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‘Deal only possible if DUP and British Government uphold equality’ - O’Neill

12 November, 2017 - by Michelle O'Neill


There can only be an agreement to restore the Stormont institutions if the DUP and British Government are prepared to uphold rights and equality, Sinn Féin Northern Leader Michelle O’Neill has said.

Addressing the annual Edentubber commemoration, Michelle O’Neill also accused the British Government of putting its own electoral survival ahead of the interests of citizens here.

“It is clear that the Tory government’s priority at this time is to sustain its political pact with the DUP,” she commented.

“Theresa May and her party have acquiesced in their own self-interests to the DUP blocking the equality agenda and denying rights which are the norm in all other parts of our islands.

“Sinn Féin remains committed to the restoration of the institutions and the Executive.

“However, they only have value if they enjoy the confidence and support of the people they were established to serve.

“They only have meaning if they are delivering fairly for all our people based on the principles of equality and mutual respect on which they were founded.

“If the DUP or anyone else wish to exercise political power in Government in the North of Ireland now or in the future, then the cost is to embrace a rights-based society and equal partnership government, which works for everyone.”

Full Remarks of Sinn Féin Leader in the North Michelle O’Neill Speech at Endentubber Commemoration, Sunday 12th November 2017

INTRODUCTION

A chairde agus a chomrádaithe, is mór an onóir dom labhairt anseo inniu.

It is an honour to have been asked to speak here today, as we gather to commemorate, remember and honour on this 60th anniversary, Volunteers Oliver Craven, Paul Smith, George Keegan, Patrick Parle and Michael Watters who died in a premature explosion in the early hours of Monday 11th November 1957.

These tragic deaths occurred during the course of 'Operation Harvest' — in what became known as the ‘Border Campaign’ waged by the IRA between 1956 and 1962.

These republicans – the Edentubber Martyrs – included the owner of the cottage, 54-year-old Michael Waters, Paul Smith, 19 years old, from Bessbrook; Oliver Craven, from Newry; Patrick Parle and George Keegan from Wexford.

As republicans have done so every year since 1957 - we gather here today to honour and commemorate their memory and affirm our determination and commitment to the achievement of an agreed, new and united Ireland built on equality and social justice.

Three of the Edentubber Martyrs – Michael, Paul and Oliver – came from this area – a community defined by its strong, vibrant and tenacious commitment to the republican struggle. Patrick and George came from Wexford, a proud county with a strong republican heritage stretching back to 1798. 

Tháinig siad anseo chun an tír a aontú.
 
These men came together with common purpose; to bring about the reunification of this island – a vision that binds us all here today. 
 
They knew that there is nothing more important than freedom and an end to the partition of Ireland, and they were killed in pursuit of Irish freedom.
 
They had an inner strength, determination and courage to stand up against injustice and oppression and to demand the rights and entitlements of the Irish people.

They believed that the continued division of our country was an affront to the ideals, which inspired them, the ideals of the Proclamation of 1916.

These patriots represented the republican spirit of Connolly, Pearse, Markievicz and Tone, and together took a stand to end injustice and achieve equality, peace and freedom in our country.
 
Many ordinary brave republican men and women have died for our freedom before the ‘50s campaign and since.

Many were executed, fell in battle, or died on hunger strike.

Thousands were hounded and jailed on both sides of the border and in England where both they, and their families endured great hardships for the cause of Irish freedom.

These were difficult times to be a republican.

Different times and circumstances require different political strategies but our primary goal and commitment to Irish freedom remains the same.

Agus níl an obair seo furasta.

But the journey of course is never easy.

It requires increased effort to mobilise people at home and abroad in support of republican objectives towards a united Ireland.

We have a unique opportunity to be the authors of a new, peaceful, and democratic future – where our freedom will be won.

It is our job to change the political and constitutional conditions and transform and unite this island and its people.

It is 19 years on since the Good Friday Agreement.

I am thankful that after decades of conflict and division that many people, including the republican leadership worked tirelessly to develop and build the peace process that a new generation enjoy today.

We want to ensure that no one else suffers as a result of conflict; that no other family is bereaved; that the political conditions of discrimination and inequality are fundamentally changed, that everybody belongs and nobody feels alienated from their own country, and that the experience of war and of loss and injury is never repeated.

This does not mean we forget our past.

It means that we address the causes and the aftermath of conflict and division in a mature, sensitive and political manner as a society.

POLITICAL TALKS

This year so far has seen the collapse of the political institutions, we have fought two election campaigns, we have been involved in stop start negotiations and of course we lost our friend and comrade Martin McGuinness.

Ag tús na bliana seo d’éirigh Martin as a phost.

At the start of this year Martin resigned his position of Deputy First Minister.

He did so amid a catalogue of allegations of financial scandal associated with our partners in government, the DUP, and their deliberate disrespect for Irish culture, identity and language.

The Sinn Féin leadership have worked tirelessly to defend our peace process, to advance the reconciliation of our community and to build a better future for our young people.

The DUP after ten years in government have failed to embrace the principles of equality, parity of esteem and mutual respect, which are cornerstones of the GFA and subsequent agreements.

Mar sin, rinne Martin an rud ceart, ag an am ceart agus tá muid buíoch dó.

So Martin did the right thing at the right time, and we are indebted to him for his courage, his guidance and his leadership.

In both elections the public overwhelmingly endorsed the stance taken by our party.

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

Since then we have been engaged in negotiations to restore the power sharing institutions on the basis of equality, respect and integrity.

Sinn Féin entered into these negotiations in a positive and strategic way strengthened by our recently renewed and increased mandate.

Our leadership has worked closely with the DUP and the British and Irish governments to find solutions to the current impasse to restore power sharing and the political institutions.

Rinne muid ár ndícheall.

We were flexible and willing to stretch ourselves in an effort to achieve a breakthrough.

However, despite our best endeavours the discussions were unsuccessful.

I would like to get the political institutions - an Executive, Assembly, All-Ireland Ministerial Council restored - but it has to be on the basis of rights, equality and integrity.

The peace was hard won.

And therefore the principles and values of the Good Friday Peace Agreement

– the foundation stone of the peace process, must be honoured and fully implemented
– not renegotiated by political unionism.

Commitments must be delivered and it is the duty of both the Irish and British governments to fulfil their part. 

They have undermined the process of change by refusing to honour agreements, refusing to resolve the issues of the past while imposing austerity and Brexit against the wishes and best interests of people here.

I believe a political breakthrough is entirely possible, but only if the DUP grasp the opportunity to guarantee the right of every citizen to their democratic civil and political rights – rights that are realised and enjoyed in the rest of these islands.

That includes an Irish Language Act, which 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.

Without doubt the DUP support for Brexit and for the Conservative Government poses real challenges.

It is clear that the Tory government’s priority at this time is to sustain its political pact with the DUP.

Theresa May and her party have acquiesced in their own self-interests to the DUP blocking the equality agenda and denying rights which are the norm in all other parts of our islands.

Níl sé seo inghlactha.

This is absolutely unacceptable.

Sinn Féin remains committed to the restoration of the institutions and the Executive.

However, they only have value if they enjoy the confidence and support of the people they were established to serve.

They only have meaning if they are delivering fairly for all our people based on the principles of equality and mutual respect on which they were founded.

CONCLUSION

Finally, our message to the British Government and the DUP is that it is now time that political unionism accepted that the old certainties are gone.

The Unionist State is gone. Citizens do not want majorities or minorities - they want equality.

I have made clear to British Prime Minister Theresa May as recently as Thursday that Direct rule is not an option, and failing Agreement both Governments must implement those outstanding rights and equality issues.

We are entering a new political era and these issues are not going away, and greater challenges will lie ahead.

So, If they are not dealt with now they will have to be dealt with up the road; and sooner rather than later.

If the DUP or anyone else wish to exercise political power in Government in the North of Ireland now or in the future, then the cost is to embrace a rights based society and equal partnership government, which works for everyone.

Because one thing IS for certain - there will be no return to the status quo!

Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.

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