Guaranteeing rights and respect for all citizens must be the GFA legacy - Kearney
Sinn Féin MLA Declan Kearney has said that there is now an onus on the Irish and British Governments to fully implement the Good Friday Agreement and to begin planning for constitutional, political and economic transition in Ireland.
The Sinn Féin National Chairperson was commenting ahead of a panel discussion during a Yale University conference marking 20 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement entitled "Twenty Years of Peace: Progress and Possibilities in Northern Ireland”.
Declan Kearney said:
"The Good Friday Agreement drew a line under the political conflict in Ireland. It provided a democratic option for managing change in the North. It recognised the legitimacy of contested political aspirations in the north and the need for equality, parity of esteem and mutual respect. It set out a democratic option for managing change in this society.
"However, from its outset the spirit and ethos of the Agreement has been under constant attack from political unionism and the DUP in particular.
"The Good Friday Agreement also has still to be fully implemented.
"Both the British and Irish governments have failed since 1998 in their obligations as co-guarantors of this internationally binding treaty to ensure the delivery of its vision.
"Now twenty years on from the signing of the Good Friday Agreement the contradictions of partition have been brought sharply into focus again as a result of the political crisis in the north, the continued denial of citizens rights by political unionism, and opposition to rights based political institutions.
"The catastrophe of Brexit has deepened these contradictions.
"The majority will of citizens in the north to remain in the European Union has been made subordinate to a wreckers charter being driven by right wing Tories and their allies in the DUP and political unionism.
"Brexit represents the most extreme form of vandalism against the island’s economy and citizens' rights.
"There is a real risk that 25 years of progress could be squandered due to the toxic alliance between the British Tories and DUP.
"Irish citizens in the north face the very real potential of partition, as the main source of division and conflict in Ireland, being reinforced.
"The current situation is unsustainable. The democratic basis for change is being undermined. The Good Friday Agreement faces its greatest ever threat.
"The best way to defend the Good Friday Agreement is for it to be implemented.
"Guaranteeing rights and respect for all our citizens should be the legacy of the Good Friday Agreement twenty years on.
"So bold leadership is now required from all sides.
"Ireland, north and south have changed, and are changing.
"The debate on Irish unity and the timing of a unity referendum have now moved centre stage.
"Brexit means change in the political relations between Britain and Ireland is now unavoidable.
"Partition never had any democratic legitimacy, and it has now run out of road.
"It is time for historic, decisive and brave leadership to be shown by the British state.
"Its mismanagement of the Irish peace process in recent years must be replaced with a recognition that the transition towards Irish unity should begin.
"In parallel, the Irish government needs to begin to prepare for the constitutional, political and economic transition towards Irish unity.
"It should facilitate an open and inclusive national conversation on Irish unity involving all citizens, political parties, social partners and civic society.
"It is time to reimagine Ireland; to reshape relationships; and create a union of belonging and inclusion; on the basis of rights and respect for all citizens, regardless of political identity, cultural tradition, religious affiliation, sexual orientation or ethnicity.”