the Proclamation. They had a vision for a real republic – a republic of justice, equality and fairness – a republic for all the people of this island.”
Teachta Adams described the Dáil as “a dysfunctional forum” whose “formal protocols were inherited with little real change from the London model. It operates in a time warp and in a bubble, immune at times to the harsh and unfair regime visited by the government on the citizens who elected it”.
The Sinn Féin leader criticised Fine Gael and Labour who promised a democratic revolution but “instead they opted for cuts to public services and greater centralisation of power.
“Instead of creating a more effective, transparent and accountable democracy, the government moved to abolish the Seanad, cut the number of elected representatives in the Dáil and in local government, got rid of Údarás elections and centralised even more power and authority into its own hands.
“Instead of initiating real reform Fine Gael is power-grabbing and Labour is acquiescing.
“At the heart of the debate on the Seanad is the issue of equality of citizenship. Only one per cent of citizens have a vote in Seanad elections while others have multiple votes. That is why Sinn Féin will not support a proposal to retain the present Seanad. We will campaign for its abolition.
“A genuinely progressive government would have given the future of the Seanad to the Constitutional Convention for discussion.
“It would have considered the option of making the Seanad democratic and accountable and able to act as a meaningful check on the dominance of the Dáil. It chose not to.”
Teachta Adams described the institutions of the state as “very partitionist”. “Moreover the institutions of this state, whether media or academia as well as the political elites are very partitionist. They have their backs to the border. While they are generally benign, policy makers knew little about the North and care even less. Their concern is to protect the interests of the establishment as they understand it.”
Referring to the Good Friday Agreement Gerry Adams said “we are all living in a post Good Friday Agreement Ireland. This is most obvious in the North, but nowhere are the equality safeguards or parity of esteem measures of the Good Friday Agreement reflected in this state, in its governance or the protections for citizens…
“The Good Friday Agreement also removed the Government of Ireland Act, under which the British government claimed sovereignty over the North, and provided for a poll on Irish unity.
“Such a poll will provide a unique opportunity for a real, inclusive and constructive debate on the future of Ireland. Yet the government in Dublin shies away from such a debate. It has no strategy to win unionists to embrace a united Ireland and until recent events forced the issue the government had no consistent or strategic engagement with the British government over matters arising from the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements. ..
“If unionists saw a real commitment to equality by the Dublin government this would have a real and positive effect on those unionists who want to live in harmony with their neighbours. ..There is no design plan for reconciliation but we all share responsibility to give leadership in spite of opposition and adversity. Perhaps the Civic Forum could be a vehicle for this?”
The Sinn Féin President called on the government “to be fully engaged, as it is entitled and obliged to, in the North. Not in a threatening or interfering way but under the terms of the Good Friday and other agreements.
And as sections of unionism, like others, adjust in a more pragmatic and positive way to the merits and advantages of cross- border cooperation, particularly on economic issues, we will see more progress.”
The Sinn Féin leader called for the construction of a new republic “rooted in core democratic principles, shaped by the political, social and economic realities of today” and with a “commitment to the unity of Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter and the rejection of sectarianism… A republic that shares its wealth more equitably, looks after its aged and young, provides full rights for people with disabilities, liberates women and delivers the highest standards of public service.
“The key to building a new republic – a 32 county republic – is to begin now”.