Be part of building a new Ireland

Solutions needed to deliver rights and protect from austerity, cuts and Brexit – O'Neill

3 October, 2017 - by Michelle O'Neill


Speaking at the CHAMP breakfast in Manchester this morning Sinn Féin Leader in the North Michelle O'Neill MLA told delegates attending the British Conservative Party conference that the people of the North want solutions that will protect them from austerity, cuts, Brexit and which delivers basic rights as envisaged in previous agreements.

She said: "A special status relationship outside of the EU would do little to deal with the massive political, social and economic challenges thrown up by Brexit.

"I do not believe that we can withstand exclusion from the single market, customs union, a return of borders of the past or the denial of access to the European courts. 

"And on this basis Sinn Féin believes that the only credible approach is for the north to be designated a special status within the EU and for the whole island of Ireland to remain within the EU together."

Speaking about the DUP 'Confidence and Supply' Agreement with the British Conservatives she said:

"Without doubt the DUP support for Brexit and for the Conservative Government poses real challenges. The DUP ignores the anti-Brexit vote back home and has signed up to support Tory legislation on Brexit in direct contradiction to the wishes of the Northern vote."

Speaking in relation to the political talks at Stormont she said:

"The British Government should not think that they can cobble together a deal acceptable to the DUP and then shoe horn Sinn Féin into acqueising to it. That will not happen. The shape of a deal is very clear. The two governments know this. So do the DUP and the other parties. 

"We remain committed to making the institutions to work.

"I want to lead Sinn Féin back into the Executive.

"That is what we are in talks to deliver 

"Both Arlene Foster and I have been engaged in intensified dialogue over the past month to determine whether political progress is possible.

"I believe a political breakthrough is entirely possible, but only we can together grasp the opportunity to guarantee the right of every citizen to their democratic social, economic, civil and political rights. Rights that are realised and enjoyed in the rest of these islands. 

"That includes an Irish Language Act that provides the right to use the Irish language for official purposes in interacting with the State.  The right to access coroners inquests; equal marriage; a bill of rights; and a commitment to tackle sectarianism." CRIOCH/ENDS

Remarks by Michelle O’Neill MLA to CHAMP event, Manchester Townhall

3rd October 2017

INTRODUCTION

Dia daoibh agus maidin mhaith.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

I welcome the opportunity to address and engage with you this morning and thank the organisers for the invitation to speak.

Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the people of Manchester who in May of this year faced a shocking and horrendous bomb attack at Manchester Arena which saw 22 people killed, including young children, and which left over 250 people injured.

At the time I reached out to extend my heartfelt sympathy, condolences and solidarity to Mayor Andy Burnham and the people of Manchester.

As a parent I can only try and imagine what those who lost loved ones in the attack, particularly those who lost children, are going through these past number of months.

I also want to wish those who were injured well and hope they are making as full and speedy a recovery as possible.

IRISH PEACE PROCESS

I am an Irish republican.

I believe in Irish unity.

Consequently, my politics are very different from many in this room.

But Sinn Féin wants to see progress in restoring the political institutions that are an integral part of the Good Friday Agreement and we will work with the British and Irish governments, and all of the parities in the North to achieve this goal.

It is 19 years on since the Good Friday Agreement.

I am thankful that after decades of conflict and division that many people, both in Ireland and Britain, worked tirelessly to develop and build the peace process that a new generation enjoy today.

The sense of loss, pain and grief of those bereaved in the conflict is felt equally across the community.

And while we have conflicting narratives, conflicting histories and conflicting allegiances there is a responsibility on all us all as political leaders to ensure that conflict is a thing of the past and to build the process of reconciliation, 

We need to build bridges and heal the wounds of the past in order to move forward together as a society.

This is one of the reasons why I would like to get the political institutions - an Executive, Assembly, North/South Ministerial Council and British/Irish Council restored - on the basis of Rights, Equality and Respect.

I believe there is a special responsibility on the joint Heads of Government - the First and deputy First Ministers, and everyone within a power-sharing coalition to bridge the divide between us and those that we represent in order to work for everyone.

TACKLING SECTARIANISM

We need to challenge the causes, which segregate our cities, society and country - brought into stark focus this past week by Catholic families being forced out of a shared housing scheme in Belfast by Loyalist paramilitaries.

What does this say about our society in 2017?

The community needs leadership from its politicians who must be prepared to lead from the front and by example.

POLITICAL TALKS

My late colleague and former Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness resigned in January not as a first choice, but a last resort because of the RHI scandal, the DUP’s denial of rights for all citizens, and the failure to fully implement previous political agreements.

Martin McGuinness did the right thing, at the right time.

Over the course of the last 9 months we have fought two elections.  The people understood the importance of these elections and this was reflected in voter turnout – the largest since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

The support for the Sinn Féin party in both the Assembly and Westminster elections was an endorsement of a new way – a demand for absolute respect, integrity and common decency and rights for all – a demand for power-sharing as it was originally agreed.

We remain committed to making the institutions to work.

I want to lead Sinn Féin back into the Executive.

That is what we are in talks to deliver

Both Arlene Foster and I have been engaged in intensified dialogue over the past month to determine whether political progress is possible.

I believe a political breakthrough is entirely possible, but only we can together grasp the opportunity to guarantee the right of every citizen to their democratic social, economic, civil and political rights. - Rights that are realised and enjoyed in the rest of these islands.

That includes an Irish Language Act that provides the right to use the Irish language for official purposes in interacting with the State.  The right to access coroner’s inquests; equal marriage; a bill of rights; and a commitment to tackle sectarianism.

The British Conservative government is denying families access to legacy inquest funding, some of which have been waiting up to 40 years. This is deepening the pain felt by those families who've lost loved ones during the troubles who need and deserve truth.

The Government need to stop hiding behind the guise of so-called 'national security' and make the funding available in line with the request from the Lord Chief Justice in the North.

James Brokenshire can do this and he should act without further delay.

There simply cannot be and won't be any tolerance of inequality, disenfranchised citizenship for anyone in our society – LGBT, Irish speakers, ethnic minorities, victims and survivors - nobody.

For an Executive to work it must command the full confidence and trust of the people it is elected to serve.

That includes the exercise of the 'rigorous impartiality on behalf of all the people’ that the Good Friday Agreement requires from a British Secretary of State.

The calling of a snap General election in the middle of political talks and the subsequent DUP/Conservative deal has left many people suspicious that this British Government consider things back in Ireland as secondary to their own political survival at Westminster.

That is not acceptable.

Sinn Féin will put our electorate first. And I don't mean just the Sinn Féin voters. I mean all the people of the north and the island of Ireland.

BREXIT

Brexit is the single biggest threat to the economies on the island of Ireland.

We believe that locally elected ministers are best placed to run local public services and prioritise our own political agenda.

This includes a continued fight back against the relentless austerity endured by the Assembly from the British Government in recent years, and the consequences of Brexit for our economy, our people and our public services over the next 5-10 years.

The main impact of austerity for the Executive has been on its everyday spending and our resource budget.

In real terms the Executive’s resource budget is £1bn down this year on 2010/11 levels.

Over the next two years resource spending is static in cash terms, resulting in a real term reduction of 3.1%.

Meanwhile the costs for our public services are due to increase dramatically.

The £1bn, which forms part of the Confidence and Supply agreement, will only in some part address these pressures.

I want the Executive to be the bulwark against this.

Without doubt the DUP support for Brexit and for the Conservative Government poses real challenges. The DUP ignores the anti Brexit vote back home and has signed up to support Tory legislation on Brexit in direct contradiction to the wishes of the Northern vote.

Our economy, just like our population, does not exist in splendid isolation. Our collective economic future lies with relationships north, south and east and west. The threat to the economy arising from Brexit cannot be over stated.

There is growing concern in the north and on the entire island of Ireland about the economic consequences of Brexit, the negative implications of which are already becoming clear.

A special status relationship outside of the EU would do little to deal with the massive political, social and economic challenges thrown up by Brexit.

I do not believe that we can withstand exclusion from the single market, customs union, a return of borders of the past or the denial of access to the European courts.

And on this basis Sinn Féin believes that the only credible approach is for the north to be designated a special status within the EU and for the whole island of Ireland to remain within the EU together.

CONCLUSION

The British Government should not think that they can cobble together a deal acceptable to the DUP and then shoe horn Sinn Féin into acqueising to it. That will not happen. The shape of a deal is very clear. The two governments know this. So do the DUP and the other parties.

The British Government are co-equal guarantors of the Agreement, but they have failed the peace and political process.

The people of the North want solutions that will protect them from austerity, cuts, Brexit and which delivers basic rights as envisaged in previous Agreements.

It is time for new politics in a new rights based era - and time to turn a corner, together putting the best interests of all the people first.

Thank for your attention.

Go raibh maith agaibh go léir.

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