The election on March 2nd has the potential to be a defining moment in the peace and political process.
Over the past ten years, despite the valiant efforts of Martin McGuinness, the potential of our peace has been slowly and deliberately fractured by the DUP.
They refused to embrace any meaningful process of reconciliation, repeatedly spurning the many positive initiatives, which Martin McGuinness took in order to reach out the hand of friendship to our unionist neighbours.
Rather than embracing diversity and parity of esteem, they chose to mock and pillory the Irish language and identity and our neighbours of different ethnic background.
They have blocked marriage equality and repeatedly descended into racist, sexist and homophobic attitudes and actions.
They refuse to respect the cross-community majority in the North who voted to remain within the EU and continue to pursue a reckless and right-wing, anti-immigrant agenda that will have devastating political, economic and social consequences for our entire island.
And then we have the repeated financial scandals and allegations of political corruption, from Red Sky to Nama and, of course, the RHI cash for ash.
Even in the face of an outraged public, furious at the potential loss of £500 million, the DUP still could not bring themselves to do the right thing and have treated the electorate with contempt.
While others were calling for Arlene Foster’s head, Martin McGuinness privately called on her to stand aside in order to facilitate an independent investigation and establish the truth in order to try and restore public confidence in the institutions.
Even that proved too much for DUP arrogance to swallow.
Far from doing the right thing, Arlene Foster continued to refuse to accept any responsibility for the mess she created as a Government Minister.
Rather than humility we had more hubris.
Rather than respect, we had more crude and blunt sectarianism from her fellow DUP Minister Paul Givan who scrapped a bursary helping disadvantaged children to attend Gaeltacht language courses.
The posts of First Minister and deputy First Minister are co-equal and interdependent. That is the context in which Martin McGuinness acted. Arlene Foster wouldn’t step aside, so we did it for her.
She will stay stepped aside until such times as the DUP accept that the only way we will allow their return to government is on the basis of genuine power-sharing based on equality.
There must be integrity in government and respect for the citizens we serve.
We will accept nothing less.
So where do we go from here?
There are those who want to sectarianise this election, to circle the wagons and tilt at windmills and bogeymen. They cannot have their way.
This election is about the future. It is about the type of society in which we want to live and about how we want the political institutions to work.
We are also seeking the strongest possible mandate to enter into the negotiations, which will follow the election.
These talks will be make or break for our political process. I want a political breakthrough.
We have a limited opportunity here to fix what is broken and to get our political system back on track, towards genuine bridge-building, equality, reconciliation and prosperity. A limited time to progress the process that will resolve the legacy of the conflict.
The people want action. They want institutions which work and deliver for everyone not just for some.
They want an Executive and Assembly that delivers, that treats citizens decently – that works for all in the community. Nationalist and Unionist, women, ethnic communities, victims of the conflict, LGB&T communities all deserve respect and equality.
There is no advantage for our society in denying anyone their rights to live and prosper and enjoy a good quality of life.
They want institutions that make a difference in people’s lives, including a transformed health service where patient care comes firstly, with quality education and more jobs.
They want Institutions that deliver for our young and old, and which close the gap between those who are well off and those on low incomes -dependent on tax credits to help them make ends meet.
The people want the Irish and British governments who have taken a hands-off attitude to nurturing our peace, to now live up to their responsibilities, honour their agreements and respect the democratic wishes of the peole. It is time for them to deliver.
The best way to achieve that is by returning the strongest possible Sinn Féin team in this election, because we have shown time and again that we will put the interests of all citizens firstly and stand up for integrity, equality and respect.
What we win in these negotiations, we win for all.
We are determined to get things back on track and to create a genuinely progressive power-sharing coalition where we work with one another and together for the future in the best interests of everyone in this society.
That is what I am determined to achieve as the leader of Sinn Féin entering into these negotiations.
That is what I am asking the public to endorse when they go to the polls on March 2nd.
Together we can seize this opportunity and with your support get the job done.
Who is she kidding? The DUP will win the election, the Irish language Act won”t be happening and things will either return to normal or Direct rule will come in. Michelle holds no aces.
The Eire Nua policy was intended as a hand of friendship to the unionist people of the 6 Counties, and Gerry Adams described it as a sop to Loyalism. For the Provos there is no such thing as principle only expediency.
Michelle holds the ace that the Irish Language is a requirement of the Belfast and St Andrew’s Agreements, and the British Government has to act
Rubbish! your defeatist words don’t mean they are true. We are disillusioned with the DUP and Arlene Foster and indeed we will overcome the obstacles. Every nationalist and republican should come out and vote for Michelle, make her First Minister and then we can hope for a balanced society.
But Arlene won’ t be holding the reins of power.
I think you Mrs.O’Neill is living in La La land. Sinn Fein, themselves alone, have been in partnership with the DUPes for the past ten years. How long does it take before you understand your adversary? How many scandals does it take before you have to walk away because it’s clear you should have walked away from corruption and self-serving politics after Red Sky and Nama. However, your desire for power at all costs is sickening, and nobody knows what job you will ever get done. You have nothing new or inspiring to deliver and as a Health minister you have been content to oversee the shambles in our midst. Get a proper job.
You do talk out your ass, Mr Gill. Bitter little armchair general (one star)!
Incidentally, Sinn Féin means ‘we. ourselves’ NOT ‘ourselves alone’. Perhaps if you opened up that animal-trap closed mind and learned a cúpla focal, you wouldn’t make such a boring a**hole out of yourself..
Well spoken Michelle, it’s about time the D.U.P realised the time of treating the public without integrity, respect and equality and second class citizens is over. Good look to everyone
“De’anta go maith”
Sinn Fein has deliberately made the ‘stepping side’ demand an issue that can’t possibly be resolved. They are cynically using the RHI scandal for their own ends. What is vital is holding the inquiry itself and if it finds against Foster, she obviously should resign, but only then.
The DUP is not fit to be in government with its present attitudes to women, poor people, ethnic minorities, our LGBT brothers and sisters and anyone who isn’t a raving fundamentalist Christian nutjob. SF was right to pull the rug out from under that execrable woman Foster.
Indeed, the DUP are an awful bunch, but that didn’t stop Sinn Fein sharing the same bed with them and launching the ill-fated Fresh Start.
“the ‘stepping side’ demand an issue that can’t possibly be resolved. ”
Of course it can be resolved – all it needs is for Arlene to step aside while RHI is investigated.
AF is stepped aside so are you Michelle
The best option is for the electorate to do something radical like dump the SF/DUP coalition and give parties who might work together in the interests of all the people.
But even if sinn fein do by some miracle win the election to become the largest party, and possibly seating Arlene and the DUP in the Deputy First Minister’s position, they will walk away from the coalition, as Martin McGuinness did, breaking up the assembly. Unless Arlene and her cronies stay in the top spot they will throw their toys out of the pram, and refuse to share power from a “lower” position in their eyes.
They could not abide having sinn fein or any other nationalist / Catholic party in power above them with more seats. Yet time and time again we see the DUP being outed as corrupt, NAME, red sky, cash for ash, to name a few are scandals that “should” have ended a party under normal circumstances and yet in our wee country it seems the worse you are, the more vile backwards, and generally horrible you are, you are rewarded by taking the highest seat in the land. The people keep voting for them, and those who are, are just sheep stuck in the mindset of yesteryear of protestants voting dup and Catholics voting sinn fein.
Until we as a country can remove religion from politics we are always going to have the same. There will be no change. Party’s such as Alliance, people before profit and alt Labour need to be brought to fore of our politics, given a real say, a say that the next generation can vote for and believe in.
It really is time for change. On March 2nd we need to end this dire game of cat and mouse politics and face the real issues head on together!
In time, whether they like it or not, the DUP will have to sit in government with a SF First Minister and SF being able to outvote them practically every time. The worm is turning and the DUPPERS are not going to like it. But if they’re not to be overlooked, they will have to engage with the nationalist/republican (upcoming) electoral majority on the basis of equality and mutual respect. Or be sidelined and replaced by those unionists who will step up to take their place, because unionists love power as much as (probably if not more than) any other section of society here. People who vote SF don’t do so because they’re Catholic. A lot of them aren’t. They do so because they are Irish and wish to be rid of the British government’s malign, cancerous impact on Irish society in this part of Ireland. And we will be..
” the British government’s malign, cancerous impact”
It’s they only impact they are able to make, poor souls.
But with any luck at all, in the near future they will only be making it in England.
It is so good to see comments on here now. There have been so many inspiring articles any yet very few, if anyone responding. I wish I could but my head just goes around in circles and I end up making no sense at all but I feel all the emotions. Well done and keep it up please…….but be nice, ok?
I thought the bad old days were past when Ian & Marty got together were laughing & joking,things seem to be going rapidly in the wrong direction,the guns will soon be out again !!! God forbid.