Belfast Telegraph

Desperate May's need to cling on to power is reason we are in limbo

By Michelle O'Neill

The Stormont talks have now effectively been parked by the British Government without any agreement being reached on the fundamental issues which caused this crisis.

That is hugely frustrating for those of us who have been genuinely working to restore credible and sustainable institutions, which value and deliver for all citizens.

This constitutes a monumental failure by Theresa May and her government. Decades of work are being put on hold to keep her in power.

This is a consequence of the British Prime Minister supporting the DUP and the DUP supporting her.

Let me be absolutely clear. The Assembly and the Executive should be in place today and delivering for all our citizens. 

The Assembly and the Executive could be in place today if the DUP was prepared to end its blockade of basic rights - rights that people routinely enjoy in every other part of Ireland and in Britain.

But the DUP's adherence to a world view, long since abandoned in the Britain to which they declare allegiance, continues to define whole sections of our society as somehow inferior or less equal.  The DUP deny rights to Irish speakers. They deny equality to members of the LGBT community. They deny families - some of whom have been waiting up to 45 years - the right to coroners' inquests.

That is simply an untenable position. It is an unacceptable position.

The Assembly and Executive are only sustainable and credible if they are based on rights, respect and equality.

However, it is an utter disgrace that the British Government, which is best placed to encourage the required step-change on the part of the DUP, have refused to do so. And they refuse to do so because they have put their own political power and survival first.  For the most crass, selfish and short-term reasons the Tory government has abdicated their responsibilities to citizens and to the Good Friday Agreement because they are now in hock to Arlene Foster's party and are unwilling or unable to confront their anti-rights agenda.

The price of a deal with the DUP in London may have been £1bn but here, it seems, it is much higher - it is discrimination against sections of our society.

Sinn Fein is not prepared to pay that price. Rights are not something that can be bartered away or compromised on. These are the same rights that are upheld, guaranteed and protected in law by both the British and Irish Governments in London and Dublin. The denial of these rights would not be tolerated elsewhere on these islands and it should not be tolerated here. This is the 21st century and people are entitled to a modern, inclusive government that treats all citizens on the basis of equality.

That is the only way to resolve the current difficulties and we can get there by accepting rights must be protected. We don't get there by pandering to the DUP's agenda, which is increasingly out of step with the vast majority of the population.

More and more people within all communities - including unionism - recognise that rights and equality threaten no one.

They see that power-sharing institutions must embrace the principles of equality and respect set out in the Good Friday Agreement if they are to be sustainable into the future. They know that is the only way forward. They know that any attempt to impose direct rule or to undermine the protections of the Good Friday Agreement is unacceptable and doomed to fail.

So whether it is next week or in the autumn, at some point we will be back at the talks table seeking the implementation of previous agreements and the issues will be the same. And so will the solution.

It is the restoration of power-sharing institutions on a sustainable basis, with equality and respect at their core and commanding public confidence.

That is what Sinn Fein wants to see. It is what the people want to see.

It can and should happen without further delay.

Belfast Telegraph


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