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Political institutions facing gravest threat in over a decade - Carthy

1 January, 2017 - by Matt Carthy MEP

Speaking today at the 60th Anniversary commemoration for IRA Volunteer Feargal O'Hanlon, Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy said the Good Friday institutions were facing their greatest challenge in over a decade.

Carthy told a large crowd of republicans, gathered at the spot where O'Hanlon died on New Years Day, 1957 that the DUP appeared to be "in denial" at the seriousness of the situation caused by their response to the RHI scandal.

During the course of his speech the Midlands North West MEP said:

"Sinn Féin members and supporters are committed to the Good Friday Agreement and to the institutions formed from it.

"But there are political parties north and south who seek to exploit this commitment either for their own short term political ambitions in the case of Fianna Fáil or for an ideological drive back to the days of the past in the case of the DUP.

"There currently exists severe political difficulties in the north which cannot be ignored or avoided.

"The political leadership of unionism remains steeped in sectarianism and pursues a deeply reactionary political agenda.

"The British Government and the largest unionist party, the DUP still actively block the implementation of key elements of the Good Friday and subsequent agreements. This situation is not sustainable.

"I would remind everyone that at no stage of the peace process or the construction of new political arrangements, did republicans sign up for the indefinite obstruction of political progress.

"We did not sign up for the denial of Irish language rights.

"Republicans did not sign up to upholding political institutions at the cost of basic civil and democratic rights.

"The approach of the British and Irish governments to the sectarian arrogance and political irresponsibility of the DUP of recent years has been to humour them.Well, it's time to say, loudly and clearly that this hasn't worked.

"Nationalists and republicans throughout Ireland, not least members and supporters of Sinn Féin, are deeply angered at the recent actions and behaviour of the DUP.

"Today, we have a word of warning today for those who are clearly hell-bent on hollowing out the Good Friday Agreement and denying the rights of nationalists in the North - do not assume that republican patience is limitless!

"The recent arrogance of the DUP in response to the Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI) sandal has seriously damaged the credibility of the Northern Assembly, the Executive and the Office of First and Deputy First Minister.

"Serious allegations of corruption have rightly outraged people from all communities in the North.

"The DUP stands accused of keeping open a scheme that could cost taxpayers over 400 million pounds.

"The actions and behaviour of the DUP since the emergence of this scandal have brought us all to the precipice of a major political crisis.

"People should not underestimate the seriousness of this situation. This crisis is the greatest threat to the political institutions in over a decade.

"But Arlene Foster and her senior advisers appear to be living in a state of denial.

"Let me make one thing very clear here today - this issue is not going away, and Sinn Féin will not be providing any shred of political cover to a unionist leadership who are in an unholy mess entirely of their own making.

"Our MLAs have brought forward a motion which will be top of the agenda when the Assembly returns this month.

"It deals comprehensively with the substantive issues surrounding this debacle.

"It calls on First Minister Arlene Foster to stand aside to facilitate an independent, time-framed, robust and transparent investigation and until a preliminary report is presented; to recoup taxpayers money; and to determine whether corruption played any part in the process.

"On the wider political front in the North, I have another message for the DUP today - you may delay but you will not stop the forces of political progress.

"Those campaigning for an Irish Language Act, marriage equality, a Bill of Rights, legacy inquests and British files to be made available to victim’s families, will not be stopped or silenced by DUP bigotry or British Government obduracy.

"The situation in the North has not been helped in recent times by the stance of a Tory Government in London who are the ideological bedfellows of the DUP on everything from austerity to Brexit.

"Nor have matters been helped by the sheer lack of focus on the North by the current Fine Gael Government in Dublin."

Carthy said the prospect of Brexit has created a new dynamic regarding the construction of a United Ireland:

"For all the faults of the EU, and Sinn Féin is at the forefront of exposing them, the illogicality of having one part of this small island inside the EU and another outside it, is lost on nobody.

"After decades of lecturing republicans about ‘the principle of consent’ the refusal of the British Conservative Government to respect the expressed will of a majority of voters in the Six Counties on EU membership is lost on nobody either.

"The prospect of the North being removed from the EU against the will of its people, and a return to border checkpoints and customs posts has brought the issue of Irish Unity back onto the political agenda. 

"For our part Sinn Féin in recent weeks has published a discussion document regarding the building of a new, united Ireland. We have called on other political parties to do the same.

"We have called for a referendum on Unity and are seeking an informed, reasoned and respectful dialogue on this issue.

"Beyond telling us that the time is not yet right for a unity poll, we are still waiting on the ideas for the achievement of a United Ireland from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

He concluded:

"As we remember Fearghal O’Hanlon and his comrade Sean Sabhat today, let us be clear - a United Ireland and a real republic based on social justice and equality is the only fitting monument to their sacrifice."


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