Belfast Telegraph

Our message stays the same, says Sinn Fein MP at unveiling of McGuinness billboard

By Donna Deeney

Sinn Fein has said its demand for respect before it re-enters government in Northern Ireland hasn't gone away - despite the offence the party admits Barry McElduff has caused.

Exactly a year after the late Martin McGuinness collapsed the Stormont Executive by resigning as deputy first minister, Foyle MP Elisha McCallion told the DUP the message from that time has not changed.

Ms McCallion and some 50 party members, including Mr McGuinness's widow Bernie, unveiled a billboard quoting 'No return to the status quo', in the Bogside area of Londonderry.

Ms McCallion insisted the furore caused by West Tyrone MP Mr McElduff's tweet did not diminish Sinn Fein's respect call.

She said: "We have made it clear that Barry's actions were not appropriate of someone of his standing.

"Michelle O'Neill, as leader of the party in the North, has sanctioned him accordingly.

"We appreciate there was deep hurt and offence caused but we have acted appropriately in order to deal with that issue.

"Our message is still the same - we demand, integrity, respect and equality - not for Sinn Fein, but for the people of this island.

"Martin McGuinness made it clear last year that we would not return to the status quo but we have not found any reason during recent negotiations that would lead us to believe a return would bring a change in that position.

"Of course all of us want to see the institutions back up and running but they need to work in true partnership. They need to be based on the principles of the Good Friday Agreement but unfortunately the way they were working prior to the collapse was not in the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement."

Addressing the gathering at Free Derry Corner, Ms McCallion said Mr McGuinness's action on January 9, 2016 had changed the political landscape.

She added: "We will be forever indebted to Martin for taking the courageous steps he took on behalf of our party - a step that said very clearly there would be no return to the status quo.

"That position is as clear today as it was last year and the DUP need to listen very clearly. If we are going back into negotiations, they should hear our message - a message that was endorsed in two elections and gave us our biggest ever mandate in this city.

"We will stand strong to Martin's message that was put out this day last year."

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