Darren O'Rourke


Darren O’Rourke has welcomed the increase in support for Sinn Féin in Meath East saying that the result represents an important advance for the party in the constituency.

Speaking from the count centre in Ashbourne O’Rourke said:

“From the outset the media had this down as a two-horse race.

“Fine Gael may have won this election but the low turnout demonstrates a huge level of disillusionment with politics as a whole.  The decision by Fine Gael to curb voting hours was wrong and it took away from many people, particularly commuters, their opportunity to vote.

“I welcome the increase in support for Sinn Féin in Meath East. Sinn Féin is a growing force in this constituency and we intend to build on this result in future elections.  We will be challenging for a Dáil seat in Meath East at the next election.

“I am proud to have represented my party in this by-election, my first electoral outing.

“I wish to thank all those who worked on my campaign and particularly to thank all those people who voted for me. Despite the weather and despite the fact that the government cynically reduced the polling hours, a huge amount of people went out of their way to give myself and my party their number one vote and for that I thank them. 

“I will continue to work for the people of Meath East.  As Sinn Féin’s representative for Meath East I will continue to campaign for a better, fairer alternative to the cosy political consensus of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour.”

The Sinn Féin candidate in the Meath East by-election, Darren O’Rourke, was in Dublin today for the publication of the party’s Property Tax Repeal Bill.
Speaking at the event O’Rourke said:

“All along this campaign I have been telling voters that a vote for Sinn Féin is a vote against the Property Tax. Today my party launched a Bill which would, if enacted, abolish this unfair tax and refund the tax paid by citizens in the year it is scrapped.

“By publishing this Bill we have shown that we don’t just talk the talk but that we deliver. We are saying very clearly that Sinn Féin in government would abolish this tax on the family home.

“This is a huge issue across the state but particularly in Meath East where the developer-led policies of Fianna Fáil have left a lasting impression in the form of unfinished housing estates and mortgage distress.

“The people of Meath East have a unique opportunity to give their verdict on this and the range of other austerity measures that have crippled hardworking people.

“The people of Meath East have the opportunity to send a message – enough is enough.”

Sinn Féin activists were out in force in the constituency of Meath East over the weekend.

Speaking from the campaign trail in Stamullan today, Darren O’Rourke said:

“There are three days left in this campaign. That’s three days for the voters to give their verdict the policies of the establishment parties.

“Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour are one in the same. They are the consensus for cuts. Fianna Fáil wrote the script on austerity, Fine Gael and Labour are seeing it through.

“Sinn Féin activists have been out in force across the constituency this weekend putting forward our alternative message to voters. We are the only party outside the cosy consensus and with the right policies to get the economy back on track in a way that is fair.

“The people of Meath East know all too well the effects of austerity. They are living with it every day. The last thing we need here is another government or failed Fianna Fáil politician.

“I am urging people to use their voice to send a message to those establishment parties – enough is enough.”

Sinn Féin’s Darren O’Rourke has expressed outrage at the fact that there is not a single unfinished housing estate in the constituency of Meath East exempt from the Property Tax.

Speaking in Kells today O’Rourke said:

“There are 84 unfinished housing estates in Meath. Of that 84 only two are exempt from paying the Property Tax. Those two are in Trim and Drogheda. Not a single unfinished estate in the constituency of Meath East has been included in the list.

“This really is nothing short of a scandal.

“Fianna Fáil’s developer-led housing policy is what led to the housing crisis in this constituency. Now Fine Gael and Labour want people to fork out for the pleasure of living in unfinished ghost estates. It is quite simply a disgrace.

“This tax is not only a shambles but it is inherently unfair, takes no account of ability to pay or of negative equity or mortgage arrears.

“Sinn Féin has opposed this unfair tax from the outset and will continue to campaign for its abolition.

“A vote for Sinn Féin is a vote against the Property Tax.

“There is a better, fairer way. There are other options the government could look at including a tax on wealth.”

Sinn Féin’s Darren O’Rourke has accused Fianna Fáil candidate Thomas Byrne of attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of the electorate.

O’Rourke said:

“Fianna Fáil scripted the austerity policies that are now crippling hard working people. Fine Gael and Labour are implementing them.

“The Fianna Fáil candidate in this by-election has been making a lot of noise about alternatives and change. And that would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that it was his party that caused this mess in the first place. It is clear that Fianna Fáil is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the electorate in their attempt to reinvent themselves.

“What Thomas Byrne forgets is that he was a government TD in the era of Bertie and Cowen; in the era of the tribunals, bank bailouts and golden handshakes. He backed the Fianna Fáil leadership every step of the way and voted for every cut, every charge and every austerity measure brought in by that government.

“Thomas Byrne can talk about alternatives and change all he likes but the reality is that he cannot run away from the economic ruin his party caused.

“Sinn Féin is the only party outside the cosy political consensus. We are the only party with the policies to get the economy back on track in a way that is fair.

“Meath East has felt the full force of the failed austerity policies of Fianna Fáil. Unemployment, cuts to public services and the mortgage crisis have crippled ordinary working people.

“This constituency does not need more of the same. It needs new ideas, a new voice and real representation.”

The Sinn Féin candidate in the Meath East by-election, Darren O’Rourke, has today said that "Meath East needs a new voice and new representation".

Speaking from the canvass trail in Duleek O’Rourke said:

“The last thing this constituency needs is another government or Fianna Fáil TD.

“Meath East has been failed by the policies of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael which, as we all know, are one in the same.

“Over 10,000 people are unemployed in Meath alone with thousands of young people being forced to emigrate in search of work. The developer-led policies of Fianna Fáil have created a mortgage crisis which has hit the people of Meath East particularly hard. The Property Tax, scripted by Fianna Fáil and implemented by Fine Gael and Labour, will cripple already hard-pressed families.

“This constituency needs a new voice and new ideas.

“Sinn Féin has shown that there is a better, fairer way forward that does not include forcing those who have the least to pay the most; that does not include slashing public services while the top brass of the public sector are paid huge wages; that does not include bailing out millionaire bankers while people lose their homes.

“This constituency needs new representation, not more of the same.”

The Sinn Féin candidate in the Meath East by-election, Darren O’Rourke, has called on the government to implement a job creation strategy for Meath East.

O’Rourke said that Sinn Féin is the only party with the policies to get the constituency back working.

He said:

“Fianna Fáil created the jobs crisis. Fine Gael and Labour are not solving it.

“There are over 10,000 people unemployed in Meath with over 2,200 out of work in Kells alone. Emigration is at famine era levels. My own brother was recently forced to emigrate because he just couldn’t find any work. He is one of thousands of young, highly qualified, bright young people forced turn their backs on their country because the government has turned its back on them.

“With its proximity to Dublin airport and other transport links, Meath is an ideal place for businesses to locate, yet the country continues to be overlooked for jobs and investment.

“It is time for new ideas and a new plan to get Meath East back to work. I believe that Sinn Féin is the only party with the policies to get the constituency back to work. We are calling for:

·         A €13 billion statewide job stimulus plan to create 156,000 jobs and retain up to 15,000 existing jobs

·         Open up state procurement to small companies

·         Set job creation targets for regional areas like Meath

·         Develop the tourism potential of Meath East including developing the Boyne Valley as a major tourism, walking and cycling green route

·         Build on Meath’s natural strengths in agriculture and support development of agri-food business

·         Ensure every young person in Meath has access to a job, training or education and is not forced to emigrate

“These are just a few of Sinn Féin’s innovative job creation proposals. I believe that with the right policies we can get Meath East working and I believe that Sinn Féin has those policies.”

The Sinn Féin candidate for the Meath East by-election, Darren O’Rourke, has said that “the people of Meath East have been failed by the current health Minister James Reilly”, and called for his resignation.

O’Rourke spent this afternoon campaign in rural East Meath with the Sinn Féin health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin.

He said:

 “Frontline health services in East Meath have been devastated by multi-billion euro cuts devised by Fianna Fáil and delivered by Fine Gael and Labour.

“This has had a direct impact on acute hospitals at Navan, Drogheda and Blanchardstown.

“In 2013 alone almost 60,000 home help hours will be cut in Meath East, 750 health service staff will lose their jobs , 55 public nursing home beds will be closed and mobility and transport allowances for people with disabilities will be cancelled. And all this at a time when huge salaries and bonuses are paid to the top brass of the HSE.

“The Fine Gael Minister for Health James Reilly has shown he is incapable of managing the health system.  It is time for him to go.”

The Sinn Féin candidate for Meath East, Darren O’Rourke, has today called for “real and concrete action to help those in mortgage distress.”

O’Rourke made his comments the day after the government published proposals which would see power being left in the hands of the same banks who have allowed the mortgage crisis to escalate for the last five years.

O’Rourke said:

“Mortgage distress is a huge issue, not least for the people of this constituency who have arguably been one of the worst areas in the state hit with this crisis. Many people in Meath East are commuters who bought their homes during the height of the boom and now find themselves struggling to cope with negative equity and arrears.

“The government proposals published yesterday will be of little comfort to struggling homeowners. The proposals continue to leave the final say on mortgage restructuring with the same banks who allowed this crisis to escalate in the first place. Most worryingly they also allow the banks to repossess family homes.

“There are families out there struggling to put food on the table in order to pay their mortgage. Proposals like these will be of little comfort to them

“Sinn Féin has the right proposals to address the mortgage crisis. These include the establishment of an independent statutory body which would have the power to arbitrate on banks decisions and force restructuring, including write-down, shared equity and other measures.

“The government proposals are simply not good enough. We need real and concrete action on this issue and we need it now.”

Sinn Féin’s by-election campaign was launched in the Headfort Arms Hotel in Kells this evening (March 12).

Speaking at the launch the party’s Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD said his party’s candidate Darren O’Rourke is a man with new ideas, who is not part of the cosy cartel of the cuts parties – Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour.

Darren O’Rourke said Sinn Féin is the only party that has a vision and a plan to create a better Ireland for all of our people.

Both speeches are below.

Pearse Doherty

A chairde,

It’s my pleasure to welcome you all here tonight to Darren O’Rourke’s official Meath East by-election campaign launch.

A lot of people don’t think elections can change anything. A lot of people believe that their vote doesn’t count for anything because they feel — ‘sure they’re all the same’. More and more people are losing faith with the democratic process. Fewer and fewer people are turning out to vote at election time. And can you blame them?

Decades of crony politics dominated by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have left us with a political system where who you know matters more than what you know. Where more decisions are made in the Dáil bar than the Dáil chamber. Where golden handshakes are the order of the day and where corrupt bankers receive million euro payoffs.

A lot of people think there’s no point in voting because elections can’t change things. By-elections are seen as even more irrelevant to people’s lives. I disagree.

Just over two years ago. A by-election changed the course of politics in this state and paved the way for a General Election which would see the government parties of the day almost wiped out.

That by-election was demanded by people who were denied their democratic right to vote due to an outdated political class determined to cling to power despite plunging support.

It took a constitutional challenge in the High Court to drag that government to the point where they were forced to hold the election.

That by-election was in Donegal South West — my constituency. The result of that election rocked the establishment and ultimately caused a snap general election, which saw Fianna Fáil decimated across this state.

Sinn Féin topped the poll in that election and received the overwhelming backing of the people of Donegal South West.

Michelle Gildernew in Fermanagh/South Tyrone retained her seat in the 2010 Westminster election by four votes. It took just four votes for Michelle to retain her seat in the face of a bitter sectarian campaign.

Those four votes changed the course of political history.

So you see, one election can make history and has the potential to enact real change in society.

In Darren O’Rourke we have a candidate with vision, empathy and a passion for change. Born and bred in Kells, Darren represents everything that is good about rural communities.

But most importantly Darren is a man with new ideas, who is not part of the cosy cartel of the cuts parties – Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour.

The Fianna Fáil candidate talks a lot about change. He claims that he is putting forward “alternative policies”, that he has an alternative to the current government’s cuts agenda.

What he fails to mention is that he was a Fianna Fáil TD during the time that party was in government.

Remember the bank guarantee? Thomas Byrne was there.

Remember the IMF coming to town? Thomas Byrne was there.

Remember the tribunals? Thomas Byrne was there.

The dig-outs from the lads? Thomas Byrne was there too.

Yes “Bertie’s Man in Meath East” certainly got around during his time as a Fianna Fáil government backbencher.

There were a lot of people back then who really could have benefited from Thomas Byrne’s alternative vision. Alas it seems this alternative vision is newly acquired and I’m willing to bet it will be very short lived.

Back in the real world people are hungry for change. Mortgage distress has hit the people of this constituency particularly hard. People who bought their homes in the height of the boom, now in negative equity, will this week receive letters through their door demanding payment of a draconian property tax.

This is a tax that was negotiated by Fianna Fáil and now implemented by Fine Gael and the Labour Party.

The government is using bully-boy tactics to force people into paying this tax which is not linked to income and does not take account of peoples’ ability to pay.

The reality, as we all know, is that people simply can’t take anymore. Unemployment is still soaring. Emigration is at famine era levels. Public services have been cut beyond all recognition.

What we also know is that austerity is not working. If it was, surely the country would be out of recession by now. God knows we have had enough austerity budgets.

The truth is that this government, like the last, is more about pandering to vested interests than about bringing about real change in how the country is run.

Sinn Féin is the real alternative to the status quo. We have produced alternative budgets that are costed and credited by leading economic analysts.

Sinn Féin has an alternative way forward that does not include forcing those on low incomes to carry the burden for the years of economic mismanagement by successive governments.

Sinn Féin has shown that there is a better, fairer way forward. We have shown that there is an alternative to the cosy consensus of cuts represented by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour.

Darren O’Rourke is a young, new candidate with new ideas and a new way of approaching politics.

It is easy to pass off a by-election as a flash in the pan election with no real consequence. We have proven that is not true.

It only takes one election, one voice, one vision to make a change.

Sinn Féin has that vision and Darren O’Rourke is that voice.

Darren O’Rourke

I want to thank each and every one of you who have travelled here for this convention. I am honoured to be the Sinn Fein candidate in this by election for East Meath.

This election gives each and every one of us and our supporters an opportunity to persuade people of the merits of our politics.

Ireland has never needed it more.

Ireland has never needed Sinn Féin more.

Sinn Fein is the only party that has a vision and a plan to create a better Ireland for all of our people.

The single biggest focus facing this country is the jobs crisis. Thousands of our young people are emigrating. Many may never return.

The government has been in power for two years and is reaching its mid- point. The policies of the government have held down growth, and lengthened the unemployment crisis.

Unemployment has remained over 14% since then Government came to power. The only thing preventing it from further increasing has been emigration.

The story for youth unemployment is even worse with the rate at 27.7%. This Government is failing the country’s young people by standing idly by as they are forced to emigrate to the US, to Europe or to Australia or New Zealand.

Yet rather than tackle this problem head on the Government has continued the austerity programme for Fianna Fail: Cuts, cuts and more cuts.

Over the past year 30,000 jobs have been lost in the public sector; these include nurses, doctors, and teachers’ posts.

Not alone do these cuts add to the dole queues or the queues in airport departure lounges but they deprive communities of vital services.

We’ve heard a lot of rhetoric from the Government on jobs but very little real delivery.

Sinn Fein would prioritise tackling the jobs crisis. We would invest in stimulus and job creation. We have produced detailed and costed plans.

The fundamental difference between Sinn Féin and all the other parties – Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour – is that we want to create change. Change is what we are about. Change for the better and change for everyone.

People voted for change in 2011 but they didn’t get it. Fine Gael and Labour are continuing to implement the failed austerity policies of Fianna Fáil.

Take the Family Home Tax, right across this state people are receiving letters from Revenue this week setting out how much in additional tax they will have to pay.

This was a tax that Fianna Fail signed us up to in their four year plan before the Troika entered the frame.

Fine Gael told people before the last election (p59 of their manifesto) that a tax on the Family Home was unfair. But that’s exactly what they are implementing.

Fianna Fáil’s tax, an unfair tax, one that takes no account of ability to pay, no account of those in negative equity, no account of those in mortgage distress and no account of the thousands already paid in Stamp Duty.

There was an alternative. They could have introduced a wealth tax. Instead they have decided to hit the same section of society who have been hit every time before.

The same people who are hit by cuts to Child Benefit, increases in PRSI, increases in Motor Tax, increase in VAT are all being hit once more.

People have been hit hard by the impact of austerity. Many of them simply can’t afford another cut.

There isn’t a town, a village, a parish, or indeed a sports club in this constituency that hasn’t been affected. Meath East, more than most places, is ravaged by mortgage distress and negative equity. Individuals, couples, and families are crucified with personal debt and they’re suffering in silence. Many are embarrassed and ashamed.

They shouldn’t be.

This by election offers those families, those communities who have been let down by this Government to make a stand.

To vote for a real alternative.

Sinn Féin believes that there is a fairer and a faster way to bring our economy to recovery.

Our focus is creating jobs and stopping the tide of emigration.
This will help us recover faster than focussing on the deficit alone and that is why in October 2012 we produced a jobs action plan.

We do want the deficit reduced - but it can be done with fair taxation and cutting spending waste, not targeting families and frontline services. And we want our debt dealt with - not just by pushing it down the road, but by lifting the banking portion of it off our shoulders.

We are the only party with a plan.

The government and Fianna Fáil are making it up as they go along.

We’re aware of the people in severe mortgage distress and also the people who are distressed and paying their mortgages – the people who service their mortgage but have no money left for anything else.

The mortgage crisis has to be dealt with now. There are just over 180,000 families in mortgage distress. About 150 additional families fall into mortgage distress every day.

The Government needs to intervene to help those people.

Sinn Fein has proposed a new service, a ‘Mortgage Restructuring Panel’ which will allow for independent assessment of mortgage distress cases and the enforcement of findings including debt write-down, debt for equity swaps and mortgage to rent options.

We would remove the veto that the Government have given to the banks.

There should be no repossessions in genuine cases of mortgage distress.

People being thrown out of their family homes will not solve this crisis.

This by-election campaign provides us with a golden opportunity to stand up for those people.

To offer then a real alternative.

To put forward the Sinn Féin alternative, to convince people of our position and to gain their support. We need to let them know that we understand the challenges they face. That we will stand up for their interests and fight hard to ensure they and their children have a future with hope.

The potential Sinn Féin vote in Meat East is huge. There is a large percentage of floating and undecided voters. There is a mood for change.

Our task is to convince people they’re better off with Sinn Féin.

Once again I’m honoured and humbled by your vote of confidence in me. I understand the task ahead and I am 100% committed to it.