10/09/2011 Sinn Fein Party Conference


Coverage from Belfast's Waterfront Hall of Sinn Fein's annual Ard Fheis. Presented by Tara Mills.

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It is the first party conference in this political season and for the


first time Sinn Fein have brought their Ard Fheis north of the border.


Welcome to the The Conference programme coming today from the


Waterfront Hall. This gathering has been making use because of one of


its keynote speakers, and he has not even been a member of Sinn Fein.


We will hear some of what the Presbyterian Reverend Devon


Vladimir has to save. -- David Latimer. First I am joined by Mark


Devonport, our political editor. Changed times for Action Fein. --


changed times for Sinn Fein. Normally we need south of the


border and now it is north of the border. Most of the Sinn Fein


conferences have been down in Dublin. I cannot recall a time when


they would have had a mask man from the IRA addressing them, not a


minister. We were at one stage in a community centre in a fairly


private area of Dublin. But it is now part of the mainstream. I can


recall a time when the Waterfront Hall, when it was open, was a


target for a bomb alert. That was when Prince Charles officially


opened it. This is symbolic of the journey that Sinn Fein have come on


and some wider political processes in the country. Discussions last


night indicated change as well. It was not necessarily the target for


united Ireland by 2016. Martin McGuinness has been talking about


the need for national conversation to change island in the next five


years in the run up -- to change island in the next five years in


the run up to the 100 years. There is a lot of rhetoric and people are


interested in it David Latimer's appearance from last night. There


has been a lot of interest from the Dublin media are on the Irish


presidential campaign. Yes, there has been talk of having a president


for all of Ireland. Citizens north of the border are not entitled and


some think that should change. Given what has happened, the


withdrawal of Senator David Norris, there is the feeling that people


might want someone else to enter the race. This bubble might grow


with the more Sinn Fein figures like Mary Lou McDonald. Possibly


Michelle Gilda neo-, her name has been mentioned. -- Michelle


Gildernew, her name has been mentioned. Sinn Fein has entered


the race to try to take up some of the space that Fine Gael has


indicated. What we will be getting at this weekend is the identity of


the candidate. What did he make of the keynote Speaker last night?


David Latimer was an interesting Speaker because there was a bad


story to him. He is a Presbyterian minister who struck up a great


friendship with Martin McGuinness after seeking his help and stopping


his church being vandalised. He helped modernise the church. The


chemistry between those two is very evident. He spoke in very moderate


political tensions but overtly Christian and evangelical terms. --


political terms. Some of the Presbyterian audience outside this


area might have watched it and it might have put some of them off but


he went down very well within Waterfront Hall when he used --


called the Irish his friends and called the mind McGuinness one of


the greatest Irish leaders. -- called Martin McGuinness one of the


greatest Arras leaders. We will be hearing from Pearse Doherty. You


are riding high after two successful elections. Is there a


feeling of satisfaction? This is a departure for us, coming to Belfast.


There is a good atmosphere around the Irish this weekend and we are


looking forward to all of the speeches. There have been two


elections and who knows if it will be the first presidential election


or not. That decision will be made next week. There is the strong


sense that we are growing. There are a lot of young people and new


members here and there is a sense of a vibrancy. What about how the


assembly is going? There are accusations from your critics that


there is a double standard going on. You are able to say no to cuts in


the south but you are quite about public sector cuts in the north.


Our position is the same in both. We want to protect jobs and


services. We are dealing with the impact of cuts. This is why the


budget process took so long in the spring. We want to offset the


damage the Tories have done and come up with new ideas and generate


income so that we can protect vital services and public sector. We know


we are in a difficult situation and there it is no way to escape


unscathed. We want to protect jobs and public services and that has


been approached right across Ireland. What is your view on that?


There are many people who would say there is a double standard


operating. Critics would say that you cannot stand in opposition in


the south and say no to everything else. I do not think there is a


double standard. Sinn Fein is a united party and we have the same


principles north and south of the border. That is what our assembly


team had been doing in terms of making sure that we have been able


to diminish as much of the Tory cuts that people depend on. There


is a reality where we do not have complete cohesion in the six


counties and Sinn Fein are looking to regain economic sovereignty. Our


economic sovereignty has been handed away to Brussels. We live in


these two realities. The objectives are the same and that is to ensure


that the cuts, wherever they happen, do not come down on the most will


rubble and those on lower income has. -- most vulnerable. There was


a conversation about uniting Ireland in the next five years. Do


you accept that the 2016 target is gone? I do not think there was ever


a 2016 target. There were emotions about bringing Ireland together by


2016. There are some that would like it united by tomorrow morning.


These are the issues we want to work out as soon as possible. We


have seen the benefits economically and socially across all of the


different Spears of society. What Martin McGuinness addressed last


night is the changes that has happened in the last ideas and what


he has put out there to the wider community across Ireland about the


potential. What will Ireland look like in 2016? Will it look


different? I hope that it does. I hope that... Island is not in a


good place and we had huge cuts that are pushing down on people. --


We need to address the legacy of the past and we are confident as


Sinn Fein members that we are on the journey and we want to bring


our fellow neighbours and friends from different communities and


political perspectives on our journey and we are confident we can


do that. We will hear more from these guests in a moment but this


morning we have the First Deputy Minister, Martin McGuinness, who


has been speaking about the moments of a decade ago. He has been


talking about his thoughts on what happens on SEP- 11 to 2001 in New


York. -- 11th September to 2001. Myself and Gerry Adams were at a


meeting with the Taoiseach in Dublin. A civil servant rushed in


and told us that a plane had hit at the World Trade Centre and of


course we thought it was an accident. A short while later he


came back and said that a second plane had hit the World Trade


Centre and then we knew it was not an accident. Both myself and Gerry


Adams had travelled to New York on many occasions and our first but


work of concern for her many friends in that fine city. New York


has been a long-time supporter of Irish freedom and we have many


supporters in that city and throughout the United States. A


great friend of Ireland who visited here on many occasions, Father


Michael Judge, who was christened in Ireland, perished in the World


Trade Centre on that day with so many others. He was a frequent


visitor to Belfast and was a very badly injured. We thought the loss


of a father judge was something that impacted as very personally


indeed. It is important that as we said about uniting Ireland that we


are conscious of the important role that Irish people across the role


will play in that because that is the task that we as Republicans


have set ourselves and four as republicanism is not rhetoric. It


is real and it is in the here and now. Many people make the mistake


of thinking that republicanism is about... That was Martin McGuinness


speaking earlier. We can now go live to hear another Speaker.


dealt a blow to the new beginning to policing. Not only was he wrong


but we wonder why he defend the indefensible 40 years after the


event. -- defend the indefensible. Sinn Fein will not like this happen.


-- let this happen. The PSNI chief constable has a responsibility to


prevent this also. He must face down the dinosaurs. He needs to


attend a meeting with the community and the PSNI needs to atone for


past wrongs. It is too late for Al Hutchinson. Three separate reports


have condemned his leadership. I believe in fully accountable


policing, therefore I want the credibility of the office to be


restored. Al hundred saying is at the core of the problem -- Al


Hutchinson is at the core of the problem so he is not the one to fix


it. Let him hear it from this audience, he must go, he should go


Sinn Fein is here to continue the momentum to represent a fully


accountable service for the whole community. We will not stop until


that is achieved. If we do not, no one will. That is why we are on the


justice committee and dealing with police in partnerships. Our support


for policing, up north and south, is critical support. That means


that we will be the first to stand against problems in policing and


the E E D -- and be the first to sort it out and sort out criminal


We can speak again to Conor Murphy and Pearse Doherty who have stayed


with us. Trews recovery was a bleak theme of Martin McGuinness's speak


last night. -- trews recovery was a big theme. Some of the measures


seem to have worsened things. They have not brought a sense of


satisfaction and Gerry Kelly was referring to some of the problems


with the ombudsman's office. I think that is linked to that. It is


a very, very complex and difficult process but we have always argued


that a pot-pourri -- a proper cruise recovery process needs to be


one in which all parties are probably engaged. It needs to be


international in terms of its make- up so that's why we do not have a


sense of it being a under the ownership of anybody to a


protagonist. We are very keen to see that happen. It may not deal


with every issue that people have and every part of a legacy of a


very bitter and violent conflict but there are steps needed. Just on


that point, Martin McGuinness acknowledged last night that the


other parties have not bought into your idea yet of the International


truth Commission. Is it a first step towards trying to deal with


the past, there should be all-party talks on the past. There are forums


for all-party talks in the executive, in the Assembly. It is


not the best venue to have this discussion. We have put forward


ideas. I am not sure if others have ideas. It is necessary that we deal


with the legacy of the conflict. It is a necessary step to try to get


reconciliation, to deal with the past and trees -- the past and the


hurt. It also involves the British Government and the Irish Government


as well. That is where I said it needs to be a party in which every


party is brought into. To genuinely try to bring about the ad prices.


Martin McGuinness said last night he felt the British had not done


enough, but it is that Republicans have done very little in terms of


trews recovery. We have co-operated with the commission trying to


recover bodies as well and it has been a difficult process but we


have said it is very difficult to try to get one sort of organisation


that is related to the conflict to come forward in the absence of


every over. We want a genuine process that involves all


protagonists. In that way we can bring everybody together and try to


get some pleasure for many of the victims. How essential do you think


it is, because in these economic times, considering the cost of some


of the previous inquiries, something on an international level


because presumably even more than something on a more local level. Do


you think it is time to draw a line and it? If it depends if it is a


legal or judicial process which can beat very costly. But if it does


not necessarily involve lawyers, which tend to be the gate is to --


greatest cost, perhaps we can have a process which is not costly but


does give people the opportunity to ask questions to find out what


happened to their loved ones and to get some sense of pleasure. You


meet ten different families and there are 10 different solutions. -


- some sense of closure. It is a chance to do us so in a genuine way.


How important is true for recovery to your constituents and the


electorate in the south? Are you dealing with two distinct


electorate? Not really. The culprit was not just contained within the


six counties. But our people in the South not now more concerned about


jobs? Of course. We are not saying this is the priority but it is an


element. If we are to move forward we needed and we need all the


protagonists to come forward and engage in a meaningful way. So are


not trying to frustrate it or keep information hidden or away from the


families of the loved ones who lost their lives. We need that type of


prisoners to move forward as decided. People are still hurting


out there and we need some type of system. Sinn Fein have been very


open and genuine in coming with this type of solution. It is not


today or yesterday we have argued for such a system. We put it out


there for a number of years now and there is an onus on both


governments to engage with it. Pearse Doherty, to using with


hindsight you would agree with David Latimer that the Queen, in


visiting the sad and what she had to say there, that she actually


played a positive role in the trying to come to terms with the


past? -- the South. The visit to the garden of remembrance was


significant. When we look back and we are talking about drugs recovery,


the British Government are still refusing to hand over the files of


those bombings even though the Irish Government has demanded it


twice by a motion passed in that parliament. So when we are talking


about the truce, and we are looking out where the British Government


has a role to play. It affects the families, when you have the head of


state, the British Queen, the English queen, coming over, head of


the British Army, who were responsible in of view in part of


the Dublin Monaghan bombings and not moving forward by handing over


the files, we cannot move forward in a meaningful way. David Latimer,


a Presbyterian minister from Derry, address to delegates here at the


Ard Fheis. He's acceptance of the request to speak drew some


criticism. David is my friend. We have different allegiances but that


is all right. We have one thing in common. We believe in peace. We


believe in moving forward together. We believe in sharing. It gives me


a great, great pleasure to invite Thank you. My goodness. How can I


followed Martin McGuinness? Frankly, I do not think I can, because I see


him, Martin, I see you as one of the true great leaders of modern


times. And my prayer is that he will be


empowered and envisioned to take this forward in the inclusive way


that he is committed to, and I hope he gets the support from others


from within the other political parties, because it is together


that we are going to build the future better and brighter.


Martin did not tell you but he got me �1.6 million you know. I wonder


what I am expected to do tonight for that! But I must tell you about


a clergyman who was in a church for the first time and he was not quite


sure if the acoustics were just functioning properly soap he saw


somebody back in a corner and he said to them, can you are you all


right? The person said, I can, but I wish I could change places with


someone who can't! So do you want to change now? I heard you.


That his Irish for friends and I begin intentionally with this word


because that is what I firmly believe and in my script I have


written I firmly believe we are to be coming -- we are becoming, but


since arriving tonight I have been overwhelmed by the warmth and the


magnitude of the welcome that I have received, right from the


security men at the barriers as I came in, through the corridors and


into this hall. I do not think I would have the same welcome in the


general Assembly in Belfast. Your invitation to me, a Protestant


minister, is, I must tell you, forward looking and timely. I used


these words in a couple of interviews this week and do you


know something? Do you see the deluge of messages I have been


receiving from both our communities? I have been gobsmacked


by it. Only about 5% of a massive amount of messages have been


negative, and all the rest have been positive, which suggests to me


out there There is a swathe of people who are looking for positive


leadership so that together we can go forward. Is it possible, do you


think, that the Democratic Unionists could see their way to


invite a Catholic priest to address their party conference this year or


next? I would like to think my Co religion lists would emulate what


you have done, not for cheap publicity because that will not


take us anywhere. Rather, in recognition, despite our respective


Dublin or London preferences, which we have to learn to respect and


accept, but despite our differing aspirations, we want to acknowledge


that our destinies are tied up together and our futures are bound


together, which means, ladies and gentlemen, that neither of us can


continue to work alone and the more we do together as people on the


street, the better we will shape our shared future. What will we do?


We will keep moving forward together. We must not let the peace


die. We will not let the peace die, and with a man of the hell like


Martin, we can be sure of that. Four of you, my friends, -- for all


of you, my friends, the nationalists and Catholics, for me,


Presbyterian and Unionist, but together we are people made in the


image of God. And it is as people that I share this lovely blessing.


So listen to this, because it is for you and indeed it is the fall


or are people. May the Lord show his mercy upon us. May the light of


his presence be our guide. May he gardeners and a poll this. May his


spirit be ever art our side. When we sleep, may his angels watch over


us. When we wake, may you fill us with his grace. May we love him and


serve him all our days, then in heaven, may we see his face through


Jesus Christ our Lord. In the Name Of the Father, and of the Sun, and


of the Holy spirit. Amen. SPEAKS IRISH. Have I got it right?


Our guests are still with us. Conor Murphy, what did you make of the


Reverend David Latimer? He was a welcome guest. It was important. In


terms of the reconciliation process. But in terms of just relationship


building, and a show of respect for other communities, his decision to


come here was a courageous one for him. He was saying he has received


a huge amount of support in doing that but also he will face some


criticism and I think the genuine process of reconciliation takes


leadership, takes people from our perspective to step out there and


meet others halfway and people like David Latimer are doing that.


talked about a day of recognition. Do you support that? Anything which


contributes to a better prices of reconciliation, of engagement, can


help. -- a process. We need much more than a day to try to resolve


some of the legacy of the conflict, to try to share a future together


in which we can build a better new Ireland. Anything which contributes


to that should be supported. you imagine it happening, though?


This is even difficult to talk about a memorial to the troubles.


Yes, and I think that is the case and it shows you how complex an


area it is. Some of these things are in danger of becoming


superficial. It needs nice people from both communities to get


together. But I think we want a genuine it conciliation -- a


genuine reconciliation process. Last night there was a symbol of


that engagement. As Martin McGuinness said, we have a genuine


process of dialogue. Anything which contributes to that is helpful and


welcome but it is a process which needs all of the participants


bought into, which means Etude contribution from Evra body,


particularly the British Government and Irish Government, and through


that we can find a genuine process The last election we had Peter


Robinson talking about Catholics voting for the DUP. Do you think


that is realistic? I am sure there are people of Catholic faith and


some of have no religious faith in Sinn Fein, and there had been


people in the past from different religions. David Latimer addressing


The Conference was very symbolic. It was good for in a Sinn Fein to


goals and outside of them. Many people will think that someone from


the Protestant faith has addressed a Sinn Fein event and it is not


like that. We have had many different people from different


religions address Sinn Fein at our conferences. It is just a process


of outreach and engagement. We have talked about the journey that we


would like to go on together. To bring that about we have to be


engaged. It is about challenging all of us. David Latimer said that


some of the things of that mark McGuinness says -- Martin


McGuinness may challenge as but you have to take risks. Republicans


have always take -- taking risks and challenged ourselves.. We have


been trying to -- ourselves. We have been trying to gain some


reconciliation for things that have happened in the past. We can hear


from Mary Lou McDonald and a little of what she has been saying this


morning. The real reform that we need means more integration and


more responsive services. It means eliminating red tape and reversing


the front line. It means capping the high-flyers at the top and


ending the scandal of malty mention -- multi- million pension scandals.


It means that Citizens young and old can access the services that


they need. This is the reform agenda at that we in Sinn Fein will


champion and support. We will vigorously oppose any moves to


privatise services, to sell off valuable state companies and assets,


or to scapegoat public servants. We have one minister who is completing


a comprehensive spending review, of which there has been much talk in.


I leave you with this final plot. As the minister peruses this --


final thought. As the minister praises the spinal issues come up I


astute -- B's final issues, I ask you to think about cutting from the


top. Minister, know this, the ordinary people have a taking


enough, and we in this party and in this Sinn Fein party, we stand


shoulder to shoulder and if you come after us again we will come


right back at you. That is Mary-Lou McDonald talking about important


issues for people south and north of the border. We are joined by the


agricultural minister Michelle Gildernew and another guest. --


Agriculture Minister. Michelle, we have been talking about


agricultural policy reform and benefits and the subsidies paid


from Europe. How will you deal with some of these issues? I think it is


important that we approach this as a team Ireland approach. We need to


get everybody together and go out with a common purpose. We have the


same common goal. Together we can be a stronger voice in Europe. I


have done a lot of work with the Minister for the 26 counties and we


want to get a team Ireland approach a for Europe. Can it make a


difference? How much influence do you think you will rarely have?


have put our own submission in it to Europe on how we think the new


cap should be. We think it should be strong and flexible. I was able


to Secure or some meetings with and will ensure people in Europe and I


want to make sure that we have a strong voice in Europe and have the


best for our local farmers. We are very much differ from DEFRA in our


approach. They are not fighting as strong so I would like to stick to


the team Ireland approach. You are obviously within sight of Short


Strand here. Your constituency has had some difficult times. What can


Sinn Fein do to bring an end to some of the sectarian tensions?


are working with some of those who are taking the lead, grassroots


activists, who are helping out. We got a contribution from David


Latimer and we are very much up for engaging with the Unionists


Protestant loyalists. Her we bring a confidence in our own review of


the world and where we want to take our people collectively and that


includes the Unionist community. Are we talking about uniting


Ireland rather than a united Ireland? That is the ideology that


we appear to and that is what I have tried to do during my year


here in Belfast so far. I think that is the spirit with which


activists,. -- with which activists come. What happened in my


constituency was a pre-planned attack on the Short Strand


community and there is no doubt about that. A lot of the people


that I speak to in working-class loyalist areas feel left behind and


feel let down. Some of them feel abandoned by people who have


claimed to be political leaders. They should get a grip on that


situation because whatever perceived grievance or a legitimate


grievance, it cannot be justified, and that is why we have taking a


series of motions. It is not about having an event as a dividend as --


as significant as having dinner Latimer speech -- having David at


Latimer speak, but I have walked along with Sammy Douglas and you


have had people from Short Strand joining in and Sammy Douglas said


it was not the first time he had been on those streets at that time


of the morning but it was for different reasons. I am very


confident that there can be more. Belfast City Council is aspiring to


bringing down these problems but there is more debate about whether


more walls should be put up or not. I am not sure they would agree with


that. I am very conscious of being desires of the people who live


there and in the shadow of those walls. I think there needs to be


ongoing engagement with then. That is why I had been involved and I


think it is the people who will show us what needs to happen next.


Michelle O'Neill is here. Ministers have been speaking and the


Education Minister explain why they have been holding on to the


portfolio. Why has Sinn Fein been so resolute in remaining at the


helm of the Department of Education for the third term and a Northern


Assembly? I have been asked this question on numerous occasions and


the answer is simple. To education we can make real and positive


change to society. -- through education. We can get success


through a number of ways through education. We give credence to the


right plan. Some people might say that Sinn Fein shows some of the


Sedley easier ministers -- slightly easy ministers and do not want to


talk much about getting the private sector up and running again.


Education does not get more economic -- education, it does not


get more economic than that. It will be good for people to get into


the workplace. Those are all very positive things and this is an


economic department. I think employment rates in this department


are increasing day on day and the the future -- the future of looks


very positive. I think we need to make positive choices and you can


see right across The Conference that people are happy with the work


we are doing. There are many challenges and things to do but we


are happy with this challenge us. What was the reasoning behind some


of your comments? We are looking at the increasing the role and the


ministers are promoting things and Belfast. Delegates wanted it to


come north. The art has to be rotated. I am delighted to welcome


it here to Belfast. It is a historic city. You have ever 2000


delegates here in the City and that will be quite a boost -- over 2000


delegates here in the city and that will be quite a boost. I am


enjoying Belfast and hopefully they will come back. It is quite


impressive. It looks impressive. What about your people on the


ground was that will they have any questions about the cost of staging


a conference when people are struggling for their jobs? I think


that is a red herring to be honest. We have a budget for the events and


it is somewhat modest. Activists are a very pleased with the Budget.


It is in a sleek venue that is built for things like this. They


can wear it as a badge of honour for Belfast. This is about people


coming and putting their views forward about where they agree and


do not agree. It is a good opportunity and I do not think


there will be any complaints. is the future for Sinn Fein? What


his next? You have seen our success this year. It has been fantastic.


We have a very bright future. We have a very young party and it is


very progressive. I think the future is very bright. That is all


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