Sinn Fein Ard Fheis 2009

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Went to the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, my first (my work now sends me to all of the parties’ conferences). Happy coincidence, the first two sets of motions — International and Peace Process — were of most interest to me. Competent platform speeches by party representatives and international guest speakers (who I should have more readily recognised). Though, the format was a little old fashioned: strictly no spontaneous opinions from the floor to be heard as part of the proceedings, very controlled.

The international guest speakers represented the expected areas of camaraderie: Palestine, the Basque nation, and Sinn Féin’s fellowship in ending apartheid in South Africa.

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The Peace Process motions called for the transfer of some military sites for regeneration sites in Omagh, for the release of republican prisoners in the Republic of Ireland (under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, as implemented in Northern Ireland), and for the USA to drop its deportation order for “Long Kesh escapee” Pól Brennan.

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While listening to the speeches, I roamed the floor and took some occasional photographs. I was intrigued by Gerry Adams’ constant awareness that there could be a camera focused on him (as there usually was, and not by me!).

The conference organisers are very conscious of media communications. This was the first local conference I’d been to with the deployment of a teleprompter, which the audience found mild amusement in watching Gerry Kelly get used to using.

But my favourite light moment was the selling of plush teddy bears wearing jumpers displaying cross rifles, Irish tricolour and Plough and Stars flag, and slogan “Tioceaidh Ar La”. As tempting as it was, I did not acquire this souvenir as a gift for my wife.

Of course, I was there to work, and I can assure you that I had relevant conversations with those who could provide some requisite support for NIF projects.

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