Sunday, 18 March 2012

Reclaiming our country

First of all, thanks to all who attended Sinn Féin's public meeting in Kilbarrack (above) last Thursday 15th March, and especially to our excellent speakers. The meeting heard powerful testimony of the impact of cuts and charges and the failure of the political system on our communities. But it also heard calls to action and a message of hope.

Local community activist Cathleen O'Neill of Kilbarrack Community Development Programme spoke of the anger at the imposition of the Household Charge and this was one of the main themes of the meeting. Cathleen said that she is not paying this unjust tax and cited the scandal of the continuing payment of billions to Anglo-Irish Bank bond-holders while the low paid and the unemployed are punished by the Fine Gael/Labour Government.

Edward Matthews, Industrial Relations Officer of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation in North Dublin - covering the North city and county - gave a hard-hitting account of what the health cuts mean for citizens. This includes not only over-crowded emergency departments and longer waiting lists for vital treatment in Beaumont and other hospitals, but also less care for older people with home help hours being cut and community nurses unable to provide the regular checks that they once could make to help ensure the safety of old people living alone.

Darren Kelly of the Priory Hall residents described their ordeal from the day they put their names down for the apartments until the present situation as they live in limbo and face possible bankruptcy. Scandalously, Minister Phil Hogan still refuses to meet the residents, spuriously claiming that he is prevented from doing so by continuing legal actions - even though the residents themselves are not in court.

Darren Kelly summed it all up well when he said that the residents had learned the need to campaign as they have been so badly let down by the State which allowed unscrupulous developer McFeeley to build such a disastrous complex as Priory Hall, and with the Government now refusing to intervene. "We have to reclaim our country, reclaim our Republic", said Darren.

This theme was taken up by Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou  McDonald TD. She said she would not be paying the Household Charge. She spoke of the need for political action - this is not a time when anyone can leave politics to the politicians and people are getting active in their communities and around campaigns such as those against the Household Charge and the cuts to health and education. People power can make a difference as the Coalition's partial climb-down on cuts to disadvantaged schools has shown; that was a combination of action in the Dáil led by Sinn Féin and on the streets led by campaigning parents, pupils and teachers.

This was the first public meeting we had in the area since I was co-opted to Dublin City Council last May; I took the opportunty to thank all who have assisted me since then, especially Councillor Larry O'Toole, leader of our group on Dublin City Council. In summing up the meeting I reminded people that we will face many more years of cuts, unjust charges and mass unemployment if the EU Austerity Treaty is accepted - that's why we need a massive 'NO' vote in the referendum, whenever it is held.

Ní neart go cur le chéile - Unity is strength.

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