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Martin McGuinness speech to Assembly debate on OTRs

28 February, 2014 - by Martin McGuinness

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness contributing to the debate in the Assembly Chamber today surrounding the On the Runs issue said:

I have previously spoken about my frustration at the failure to date of the parties to agree a way forward on dealing with the past.

Again, issues regarding the past are being used to poison the present.

Our efforts need to be refocused on the proposals that have been published by Richard Hass and Meghan O’Sullivan, and have been under discussion by the party leaders for the past 2 months.

I am frustrated that the stability of these institutions have been threatened this week, and that a sense of crisis has replaced the much needed focus we needed to get agreement on issues relating to the past.

I am frustrated that those historically opposed to the peace process and to power sharing are being allowed to chip away at the process by using legacy issues as a vehicle to pursue their negative and rejectionist agenda. I have never kowtowed to the actions of so called republican dissidents.

I am frustrated that those on the extreme loyalist fringe are able to shape the behaviour of the 2 main unionist parties, by using these issues.

At a time when there is a crisis in our A & E services and our most vulnerable people are under threat from proposed Tory welfare cuts, I am frustrated that we are here today discussing a motion which is as irresponsible as the threat to collapse the Assembly.

Today’s recall and motion is about the upcoming elections and the political posturing within unionism.

Frankly I believe that people out there deserve better.

Politicians are elected to lead.

This peace process has been built on strong political leadership.

Political leaders have stepped out of their political comfort zones and taken risks for peace.

At many times throughout this process, I could have walked away. I could have threatened to resign.

I have not done that. I have sought solutions and agreement. And we have progressed to where we are today because of those agreements.

The peace and political process needs defended, protected and promoted by all political leaders. Not threatened.

As the peace process developed, a large number of legacy issues where thrown up.

Some of these have been successfully resolved. Many others remain outstanding.

One of these legacy issues is the issue of OTRs.

The British and Irish governments at Weston Park made a commitment to resolve this issue.

And I quote:

Both Governments recognise that there is an issue to be addressed, with the completion of the early release scheme, about supporters of organisations now on cease-fire against whom there are outstanding prosecutions, and in some cases extradition proceedings, for offences committed before 10 April 1998. Such people would, if convicted, stand to benefit from the early release scheme. The Governments accept that it would be a natural development of the scheme for such prosecutions not to be pursued and will as soon as possible, and in any event before the end of the year, take such steps as are necessary in their jurisdictions to resolve this difficulty so that those concerned are no longer pursued.”

And yet seasoned politicians in this house have appeared on the media in recent days pretending not to know this.

The scheme being used is not an amnesty and it is not some “get out of jail free card”.

It seems to me that there are some here who have been for years beating a law and order drum, now have difficulty accepting the word of the British Attorney General about the legality of this scheme. Dominic Grieve has said that the process to resolve some of the OTR cases, was a lawful process.

So the political and peace process is brought to the point of crisis for no good reason. This is irresponsible.

The Politics of instability is bad politics.

It is kneejerk politics and is driven for short term electoral strategies. This is not what the majority of people who elect us want to see from their political leaders.

So let us quickly move on from the events of the past few days. Let us step up to the plate and start grappling with real issues, not manufactured ones.

There are real crises in our society. The crisis of the ill or injured who lie for hours on end, unattended in our A&E Departments: the crisis faced by the poor and vulnerable threatened by savage Tory welfare cuts: the crisis experienced by the homeless and those that are now jobless, as a result of recent company closures, including those at KPL in dungiven. These issues should be our immediate and urgent focus.

The existence of On the Runs is one of the many consequences of our failed past.

We have collectively agreed that we need to find an acceptable way to deal with this past and that is why we invited Richard Haass to help us find a way forward.

If we are really serious about delivering for victims and survivors, and I am;

If we are really serious about delivering for communities and the orange order on parades, and I am;

If we are really serious about having a mature debate about flags, symbols and identity, and I am;

Then, there is no alternative but to return to the Haass blueprint and build on this progress.

Let us refocus our efforts to deal with these issues.

I am up for engagement and I am up for agreement. I am a problem solver. Let others here demonstrate the same commitment.

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