Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Words on Wednesday...with Arthur Morgan TD

Arthur MorganWelcome to this week's Words on Wednesday feature here on United Irelander, a concept unique to the Irish blogosphere, which sees me interview various figures from all walks of political life.

The countdown to the General Election continues in earnest here on UI as Sinn Féin TD for Louth, Arthur Morgan, takes my questions this week. To prevent confusion, I should point out that this interview was conducted prior to the groundbreaking events that occurred over the weekend which is why said events were not discussed.

My thanks to Mr Morgan for agreeing to be interviewed. With that out of the way let's begin...

What initially attracted you to political life?

I grew up in the late 1960s, at a time when Civil Rights marches were taking place across America. Soon, those marches began here in Ireland as well. Since I have always had an interest in Irish history, it was natural that I become involved in Civil and National Rights issues.

You are a Sinn Féin TD for Louth. Talk us through a typical day in your life.

My phone rang this morning at 6.20am – but that’s not typical! I get up between 6.00am and 7.00am, check some papers etc for the day’s business and leave for the Dail around 8.30am – leaving me on the motorway while most people are leaving children to school – arriving at the Dail around 10.15am. Several meetings with groups and Dail Committees, legislation/debate and head for home at 7.00 to 8.00pm, usually taking in one or two calls on my way home. I like to hit bed around midnight – no later, if possible.

If you could change three things about Irish society what would you change and why?

I would love to get back to the great caring attitude of Irish people which I recall from my youth (is this a sign I’m getting old?) In the rush of modern society, we sometimes become more “me, me” and that is sad.

I would love to see more preventative care in our health system. Yes, it would cost up front. But we would save significantly financially within a few years and save our people unnecessary pain and suffering.

Quality of life issues are rarely considered now. This is an important area, worthy of more attention.

What are your thoughts on a United Ireland?

I believe Irish Reunification is closer than ever. Look, for example, at last year’s 1916 commemorations – the Government were falling over themselves to honour our Patriot dead. Even Fine Gael are trying to present themselves as Republicans! I believe more and more people are beginning to recognise the economic and social arguments in favour of Irish Unity and political parties in the south are attempting to portray themselves as republicans and advocates of unity to play up to that section of the electorate. Happy days. Bring it on.

What do you make of the recent election results in the North which have seen Sinn Féin take an impressive 28 seats?

I was delighted with the impressive results and our huge success in those elections. As I said, more and more people recognise the economic and social arguments in favour of Irish Unity. You will see that view reflected in this State soon as well.

What needs to be done to improve the situation in the North?

Conditions for society need to improve through provision of better infrastructure. For example, there is a housing crisis for several decades now and healthcare is almost as bad as in this State. Similarly with education provision. I know these issues can be tackled and resolved by a local Administration, rather than ‘fly-in-fly-out’ Brit Ministers.

The two governments have said if the Assembly cannot be restored that a Plan B will come into play involving 'joint stewardship' of the North. What are your feelings on that?

I believe the best option is for the Assembly to get back up and running. However, if this is to be continually obstructed by the DUP, then the two Governments should get on with implementing as much of the Good Friday Agreement as possible. I also hope the Irish Government will become more pro-active rather than the semi-spectator role played by them recently.

Sinn Féin made the historic decision earlier this year to support the PSNI. How did you feel about that at the time, and do you think Sinn Féin's impressive election results vindicate that decision?

Like most Republicans, I had huge reservations about the PSNI. However, we have achieved massive change to policing, that I believe can deliver a civic police service to ALL in the North. Our Extraordinary Ard Fheis decision was taken for this reason and not for short term electoral gain.

One of the issues you feel very strongly about is the threat posed by the Sellafield nuclear facility. Tell us a bit about your campaign against Sellafield.

When I began campaigning against Sellafield, a local FF Councillor called on me to be silent as I was ‘scaring tourists away’! I was a lone voice at the time. Now, of course, every Government Minister and her sister are opposed to Sellafield. I visited the site, travelled to Europe and handed Tony Blair personal letters (on two occasions) while in Downing Street on Peace Process business. I raise it in the Dail regularly and am far from finished on this campaign.

You are Sinn Féin's party spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government. What are your thoughts on global warming which has become such a major issue in the world?

This is a massive issue which almost all governments are refusing to tackle. For example, our Government have allocated €270 million to emissions trading, thus putting a key cornerstone of national policy on BUYING our way through Kyoto, rather than implementing serious changes, both fiscal and regulatory, to ensure specific targets are met. Without specific, achievable targets for Industry as well as transport and householders, we will struggle with this problem. We owe it to future generations that we pass on this little planet to them in reasonable condition.

Do you expect to see more cross-border co-operation in the near future? How would this help your own constituency of Louth?

Yes. I expect and hope to see more cross-border co-operation in the future. This would and could help the people of Louth and all the border counties in a very practical way in terms of roads infrastructure and speed limits, mobile phone tariffs, health services and access to emergency services and in enterprise and job creation. In fact cross-border co-operation has the potential to enhance the quality of life of so many citizens on both sides of the border in many, many ways.

Looking at the election approaching here in the Republic, do you think it is possible that Sinn Féin could end up in government?

Everything is possible but it is impossible to predict until after the electorate have spoken and the votes are counted. What is certain is that Sinn Féin will not entertain any party that is not prepared to commit to achieving our goals of ending the crisis in the health service, providing social housing for the many thousands on the waiting lists and re-uniting the country.

With regards to your own Louth constituency, how confident are you of hanging on to your seat?

Quietly confident.

From talking to your constituents, what are you finding their biggest concerns to be?

Healthcare and housing are the two big issues in Co Louth. Our hospital has lost its Children’s ward, Maternity Unit, Gynae ward and several other crucial services. Under current HSE/Government plans, it will loose A & E as well as our Intensive Care Unit next year. On housing, there are almost three thousand people on Social Housing Waiting lists and thousands more unable to afford to buy their own home. Without doubt, these are the two big issues.

What do you expect will be the outcome of this summer's general election?

Only two things are certain. They are that there will be an election and that from the election there will be a coalition government formed. I don’t buy into the notion that the election is a two horse race between the current coalition and the proposed Fine Gael/Labour coalition. I think some parties will be forced to re-think their coalition options after the election and I also think that we may well see a change in some of the party’s leaderships.

Where should Ireland be twenty years from now in your opinion?

United, free, prosperous, peaceful and healthy with great public services and infrastructure.

What does the future hold in store for you?

I can’t really plan for the future until the people of Louth speak through the ballot box in eight or ten weeks from now.

Finally I'd like to play a small round of word association. I'm sure you know what it entails. Basically just outline what word comes into your head when you hear the following:

Bertie Ahern - ruthless
Tony Blair - has-been
Ian Paisley - old man
Gerry Adams - shrewd
Mark Durkan - why say one word when you can say twenty
United Ireland - happening soon
Unionism - spent force
Sinn Féin - THE future
Fianna Fáil - mafia
Arthur Morgan - do I know him?

Best of luck to Arthur in his bid to retain his Louth seat.

Next week, Independent TD for Dublin Central, Tony Gregory, takes my questions. Make sure to check out United Irelander's election coverage over the coming weeks and months.

Previous interviews can be read here.


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