THE Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in Killarney at the weekend saw a mass exodus of party activists from county Derry. Delegates and visitors at the Ard Fheis were buoyed with enthusiasm as a weekend Irish Times/IPSO MRBI poll showed that Sinn Féin is the fastest growing party in the country and surging as the leader of anti-treaty forces. The treaty this time being the European Fiscal Treaty which Sinn Féin describes as an austerity treaty.
The weekend poll showed support for the party in the 26 counties at 24 percent, a gain of three points since April with more than twice as many voters prepared to vote for Sinn Féin than governing party, Labour, who are the republican party’s principal rivals for the left wing vote.
The Sinn Féin Ard Fheis was addressed by many delegates from county Derry and saw a range of motions from local cumainn adopted which dealt with a wide range of issues including opposition to an EU Free Trade Agreement with Columbia, youth unemployment, political reform, national reconcilation and Irish Unity.
Addressing the Ard Fheis international section on Friday night in support of a motion from Fergal O’Hanlon/John Davey Sinn Féin Cumann, Lavey , local party activist, Paul Henry said that Columbia should not be rewarded with a Free Trade Agreement whilst workers continue to be murdered for standing up for their basic rights. The Lavey activist who focusses on International and European issues on behalf of Sinn Féin, referred to a recent report from respected international NGO, Human Rights Watch that stated Columbia leads the world in the killing of trade unionists as well a report from the Columbian Trade Union Federation which dealt with the killing of nearly 3,000 trade unionists since 1986 by right wing paramiliataries working in direct collusion with Columbian state agents.
The Ard Fheis adopted the Lavey cumann motion calling on the European Union and the rest of the international community to stand together in condemning the horrific situation in Columbia and to tell the regime in Bogota that trade benefits will only be improved if the human rights situation is improved.
Proposing a motion on behalf of the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle, Magherafelt district councillor, Seán McPeake who is a member of his party’s Policing & Justice advisory group called on the incoming Police Ombudsman “as a matter of priority to rebuild the community confidence and trust in their office as a key accountability mechanism for holding the Chief Constable and the Police Service to account in a transparent and credible manner so essential to consolidating the new policing dispensation.” The Ard Fheis also supported Cllr. McPeake’s call for “total opposition to the use of plastic bullets under any circumstances.”
The Ard Fheis adopted a motion from Derry Comhairle Ceantair welcoming the historic decision to bring the all-Ireland Fleadh Ceoll to Derry in 2013. Young Park man, Diarmaid Ward, a leading activist in the party’s youth section, Ógra Shinn Féin hosted a special Ard Fheis event on Friday evening to launch a national campaign to address the issues of youth unemployment and emigration.
Speaking on her return from Killarney, Magherafelt councillor, Catherine Elattar said: “The Sinn Féin Ard Fheis provided activists with the chance to renew our commitment to national and democratic objectives while focussing on the bad choices of succesive right wing governments in Dublin who continue to force over 70,000 Irish citizens to emigrate each year.
“Over the weekend, Sinn Féin once again offered solutions which are fair, while demonstrating that a single island economy makes sense and that a United Ireland is in the best interests of all our people.”