The continued operation of the Executive was undermined by the serial scandals associated with DUP minsters and the refusal by both the DUP and British governments to honour agreements.
The process of getting to the truth of these scandals is only beginning, the RHI inquiry is at preliminary stages and a Commission of Investigation in the Dáil into the sale of NAMA’s Project Eagle is to be established.
When Martin McGuinness resigned, he said there could be no return to the status quo.
The agreements, rights and respect, equality and integrity must be at the core of the institutions.
This was not just a republican demand. It was a demand by all citizens. The reputation of the institutions had been dragged through the mud and fundamental rights had been disrespected.
Sinn Féin stood in the last Assembly election to have the Executive up, working and delivering for all. To have the agreements implemented. The issues at the core of the problem; equality and rights had been agreed on Good Friday and at St Andrews. The issues of legacy had been agreed at Leeds Castle and at Stormont House. The re-establishment of the Executive is a matter of agreeing the implementation of previous agreements. It could and should happen quickly.
Immediately after the election Sinn Féin entered talks with the clear objective of re-establishing the executive. There was no meaningful engagement from either the British Government or the DUP. There was no commitment to implement the outstanding agreements or to even acknowledge there was a problem.
The talks collapsed when the DUP failed to turn up for discussions.
A second phase of talks was suspended when the Tory Government called a general election to consolidate their position in Westminster. The north was never a consideration in the Tories’ plan.
Sinn Féin will enter talks again to re-establish an Executive that delivers for all citizens equally, an Executive that respects the rights of all citizens and operates with integrity, an Executive that implements the agreements. This is the basic entitlement that all citizens require from government.
It now appears that the DUP support for the Executive has a whole new series of conditions.
Their Westminster manifesto lays out five tests for the negotiations and ten commitments.
All, from a party that says, it has no red lines for agreement. These tests and commitments make reaching agreement more difficult and read like a manifesto for a return to ‘direct rule’. It appears that the DUP has given up on power sharing with nationalists and republicans in favour of the Tory rule.
The core tests include the question – will an agreement increase support for the current constitutional position of the North?
The DUP dismiss the fundamental position of the rights and entitlements of citizens or their previous agreements. It’s all about the union, unionists and nothing else.
The constitutional position of the north is a matter for the people as agreed in the Good Friday Agreement. It will be for the people to decide. The DUP are now seeking to veto any agreement on the basis of the union.
Another test is the impact of British Citizenship and, “remaining a full and integral part of the united Kingdom”. The Good Friday Agreement included the all-Ireland architecture, a European component, and the full and equal right to Irish citizenship and by extension European Citizenship. It reflected the interrelated identities and structures of government. It forever ended the notion that the North was as British as Finchley.
The actions of the DUP in joining with the Tory Brexit, was rejected by the people, who value their EU membership and citizenship. The new Executive must address this issue and secure the rights of EU and Irish citizens, our economy, our agreement and our public services.
Are the DUP saying they will refuse to join an Executive made up of parties that support special status for the North within the EU? Is this yet another red line?
The DUP also include a commitment in the negotiations that they will not permit, “the persecution of security forces”. This is counter to their agreement at Stormont House, ignores the rights of victims and grants impunity for those involved in murder and collusion.
This day, next week we will be back in negotiations to re-establish the Executive. We are looking at this election to strengthen our mandate and hand for an Executive that delivers for all.
It appears from the DUP manifesto that they are either living in denial about the step change that is required or have made the judgement that they would rather have Tory direct rule minsters than share power.
Whatever the outcome of the negotiations a return to direct rule is not consistent with the GFA and other agreements. It is off the cards. The way forward is a return to an Executive that delivers for all. As for the constitutional future that is an issue for all the people in a future Unity Referendum.