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Reconciliation can’t be a one-way process – McGuinness

23 November, 2016 - by Martin McGuinness


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Sinn Féin MLA Martin McGuinness has said a genuine process of reconciliation requires more involvement from political unionism.

Speaking at the launch of a Sinn Féin reconciliation document in Belfast's Clifton House today Martin McGuinness said:

“Republicans have rightly embraced the challenge of reconciliation.

“Sinn Féin has demonstrated our commitment to this process through a number of public initiatives which at times have also presented challenges for Republicans.

“But in order for that process to be successful, for our people to be truly reconciled, there needs to be a reciprocation of our efforts; this cannot be a one-way process.

“There needs to be respect for all the traditions on this island, for all narratives. The Irish language, Irish identity, culture and aspiration is as valid as any other and needs to be respected as such.

“That will require mature leadership from political unionism because we alone cannot deliver reconciliation.

“A genuine reconciliation process must seek to create common ground where the collective focus is to build for the future.

“Sinn Féin will continue to offer positive leadership and we will continue to pursue the national reconciliation of our people.” ENDS/CRÍOCH

The full text of Martin McGuinness’s speech at Clifton House, Wednesday 23 November 2016 at the launch of Sinn Féin’s Towards an Agreed and Reconciled Future  

For a number of years now I have been stressing that the next phase of our peace process must be the reconciliation phase.

It is something I firmly believe in.

Something I have tried to lead on.

And I am therefore delighted to be here today to launch Sinn Féin's reconciliation policy document as endorsed by our Ard Fheis this year.

Republicans have rightly embraced the challenge of reconciliation.

We do so because we recognise that the republic we aspire to guarantees "religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens”.

If we are to give effect to those principles, then there is a duty on us to pursue national reconciliation with the same energy and vigour as we would any other aspect of our work.

Sinn Féin has demonstrated our commitment to this process through a number of public initiatives, which at times have also presented challenges for Republicans.

We will continue to be imaginative and creative and take initiatives, which enhance reconciliation and healing.

But if our people are to be truly reconciled, this cannot be a one-way process.

Neither can it be a process, which is partisan or blind to the differing narratives, which exist – and aways will exist – on the island of Ireland.

A genuine reconciliation process must seek to create common ground where the collective focus is to build for the future.

It must be defined by:

  • An acceptance of equality, respect and parity of esteem
  • An acceptance of different narratives and aspirations
  • An acceptance that sectarianism and all forms of intolerance, prejudice and bigotry must be challenged and faced down.

That is the commitment which republicans bring to this process and will continue to do so.

I personally have taken several high-profile initiatives, which sought to demonstrate our willingness to engage with unionism on the basis of equality and respect.

These initiatives were not easy for republicans. They were challenging and difficult but we do them in order to demonstrate to unionists our willingness to respect what is dear to them.

But in order for that process to be successful, for our people to be truly reconciled, there needs to be a reciprocation of our efforts.

There needs to be respect for all the traditions on this island, for all narratives. The Irish language, Irish identity, culture and aspiration is as valid as any other and needs to be respected as such.

That will require mature leadership from political unionism because we alone cannot deliver reconciliation.

Reconciliation is a partnership. A partnership that requires leadership. A partnership that requires moving beyond the lowest common denominator and acting in our shared common good.

In the absence of that we are all condemned to an endless cycle of recrimination, which will only serve to frustrate everything we are trying to build.

And that of course impacts on our ability to collectively deal with crucial issues such as the legacy of the past.

How can we do that unless there is a recognition that there will always be differing narratives of the conflict?

The past will always be a contested space. But that is true of every conflict in history. It doesn't mean you can't build for the future once that simple truth is accepted and respected.

Similarly, it is difficult to see how we can make tangible progress on eradicating sectarianism and dealing with vexed issues like parades, flags and emblems unless there is a genuine commitment across the political sphere to reconciliation based on mutual respect.

This includes respect for the Irish language, Irish identity and respecting the experiences of nationalist and republican community.

Without the shared responsibility to deliver reconciliation, the process will fail.

But we shouldn't be disheartened.

I am convinced there are many within unionism who recognise what needs to happen.

I am regularly approached by people within the unionist community who do acknowledge the steps that Sinn Féin have taken and stress how much this means to them.

Sinn Féin will continue to offer that positive leadership.

We will continue to pursue the national reconciliation of our people.

We do so as republicans. Firmly committed to our aspiration of a new Ireland which genuinely cherishes all her children equally.

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