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11 June 2019

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"We must have an agreement that will deliver sustainable institutions and deliver for all" - McDonald

"The window of opportunity is narrow - the chaos in Westminster, the British Prime Minster stepping down and the renewal of a deal between the DUP and the Tories make the process of reaching agreement difficult. Difficult but not impossible. At the end of this process we must have an agreement that will deliver sustainable institutions, operating to the highest standard, and delivering for all our people. Failure is not and cannot be an option." - Mary Lou McDonald TD

Speaking in the Dáil on the talks in the North tonight, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald TD said; 

The window of opportunity is narrow - the chaos in Westminster, the British Prime Minster stepping down and the renewal of a deal between the DUP and the Tories make the process of reaching agreement difficult. 

Difficult but not impossible.

At the end of this process we must have an agreement that will deliver sustainable institutions, operating to the highest standard, and delivering for all our people. 

Failure is not and cannot be an option.  I want to welcome the opportunity to speak on statements on the north in the Dáil. 

We face many immediate challenges with the chaos in Westminster, an impending Brexit deadline and talks to re-establish the institutions of Good Friday Agreement.

At the core of these issues is the continued division of our island and it’s people. 

 Partition is still with us and partitionist mind-sets, for some, still prevail. 

In fact the recent RTE/TG4 opinion poll found that the vast majority of citizens in this State support the ending of partition. 

There is an onus on all parties to plan, to strategise and to build for Irish Unity and it is incumbent on the Irish government to lead on this matter. 

While partition remains, Irish citizens of the north are due the same respect and rights as others. 

It should make no difference if you live in Newry or Dundalk, in Derry or Naas.

British citizens in the north are due the same equality and respect as all others - for that is one of the corner stones of the Good Friday Agreement.

Whether you are British, Irish, or both, you are due equal treatment and respect with the equivalence of rights north and south. 

The vast majority of people, north and south, endorsed the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, and a generation has now grown up since then. 

Lyra McKee was one of that generation; a generation for whom conflict is the past and inclusion, prosperity and equality are the norm. 

Lyra McKee was killed by those who oppose the Good Agreement and they offer nothing but injury, death and imprisonment. 

They cannot and they must not succeed. 

It is all of our responsibility - all TDs, all parties and the government - to realise the potential and promise of the Good Friday Agreement for that new generation. 

That work must be above party politics; it is the people’s agreement and it must be protected and delivered. 

The institutions of the agreement are interlocking and independent, Their success of one is dependent on the success of others. These institutions should be re-established and up and delivering for all.  Delivering prosperity, equality and public services for all citizens,

That is beyond doubt, and it is the expressed desire of both governments and all parties to have the institutions up, running, and working. 

The Taoiseach, in a joint statement with the British Prime Minister, on the 2nd June said:

“The Secretary of State and the Tánaiste believe that there is a genuine but narrow window of opportunity to reach agreement in the immediate period ahead and that it is essential to continue and intensify talks to this end."

Tánaiste, the window is indeed narrow. 

Last Friday, Theresa May stood down as leader of the Tory party and remains in a caretaker capacity until the election of a new Prime Minister at the end of July. 

The British government remains in power only with the support of the DUP. 

We also have the Brexit deadline of the 31st October looming over the horizon. 

The window for reaching agreement is indeed narrow and the odds stacked against the process. 

But with determination and generosity by all, we can succeed. 

Sinn Féin is committed to reaching agreement. 

You know that from our meetings.

Functioning stable all party inclusive institutions, delivering for all in society is the only way forward.

It should be remembered that his partner party walked out of the Executive long before Martin McGuinness resigned.

Most of the issues are already matters of agreement and require implementation. 

An Irish Language Act was agreed thirteen years ago at St. Andrews.

I was there. 

It was an agreement between the British and Irish government. 

It was explicit and obliged the British government to introduce an Irish Language Act reflecting on the experience of Wales and Ireland and work with the incoming Executive to enhance and protect the development of the Irish language.

Gaels in the north, after decades of being treated as second class citizens, rightly expected the British government to deliver on that promise. 

It is both symbolic and practical. It is required to protect the Irish Language and identity.

They trusted successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments to stand over that commitment. 

The Taoiseach said that Irish citizens in north would no longer be left behind.

Irish citizens in the north expect the Taoiseach and you Tánaiste to make good on that promise. 

The refusal by the British government, at the behest of a section of unionists, to honour your agreement is a calculated insult to those who value the Irish language and culture and an undermining of the political process. 

It provides a cover to those in unionism who oppose the Good Friday Agreement.

Confidence in the political process has been further eroded by the British government’s refusal to put in place the agreed mechanisms to support victims of conflict and the search for truth and justice. 

Instead, elements of the British government are seeking an amnesty for the actions of their forces including the killings in Ballymurphy and on Bloody Sunday. 

They continue to refuse to hand over all information relating to the Dublin/Monaghan bombings. 

We now have a system of unequal rights. 

Marriage equality is a right enjoyed by Irish citizens in the rest of Ireland and British citizens in Britain, but is blocked in the north by a minority. 

The petition of concern was introduced to safeguard the rights of a minority. 

It is an essential element of the checks and balances of the Good Friday Agreement. 

It has been abused to block equality and that is wrong. 

We cannot waste time re-opening agreements already made; this process must be about delivery. 

Progress is possible and necessary. 

It will be found in implementing existing agreements, respecting the equality of all and recognising that rights for one section of the community do not diminish the rights of others. 

Success must be felt by all in society.

We have faced greater challenges in the past and with generosity and imagination we have found a way forward.

Sinn Féin’s negotiating team have engaged fully and will move to the next phase with a determination to resolve outstanding issues.

The Irish government are not referees or arbitrators in this process; you are signatories, sponsors and the co-equal guarantors of the agreements and the rights of citizens. 

It is not a case of determining which rights are upheld or what parts of the agreements are set aside. 

In this state we have the protections of the Bunreacht na hEireann. In the north it is e the Good Friday Agreement and the 1998 Act that provides the constitutional protections and satus of the north at this time

It is about securing rights and the implementation of agreements. 

That is the basis for re-establishing the institutions.

Tánaiste, the window of opportunity is narrow - the chaos in Westminster, the British Prime Minster stepping down and the renewal of a deal between the DUP and the Tories make the process of reaching agreement difficult. 

Difficult but not impossible.

At the end of this process we must have an agreement that will deliver sustainable institutions, operating to the highest standard, and delivering for all our people. 

Failure is not and cannot be an option. 

But undermining previous agreements is not an option… and refusing citizens’ rights is not an option either. 

You either honour agreements or you don’t. 

You either safeguard rights or you deny rights. 

If this phase of the talks cannot resolve outstanding issues, then both governments must act to make good their commitments and safeguard the agreements. 

You must act to remove the issues of difference and provide the route back to the institutions in line with the Good Friday and other Agreements.   

Sinn Féin will do all in power to reach an agreement. 

All parties and both governments must do likewise, for that is what we owe the Good Friday Agreement generation. 

We all must demonstrate that politics works, that agreements made must be agreements honoured and that the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement can and will deliver peace, prosperity and equality for all. 

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Contributions from key figures in the churches, academia and wider civic society as well as senior republican figures


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