Remarks by Michelle O’Neill MLA, First Minister Designate, Parliament Buildings
Céad míle failte to those of you returned as Sinn Féin Assembly members.
Congratulations to each of you, your families.
A special welcome to the press corps who are joining us here this afternoon.
The people have spoken and spoken clearly in this election.
The message is one of hope and optimism for the future where political leaders work together to make politics work.
This is my commitment as a political leader, and incoming First Minister.
The electorate also demand that the parties get back down to business; Elect a Speaker and get the Assembly functioning; Appoint a First Minister and deputy First Minister and form a new Executive in order to take the urgent decisions required to invest an extra £1billion in our health service, allocate over £330m to help ease the burden on households struggling with the cost of living crisis; agree a Programme for Government and a three-year budget.
There can be no excuses and no attempt by the DUP or anyone else to punish the public and leave workers and families high and dry now or in the time ahead.
I have said that this election represents a very significant moment of change.
This is a defining moment for our politics and all of our people.
It presents us all with an opportunity to re-imagine relationships in this society on the basis of fairness, equality and social justice.
As a First Minister for All I intend to work with those from all political perspectives, through partnership - not division.
I will provide leadership which is inclusive, which celebrates diversity and which guarantees rights and equality for those who have been excluded, discriminated against and ignored in the past.
We want this incoming Assembly to adopt a culture of civility, and mature politics at Stormont and focus on our shared priorities.
Our mission must be to deliver on the cost-of-living crisis bearing down on people, health, education and far-reaching improvements in our economy in order to create and sustain growth, good jobs, with good wages for everyone across the whole community.
For me it will be a special honour to serve as First Minister and this comes with a huge responsibility.
Through word and deed I will be a First Minister for all, faithfully serving the whole community.
I was born in Cork, but reared in Tyrone.
I am a proud Ulster woman.
And I am very proud of our place on this island, and these islands, which is a rich tapestry of languages, a vast heritage and cultures, including the orange, green and rainbow of cultures, and multiculturalism.
The scale of what has been accomplished since the advent of the Good Friday Agreement 24 years ago has resulted in the transformation our society, and in particular border communities, but we have much, much more to do in order to prosper and reach our full potential.
This includes advancing peace and reconciliation, and eradicating the cancer of sectarianism in our society. Our society has suffered. We must heal the wounds of the past.
In the coming times we have much to do.
Today I have met the British Secretary of State, and have spoken to An Taoiseach. I am engaging with other party leaders, and my message is clear.
As democrats the DUP, but also the British Government, must accept and respect the democratic outcome of this election. Brinkmanship will not be tolerated where the North of Ireland becomes collateral damage in a game of chicken with the European Commission.
The responsibility for finding solutions to the Protocol lies with Boris Johnson and the EU, and their conversations should resume, but make no mistake this society and our businesses will not be held to ransom.
This means applying the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts – An Assembly, Executive, North/South Ministerial Council and East-West structures without delay, and no further interruption.
Our collective task is to work together to solve the problems facing this society.
We must apply the full powers and resources of the Executive and Assembly to address the major issues of the day facing those whom we all represent.
It is time for us all as leaders to have the courage to step forward, with unity of purpose and determination to deliver a stable power-sharing coalition that works, and delivers.
Friends, now is the time to embrace the future.
We have work to do, and people to represent.
The people want government, and we all want change.
I am committed to both.