Declan Kearney's speech to the Ard Fheis 2015 live section

7 March, 2015

When the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998, huge hope was inspired across the island.

We were optimistic about the future. But challenges remained.

The legacy of our political conflict cast a long shadow.

Sectarian division and segregation continued.

Some still oppose the ongoing democratic transformation of northern society.

The reality is that twenty years into the Peace Process reconciliation has still not been achieved.

Human and political relationships have been broken by the conflict.

Many citizens from all sections of our community, and across Ireland and Britain, live with real and continuing pain.

I am sorry that their loss cannot be undone.

But we can ensure these tragedies are not repeated.

That is my, and Sinn Féin’s commitment.

With hindsight’s benefit we can all see things we would wish had been done differently, or not at all.

There is much healing to be done.

New relationships need built; along with respect; generosity; forgiveness; and, trust.

We may never agree about the past; but it should not hold back the future.

The war is over.

There is much to forgive, and have forgiven.

Mandela said resentment is like drinking poison.

Reconciliation allows us all to become winners.

Some think that is impossible.

However, I see things differently.

Language and listening are very important.

I understand some within unionism, may not hear what republicans are saying.

They do not understand our message. Others do not believe our sincerity.

Sinn Féin is genuinely committed to reconciliation and healing among our people.

It is the way forward.

A reconciliation process will inevitably involve uncomfortable conversations.

Many real, and imagined, fears exist. These must be understood.

Reconciliation does not mean giving up our respective allegiances, as republicans, unionists, or different religious persuasions, and none.

Healing in our society needs to be placed above the challenges of our political process.

A shared future should be about respect and equality for difference.

Inclusive, open and two-way engagement on reconciliation, and free from recrimination, is urgently needed.

An initiative of common acknowledgement from all sides, for the pain caused by, and against, each other, could make a powerful contribution to forgiveness and healing.

In recent times, the Peace Process has been taken for granted.

That must not happen again. The future is at stake.

This community, and especially our young people, deserve to have hope and optimism restored.

A new opportunity exists.

It should not be squandered.

The Stormont House Agreement, if fully implemented, can be a catalyst for reconciliation.

Let us together, believe in hope again.

It is time to make reconciliation the new phase of the Peace Process.