Sinn Fein leaders believe Unionist dominance in Northern Ireland is a thing of the past. Delegates to the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis (annual convention) in Dublin were told that Unionism has been forced by to accept that partnership government meant the end of Unionist majority rule. The North's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness drew loud cheers and prolonged applause when he told more than 1,000 delegates at the conference when he said Northern Ireland was no longer just an Orange State. It was now an "Orange Green State." McGuinness prompted rapturous chanting when, in a play on the lyrics of the Phil Coulter song, "The Town I Loved So Well," he claimed that Unionist majority rule "is gone and gone forever." "Like apartheid in South Africa it is consigned to the dustbin of history," he said. Not that delegates needed reminding of their party's priority aspiration - a united Ireland - but they were still given several instances of why it was the only realistic solution to all problems on the island. The current recession was even partly blamed on the existence of the border. McGuinness said the economic partition of Ireland was "a nonsense" which acted as a disincentive to inward investment. It was a political failure which had ill-served the Irish people. He said, "The current economic crisis does not recognize manufactured artificial boundaries or borders, and we should not let a provincial or partitionist mindset of groups, north or south, stall our project for reunification. Partitionism is the past. It was a failure and it has held back all our people. "Its continued existence inhibits our economy, encourages sectarian divisions, discrimination and inequality." McGuinness said there was a peaceful and democratic path available to a united Ireland. However, he warned that the British government "will only leave Ireland when the Irish people - together - demand that they leave Ireland". Caoimhgh'n Caoláin, Sinn Fein's leader in the Dail(Irish Parliament), called for practical planning for a united Ireland to begin immediately. "Two separate currencies, two separate tax regimes, two separate administrations, two separate sets of public services on an island of just under six million people makes no sense. It leads to duplication, distortion and dysfunction," he said. Party leader Gerry Adams outlined in his keynote address the progress that had been made in the North, despite the fact that working with the Democratic Unionist Party was very difficult and very challenging. "But Unionist politicians now know that if they wish to exercise political power they can only do so in partnership with the rest of us", he added. Dealing with the political situation in the Republic, Adams urged the Labor Party and the Greens to join a coalition to force radical change in Irish politics, and to keep both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael out of power. "The Labor Party has a duty not to prop up either Fianna Fail or Fine Gael. Instead Labor should explore with us and others the potential for cooperation in the future," he said. On the current economic crisis and the banks scandal, Adams said top bankers should be sacked without compensation and bank credit should be guaranteed for small firms, while banks should also be prevented by law from repossessing for two years homes owned by those in trouble with paying mortgages. Leadership changes in the party included the uncontested election of Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald as vice president in place of Pat Doherty, who is standing down after 21 years in the role.
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