Sunday, 6 September 2009

Historic Fianna Fáil Meeting in Co. Down

Coming to a Constituency near You

© Joe ÓNéill 2009
L to R Minister Éamon Ó Cuív, Minister Dermot Ahern, Dr. Rory O’Hanlon, TD; meet with South Down Fianna Fáil Forum members.

A short distance from the constituency office in Downpatrick, Co. Down, of the Social Democratic and Labour MP, Eddie McGrady, local Fianna Fáil supporters met on Saturday evening, in the historic Denvir's Hotel, to launch a Fianna Fáil forum group for the South Down region.

Fianna Fáil party heavyweights who addressed the meeting were; The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr Dermot Ahern, TD, ; Éamon Ó Cuív T.D., Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; and a grandson of party founder Éamon de Valera; and Dr. Rory O’Hanlon, TD; a former Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann; (House Speaker) 2002 - 2007.

In his opening remarks, Gerald Kelly, a Co. Down forum member, said it was fitting that the meeting should be held in Denvir's, as the establishment could trace its history back to a time when the United Irishmen had met there, leading up to the rebellion of 1798. Daniel O’Connell had also addressed a meeting from the hotel balcony, as he held monster meeting throughout the country, during the fight for Catholic emancipation.

All three speakers from the party stressed that they were there to listen and learn form local people, and that there would be no dictates from party headquarters as to how, or at what speed, party organisation should take place.

Minister Ó Cuív, in a light-hearted moment, reminded the audience that his family had a 100% voting record running in South Down, referring to the election of his grandfather as a Stormont MP for the area, in 1933.

The first speaker from the audience to address the forum was Harvey Bicker, a former member of the Ulster Unionist Party, and member of the Down District Council, who quit his party in February of this year, and joined Fianna Fáil. Mr. Bicker, originally from Banbridge, told the meeting how his family’s commitment to Republican ideals goes back even further than their involvement in the ‘98 rebellion. He received a standing ovation from the audience.

Mr. Bicker, a retired Colonel, served in both the British army and the Ulster Defence Regiment, he now serves on President McAlleese’s Council of State.

Local Councillor, Peter Fitzpatrick, from the SDLP, also welcomed the formation of the Fianna Fáil forum.
Martin McAllister, a Co. Armagh Fianna Fáil forum member, from Crossmaglen, also attended the meeting. A similar group has been established in the strongly Republican heartland area, and have opened an office in the village.

The move by Fianna Fáil to establish the forums is in keeping with a resolution adopted at the party conference last February. The resolution called for the party to establish machinery for party members in the north of Ireland, to meet with Fianna Fáil elected officials, party officers, and southern-based membership.

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