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25 January 2018

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Informed opinion has to be informed - Hazzard

"Such is their fear of the progressive politics and the radical agenda that Sinn Féin will bring to government in Belfast and Dublin, that these are the kind of tactics that establishment voices resort to in order to try and discredit republicanism." - Chris Hazzard MP

The thing about informed opinion is that it has to be informed.

It is clear from Stephen Collins' column in the Irish Times (25/1/18) that he is either ignorant of the issues that collapsed the Northern Executive or wilfully misrepresents the position of Sinn Féin.

I doubt that Stephen has recently set foot in Stormont, much less spoken with the Sinn Féin leadership.

What we get is lazy assumptions wrapped up as insight and allegations posed as questions. While republicans are well used to this from the Irish Independent it is surprising to see it in the paper of record.

The assertion that a failure to agree a deal with the DUP will be ‘a sign that Sinn Féin is still under the thumb of the IRA Army Council’ is an incredible one even by Irish Times standards. We are truly in the twilight zone.  If agreement is reached will we see a column with the line that the IRA no longer control Sinn Féin or IRA backs down on demand for marriage equality?!

The IRA is gone and is only active in the imagination of some journalists and political opponents. 

Such is their fear of the progressive politics and the radical agenda that Sinn Féin will bring to government in Belfast and Dublin, that these are the kind of tactics that establishment voices resort to in order to try and discredit republicanism.

But Sinn Féin won’t be deterred by that because our mandate comes from the 500,000 people across this island who voted for us. We are an open and transparent party driven by our members with policy developed, not in the back rooms like other parties, but on the floor of our Ard Fheiseanna.

Delegates voting of policy at a Sinn Féin Ard Fheis.

Neither will we be deterred from seeking equality and rights for all in the North. Rights like marriage equality, language rights and the right to a coroners inquest are taken for granted in the rest of Ireland. They should be in the North also.

That is in the position of the majority of the electorate and a majority of the Assembly parties.

Sinn Féin wants the Executive restored. We want genuine power-sharing institutions that are sustainable and serve all of our citizens.

A government in Dublin would not be sustainable if it refused to recognise the rights of the people against the will of the people. Why would it be any different in Belfast?

The people have already spoken on these issues twice in the last 12 months and they voted overwhelmingly for Sinn Féin and other pro-agreement, pro-rights parties.

How long will the DUP be permitted to ignore their wishes? And how long will the British government and publications like the Irish Times continue to deflect attention from where the problem really lies.

Stephen would be more credible if he had spoken with the party and outlined the very real issues impeding the re-establishment of the Executive; the financial scandals, the denial of rights of Irish speakers and marriage equality, the refusal to implement previous agreements and the deal between the DUP and the Tories at Westminster.

I would encourage Stephen to travel to the North, engage with civic groups, talk to Sinn Féin and then hopefully write an informed opinion.

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