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13 February 2017 Edition

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Equality, integrity and respect

Editorial – Eagarfhocal

ARLENE FOSTER has got at least one thing right at Stormont – the Assembly election is probably the most important vote in the North since 1998.

This is not about Orange versus Green.

This is about bad government versus good government.

This is about Arlene Foster’s style of politics and government versus that of Martin McGuinness and Michelle O’Neill.

This is about arrogance and ignorance versus equality, integrity and respect.

This election could have been avoided if Arlene Foster had accepted Martin McGuinness’s proposal that she step aside, without prejudice, to allow a transparent investigation be carried out into the Renewable Heat Incentive ‘Cash for Ash’ scandal and financial mismanagement – a mess that occurred under the stewardship of DUP ministers, including Arlene Foster herself.

Even before the emergence of the RHI scandal, the behaviour of the DUP had already led to a considerable lack of public confidence in the institutions. 

No other administration would tolerate such a scandal.

Neither the public nor Sinn Féin could continue to countenance the manner in which the DUP conducted business within the Executive and the Assembly. 

The DUP is now trying to sectarianise the election campaign to deflect public anger from NAMA, Red Sky, the RHI and DUP leaders’ belligerence. 

The provocative attitude of DUP ministers such as Michelle McIlveen and spokespersons such as Gregory Campbell was laid bare at the DUP’s election launch by Arlene Foster herself when she contemptuously declared that she will “never” agree to an Irish Language Act – part of the St Andrews Agreement.

Beyond the election, there will still be a need for negotiations to re-establish the institutions.

Sinn Féin will not agree to a return to the status quo.

There must be a step-change in the behaviour and attitude of the DUP to their partners in government and to the working of the institutions. 

The re-establishment of the political institutions will be dependent on whether they will reflect in their entirety the principles and ethos set out in the Good Friday Agreement. 

That means delivering for all citizens on the basis of equality, parity of esteem and respect.

On 2 March, people have an opportunity to put equality, integrity and respect at the heart of the political process with a strong vote for Sinn Féin.

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