Full text of Michelle O’Neill’s speech in Newry
It is fantastic to see such a great gathering of republicans here this evening to officially launch our party’s general election campaign.
If ever there was any doubt that we are party on the rise – a party on the cusp of transforming politics and outcomes right across this island, they only have to take a look around this room tonight.
This gathering is testimony to the strength of Sinn Féin as a 32-county party with representation, support and ambitions in every corner of Ireland.
I want to thank all you who put yourselves forward for selection across the constituencies to date, and congratulate those of you who have been selected to contest this election on behalf of the Sinn Féin party.
It is inspiring to see such an impressive panel of candidates going forward to contest this election and I have no doubt that you will all do us proud on June 8th.
This election was called by the British Prime Minister Theresa May for all the wrong reasons. It is only in the self-interests of the Tory party who have no regard whatsoever for the people of the North, our interests or our future.
But it is again another opportunity for the people to have their say.
An opportunity to reject Brexit.
To reject a hard border.
To reject the freedom of movement.
To reject barriers to agriculture and trade.
To reject Tory cuts.
This is an opportunity to reject Theresa May and her local allies in the DUP and the UUP who want to hold this society back.
It is possible for the north to stay in the EU through designated special status and our senior leadership have been on a diplomatic offensive arguing this case among the EU27 who will determine the British exit terms from the EU.
We can make it absolutely clear that we want unity and prosperity on this island with no borders – hard or soft.
We made history together in the March Assembly election because we rallied the people and they responded to our call.
This can be another ground-breaking election for Sinn Féin.
And it is the people in this room who will make it happen.
The recent Assembly election has activated a transformation unimaginable to the founders of the Northern state.
We must keep the momentum going.
Irish unity is now firmly on the agenda and rights and equality having been put at the top of the political agenda.
It is of critical importance that Sinn Féin actively seeks to win social, economic and cultural rights for everyone.
The best way to do that is to work in tandem with those who are denied those rights. So, that’s what we are doing.
I am confident that as the consequences of Brexit become clearer more and more people from a unionist background will be open to the idea of exploring new relationships on this island.
We need to be intelligently putting the argument for unity and for a referendum as set out in the Good Friday Agreement.
We go in to this election determined to win additional seats including the historic Fermanagh South Tyrone constituency whose people elected Bobby Sands and North Belfast with a fantastic candidate in John Finucane.
Fáilte romhat John!
So, we will stand against Brexit, stand against a hard border and against Tory cuts.
We will stand up for equality, for rights and for Irish unity.
And we will send a clear message to Theresa May and her Tory cabinet of millionaires that they have no mandate in Ireland – that they do not speak for us.
They want to ignore the result of the Assembly election just as they are ignoring the result of the EU referendum.
Fixty-six percent of the people here voted to remain in Europe but Theresa May and Arlene Foster want to drag us out of the EU against our will.
They can’t be allowed to succeed because Brexit will be a disaster for our economy. It will be a disaster for local business, for farmers and the wider agri-food industry, for the health service, for workers’ rights and border communities like this one here in Newry/Dundalk.
So let’s get out there and fight back.
We are entering a new political era.
The opportunities for real change are within our grasp.
The old certainties are gone.
The perpetual unionist majority has ended.
Europe is in a state of flux.
Now is the time for real change and the onus is on us to shape and organise that change.
As a party we are the strongest we have ever been.
If we lower our expectations or limit our vision then we are not playing to our own strengths.
If you think our local political opponents are going to win; or if you think you cannot win, then without doubt that is what will happen.
You won’t win.
However, if you go out to win, if you believe you can win, if we organise and invite others to get on board with us, then we will win.
We made history on March 2nd.
On June 8th, let’s get out and do it again.
Go raibh maith agaibh go leor