On Saturday 29th last, the same evening as almost 2,000 Clonmellians marched to protest against the water tax, Tipperary Sinn Féin held a dinner to celebrate their most recent electoral successes.
The night was a vibrant success, seeing both Mary Lou McDonald TD and Liadh Ní Riada MEP and the 5 Tipperary Sinn Féin councillors address an overflowing function room in the Anner Hotel, Thurles.
The keynote address was from Mary Lou, to the enjoyment of attendees and staff alike, while Cllr David Doran was an entertaining Master of Ceremonies for the large Thurles contingent.
Speaking without notes, Mary Lou explained that the Sinn Féin mission was to shape and change the country, to make it a suitable place for ordinary people to live. Referring to the promise of 1916, she said that the Easter proclamation was about “equality, fairness, democracy, sovereignty, identity, place – all of those things were radical a century ago. All of those things are radical now. That’s the Ireland that I want to live in.”
In commenting on her being much in the news recently – on the ‘naughty step’ as she called it – she rejected the elitist attitudes in the Dáil, citing an example where the Ceann Comhairle showed greater concern for bankers than for elected Sinn Féin TDs representing their constituents interests.
Explaining why she was in politics, she explained that the party was for “in our time, in our generation, shaping and changing our country”. In so doing she re-iterated Sinn Féin’s pledge to remove water charges, a theme well received by members of all cumanns.
Mary Lou went further and stated that she took it as a compliment that Fine Gael – and elements of the media – are now attacking Sinn Féin so strongly.
This can be taken as evidence that the establishment parties realise that Sinn Féin are recognised as not being tainted like other political parties. That the present popularity of the party was a worry for the parties who consider the process of government to be theirs by right.
Proudly stating her own Tipperary heritage, she stated that it was now time for a Sinn Féin TD to be elected to represent the counties’ interests in Dáil Éireann, and challenged the members present to set this as a target for themselves.
MEP Liadh Ní Riada in turn spoke of the importance to Tipperary of the European parliament, and explained that funding can be drawn down by small groups from Europe to aid their causes, and freely offered her assistance in this regard.
For Sinn Féin in Tipperary, this was an unprecedented night of celebration. Each of the councillors outlined their memories of their election effort and commented on the work that had been done in the constituency since that time.
While each councillor thanked their volunteers, Cllr David Doran also took time to remember the work of so many republicans that have gone before. In recognising their contribution to the cause of a united Republic of the Irish, he named Bobby Sands as one of his personal heroes, as one who cared enough about his dream for his country that he was willing to die for it. This theme was continued by reference to others who have worked long and hard for their beliefs.
Entertainment was provided by Tipperary favourites, “Rebel Hearts”.
During the course of the evening – to the great enjoyment of the large crowd – the song “Joe McDonnell” was sung, without apology.