17 January 2006

Sinn Féin march on as Murray gets nod

Western People

By: Christy Loftus
Tuesday, January 17, 2006

SINN Féin are on the March in Mayo. The Party was out in force on Sunday in Swinford to select Cllr Gerry Murray as their candidate in the forthcoming general election. Up to two hundred delegates provided a loud and resounding endorsement of his candidacy in the Gateway Hotel.

Against a backdrop of huge banners of the 1916 proclamation and the seven signatories, of Michael Davitt, Kathleen Lynn and the hunger strikers Jack McNeela, Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg, the delegates set about the job in a brisk and businesslike fashion.

There was no back-clapping and, unusually for party political conventions, no back-stabbing. The Chairman of the East Mayo cumann briefly welcomed the delegates before giving way to Tom Mangan, Chairman of Sinn Féin Mayo whose job it was to welcome their guests.Among them were Caitriona Ruane, South Down MLA, the Castlebar native who was born in Swinford, the former candidate Vincent Wood who secured a creditable two and a half thousand votes in the 2002 election and now a member of the Sinn Féin Árd Comhairle, Mark Kenny the Roscommon/ South Leitrim candidate, Cllr Mick Mulligan, Roscommon and Micheál O’Sheighin (of the Ross-port 5) agus a bhean Caitlín, for whom a special welcome was cheered out.

The chairperson set out the agenda which allowed for debate on a one or two candidate strategy, but the delegates were having none of it and moved immediately to nominations.

Ms Rose Conway-Walsh of the Sean McNeela Cumann, Ballycroy proposed Cllr Murray “an Irish Republican who strives to bring about a sovereign 32 county republic and works to bring an end to partition and achieve the united, independent and free Ireland previous generations have struggled for.”

She pointed out that in the last local elections (2004) the established parties had searched up every tree in East Mayo to find someone to ‘take Murray out.’ He had not reacted or retaliated but quietly gave them their answer by top-ping the poll with almost 2,000 votes.

His stand alone independence on Mayo County Council had earned him the respect and support of people all over Mayo. He had shown an excellent appetite for work and was deeply involved in reorganising the Party in the county.

“Gerry Murray recognises the need for a fully inclusive society where the people are sovereign and equality is not just a buzzword. Unlike other parties and individuals who are driven by elitism and the need to control people, Gerry Murray and the Sinn Féin Party work towards the empowerment of people,” she said.

“The people of Mayo are fed up with the gombeen politics that has existed in this county for years and the disempowerment of people by the granting of so-called ‘favours’ by politicians who do not want people to be aware of their rights. Instead they want to hold on to the dependency culture whereby people feel obliged to vote for them.

“The greatest fear of the establishment politicians is an empowered nation where people are aware of their rights and are no longer afraid,” she said.

Quoting the late great Republican Joe Cahill she said it was easy to make war but hard to make peace. There was a difficult task ahead of them but with a candidate like Gerry Murray “our road will be much easier to travel.”

Cllr Murray’s nomination was seconded by Castlebar delegate Tommy Deveraux... a development that augured poorly for Castlebar town councillor Noel Camp-bell’s chances of securing the nomination.

Campbell was proposed and seconded but withdrew from the contest after pointing out neglect of Castlebar and Mayo over the past decades by successive goverments had prompted his nomination. The recent Euro and local elections had resulted in huge gains for Sinn Féin in Mayo and they could win a seat in the general election if that momentum was maintained.

“Gerry is a fine candidate who secured 23% of the vote in the Swinford area, he is a very experienced member and nobody can argue with the merits of his candidacy. I withdraw my name in favour of Gerry Murray and promise him my full support,” he said.

Congratulating Cllr Murray on his nomination, Mr Vincent Wood said the candidate was a man of considerable intellect and unquestionable integrity who continued to outperform the two major parties on Mayo County Council who united as one against him.

Ms Cathriona Ruane said the next twelve months would be difficult and time consuming for Sinn Féin. The IRA decision to decommission put the peace talks back on the agenda and they were now faced with the prospect of sharing power with a very right wing political party. But it was the right thing to do at this time so that the Executive could get back into politics on behalf of the people.

They would also be commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Maze hunger strikes. It was important that they remind themselves of Bobby Sands and people like Frank Stagg, Jack McNeela and Michael Gaughan.

The media gave the impression that Sinn Féin was in disarray but that was far from the truth. She urged the right wing media to read about Bobby Sands and the Sinn Féin people who were beaten, jailed, tortured and marginalised. The regressive legislation Michael McDowell was introducing to curb Sinn Féin served only to unite the marginalised behind the one party that offered an alternative to the right wing policies of the Government.

Referring to Cllr Murray she said he was committed, hardworking, shrewd and cunning but he combined those characteristics with being an ordinary, decent person who fights for the ordinary people.

“I have watched him in action. I have canvassed with him. He is honest. He does not patronise. He is part of the Mayo team and part of the 32 county team.

“We need to show that Mayo is on the move and the best way to do that is to get Gerry Murray elected. You have to start marching and get moving now,” she said.

In a wide ranging acceptance address, Cllr Murray said sovereignty and independence were still core issues in Irish politics. Continued partition denied Irish independence and the potential for political, social and economic progress. The Good Friday Agreement was a compromise which caused great difficulty for Irish republicans and yet remained unimplemented.

“The Irish Government has a key responsibility to ensure the implementation of the Agreement and Sinn Féin will continue to hold the Government fully to account in Leinster House and in the constituencies on this matter,” he warned.

He added that Irish sovereignty also meant the sovereignty of the people. Such sovereignty did not exist where multinational corporations like Shell were been control of the natural resources and were allowed ride roughshod over local communities.

“Equality does not exist where we have a two-tier health system where wealth buys the best care in the private system while our public health service struggles from crisis to crisis. And there is no real independence where an Irish government has subordinated foreign policy to the needs of NATO and an increasingly militarised EU,” he said.

Cllr Murray identified Knock Airport, the Western Rail Corridor and the empowering of local communities as key planks in his platform in the campaign and laid it on the line for the three major parties when he stated: “the recent scare tactics used by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and Justice Minister Michael McDowell have been made in the vain hope of stopping Sinn Fein’s growth.

“This is the same mind set that sustained and anchored British Rule in this Country for over eight hundred years. It is the same mind set and mentality that Repulicans have had to struggle against for centuries.

“The reality is that Sinn Féin represents disadvantaged communities across this country who have long been abandoned by both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. And the current attacks are an attempt not just to stem the growth of Sinn Fein but to force us to starting singing from the same economic hymn sheet as the established parties in this state.”

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