15 June 2019
Equality is the key to a new Assembly — Michelle O'Neill
The governments should lay out a plan to restore the institutions and provide the basis for the progressive society demanded by the majority of citizens and MLA’s. That will require Dublin and London honouring their responsibilities and ensuring that no one will be treated as a second class citizen.
The equal treatment of all citizens is a fundamental principle of all modern societies and is core to the Good Friday Agreement.
Martin McGuinness made it abundantly clear when he resigned as Deputy First Minister that the institutions had to be restored on the basis of the Agreement’s principles of equality and mutual respect.
Equality isn’t a high bar.
It isn’t an extreme demand.
It is a baseline for good governance.
Sinn Féin entered the current talks determined to restore the institutions on that solid basis.
Working Groups chaired by Civil Servants have discussed a number of issues relevant to functioning institutions.
However, those Working Groups haven’t addressed the core rights issues at the heart of the current impasse.
Rights that are denied here but taken for granted in Dublin, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London.
Rights that threaten no-one and protect us all.
As the co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement it is the duty of the two governments to uphold its principles of equality and mutual respect.
Equality is not something that can be gifted or negotiated. The rights and identity of Irish and British citizens must both be protected. That is what equality looks like. It threatens no one and protects us all.
A new Assembly and new kind of politics is possible.
In my view it should be inclusive and an equal partnership coalition Government.
And never again can we see scandals and unethical behaviour at the heart of government.
We need Civil Service reforms and proper checks and balances.
Public confidence must be earned and trust rebuilt if the institutions are to have any credibility.
Nationalism and Unionism are diametrically opposed ideologically and politically but it is the job of political leaders to bridge that divide, exercise our responsibilities in good faith, and seek resolutions rather than recrimination.
There is no future in the past.
Sinn Féin is a party of real and meaningful dialogue.
We have invested in and are fully committed to the Good Friday Agreement institutions but they must operate on the basis and spirt in which they were created.
Despite the challenges of the Brexit referendum and austerity we want an Executive driving economic development, investment and jobs and fixing our health service.
The governments should lay out a plan to restore the institutions and provide the basis for the progressive society demanded by the majority of citizens and MLA’s.
That will require Dublin and London honouring their responsibilities and ensuring that no one will be treated as a second class citizen.
A deal can be done but it is time for the serious negotiations to start.