Saturday, 14 May 2011

Job Done

So sin é - Elections 2011 are over (at least until the by-election in west Béal Feirste next month!)

There's a lot I'd like to and probably should say, but for fear of loosing you, the faithful reader, I will simply thank all of those who placed their trust in me as well as Sinn Féin and decided to elect me to Belfast City Council.

For all candidates the run up to an election is hectic; from one door to another:

"Hello, my name is Niall Ó Donnghaile; I'm the Sinn Féin candidate for the Election on May 5th. I was just wondering if you had a few minutes for a chat or if there are any issues you wish to raise?"

I sometimes wonder am I repeating this mantra in my sleep?

But for all my messing, mantra or not, it paid off in the end!

To polling day itself; after a period of brilliant weather, my 5am rise was greeted with dull and drizzly weather - typical!

As always, we ventured to St Matthews School, awaiting, what we hoped, would be a vast influx of Sinn Féin voters. As the day went on, we weren't disappointed.

Thanks to those who opened up their homes (and fridges and kitchen cupboards) to our activists working hard on the day and allowed us the space to turn their homes into something resembling the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, with people shouting figures across the room, computers wizzing, printers printing and wires galore we were lucky no one tripped!

As polling day progressed, it became clear that some of the Electoral Office staff weren't entirely ofay with what had to be done given the fact that there were three different ballots on the one day - it also became clear that the three papers were causing a lot of confusion, particularly for our older citizens. We stressed with them the need to improve the process of giving people papers, explaining what they to do and allowing them the chance to exercise their vote. After some time the process improved and we are thankful to the staff for their work on the day.

As the evening drew in we were glad to see a rush of people, returning home from university, work, (special mention to the one who came all the way from Kerry!) and other places to cast their votes - it also saw our team swelling as supporters wanted to play their part in what had the potential to be a great victory.

Again Sinn Féin thanks them all and thanks everyone who voted Sinn Féin number one or indeed those who didn't but heeded our message that sometimes a transfer was just as important!

As for the Assembly Count in Newtonards - well that's a blog (or novel!) for another time.

I am delighted to have been elected to represent the people of Pottinger in City Hall; I look forward to working with my fellow Councillors for the area on the issues affecting our people day and daily on the ground.

For too long now many people (including some from the Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist community) felt that having solely Unionist representation for Pottinger was not allowing a voice for many citizens, particularly those in working class inner east Belfast - following this weeks result, one thing is for certain, that is about to change.

As for Béal Feirste over all - Sinn Féin is again the largest party increasing our share of seats under the 'Dome of Delight' from 14 to 16 - many of us were bitterly disappointed (particularly given the year that's in it) not to be welcoming Mary Doyle, former Armagh protesting POW and Hunger Striker, onto the Council with us. Also the loss of Briege Bownlee, herself a former protesting POW, will no doubt be a blow to the people of the lower Falls who will fell the loss of her hard work on Council the most.

I have no doubt that both women will continue to work for our people and ensure a voice for them enters into City Hall next time around.

As for my newly elected and re-elected comrades; I look forward to working with and helping them all over the term of Belfast City Council. Go n-eirí linn!

A few short weeks ago at Easter, I had the tremendous honour and privilege to speak at the Republican monument in the Short Strand, 'An Tine Bheo'.

I spoke about the importance of what An Tine Bheo (The Living Flame) meant for Republicans right across Ireland as we continue to grow and advance our republican project.

For me An Tine Bheo is the legacy left to us by the men and women who have gone before; who struggled, fought, campaigned, protested and died in pursuit of our ultimate objectives. We continue to take our lead, our inspiration, our courage and our determination from them as we pursue a new era of republican struggle.

An Tine Bheo is not bricks or mortar; it is in us; it is of us; and now it shines brighter than ever in Stormont, in Leinster House, Belfast City Hall and in institutions right across Ireland and beyond.

Beirigí Bua!