The 2005 Fianna Fail Ard Fheis took place over the weekend in Killarney, Co Kerry. I attended, along with a number of other delegates from Donegal.
It takes a lot to be able to justify having travelled such a long distance (the drive took over 7 hours), but the Ard Fheis provides a unique opportunity for local Councillors and party members from around the Country to come together with members of the Parliamentary Party and, in particular, Ministers.
Before going to Killarney, I made sure to arm myself with a number of representations which I sought to make on local issues. I was able to meet with a number of senior Ministers, to discuss important local issues. These included:
- An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern: Regarding Cancer Care Services at Letterkenny General Hospital
- Willie O’Dea, Minister for Defence: Regarding Rockhill Army Barracks, just outside Letterkenny
- Mary Hanafin, Minister for Education and Science: Regarding the extension and renovation works to be undertaken at Saint Eunans College
- Brian Cowen, Minister for Finance: Regarding a special Cross-Border Tax Designation for areas of Donegal and Derry
- Dermot Ahern, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Regarding issues involving the North, Cross-Border Participation and Fianna Fail organising on a 32 County basis
The Ministers were aware of many of the issues which were raised, in particular the Cancer Care issue. The campaign for protection and extension of Cancer services was first brought directly to the Taoiseach by members of the Fianna Fail Women’s Forum from Donegal over two years ago. An official motion, moved by Cllr Ciaran Brogan and supported by the entire Ard Fheis, called on the Party to support the establishment of a Sattelite Cancer Care unit in the North West.
The Ard Fheis was important for Fianna Fail. The controversial “Equality Agenda”, which establishes quotas for the representation of Women in positions in Fianna Fail, was overwhlemingly supported. The issue of organisation in the North, which I have actively supported, was brought to the fore by the campaigning of members of Ogra Fianna Fail.
The Ard Fheis will also be remembered for the sudden death of former TD Liam Lawlor, and the abhorrent Press Coverage which followed.
Killarney served as an excellent venue for the event. The Gleneagles Hotel has excellent facilities, with the INEC capable of holding nearly 3,000 delegates at any one time. The area has a very good supply (and variety) of accommodation. The biggest problem is the distance, for those of us in Donegal. Hopefully in future we will be able to see the Ard Fheis brought closer to Donegal.