By Cate McCurry, PA
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald has called for a general election in the Republic, describing the years of governance by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael as political “hokey pokey”.
Ms McDonald hit out at what she said was the “cosy club” of parties that have been in government for a century.
She used her keynote speech at the party’s Ard Fheis in Dublin to call for a Sinn Fein-led government.
It comes as a Sunday Independent/Ireland Thinks opinion poll revealed that support for the party remains ahead of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.
However, the poll also found that support for Sinn Fein dropped three points to 34 per cent but the party retains a 13-point lead ahead of Fine Gael at 21 per cent while Fianna Fail sits at 17 per cent. Support for both parties remain unchanged.
The poll was carried out among 1,002 people.
Support for Sinn Fein has been growing in recent years, with the party taking 22.3 per cent of first preferences in the 2020 general election.
Ms McDonald’s speech was met with a standing ovation by more than 2,000 Sinn Fein members who gathered at the Shelbourne Hall in the RDS in south Dublin on Saturday.
She also condemned Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, sent condolences to the families of those who died in the Creeslough tragedy and criticised the treatment of Traveller and the LGBTQ communities.
Ms McDonald said that the two main parties in government have “had their time” and their chance, saying it is a time for a new government.
“A government of change. A government for the people,” Ms McDonald added.
“Change can’t be stopped by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, now so joined at the hip that it doesn’t matter to them which leader is Taoiseach.
“So long as it’s one of them. Leo leaves, Micheal goes in. Micheal leaves next month, Leo goes back in. In. Out. In. Out. Political hokey pokey.
“That’s the cosy club that has run this state for a century.
“Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have had their time, had their chance. It’s time for a new government. A government of change. A government for the people.
“Change can’t be stopped by the chaotic Tories in London either.
“They can’t run their own country without bringing it to the brink of financial ruin. They certainly have no right to tell the people of Ireland how to run ours.”
Referring to Sinn Fein’s historic win in May in the Northern Ireland Assembly election, which resulted in the party winning the most seats for the first time, Ms McDonald said there is “no turning back”.
She told members that the result of the election reflects the “spirit for change”.
“For the first time, a republican, a nationalist, a woman from Tyrone, was elected as First Minister in a state designed to ensure that this could never happen,” the Dublin Central TD added.
“Well friends, it did. Michelle O’Neill a first minister for all. There is no turning back.
“There is now no job in the land off limits to anyone. The days of second-class citizenship are over.
“A new generation moves together, to a new Ireland where everyone has the chance to realise their dreams. To push the boundaries. To exceed expectations. To succeed. To change Ireland.
“Change means a place called home. A secure, affordable roof over your head.
“It means access to a doctor, to hospital and to care when you need it.
“It means real opportunity, good jobs, decent pay, and the right to retire at 65 on a fair pension.
“And friends, change means taking those final steps to full nationhood, ending partition, reunifying Ireland.”
In a message to those who she said were “apprehensive” about Irish unity, Ms McDonald said that all will be “cherished, included, respected as equal citizens”.
“This is your place. This is your home. Be part of shaping its future,” she added.
She also said that those who say yes to Irish unity but not now are wrong.
“The time to plan for peaceful, democratic, constitutional change is now. The days of treading water are over.
“The Irish government must immediately establish a Citizens’ Assembly on unity.
“If this government refuses to hear tomorrow coming, if it does not establish a Citizens’ Assembly, Sinn Fein in government will.”