Belfast Telegraph

SF reiterates no return to Stormont if rights issue not addressed

By Gareth Cross

Civil rights for people here can no longer be put on hold, a Sinn Fein MLA has warned.

Declan Kearney was speaking at an event in Toome last night to mark the 50th anniversary of the People's Democracy March from Belfast to Londonderry.

The march attracted global attention when participants came under violent attack from loyalists at Burntollet Bridge outside Derry.

It was a defining moment in the civil rights movement.

Mr Kearney, an Assemblyman for South Antrim and his party's chair, called for action to implement language rights, address legacy issues and introduce equal marriage and women's health rights.

They are among key issues deadlocking attempts to restore the devolved institutions.

Mr Kearney compared the opposition to the civil rights movement to a "push-back" on the Good Friday Agreement from "significant sections of political unionism".

"It is a scandal 50 years after political extremists beat civil rights marchers from Belfast to Derry off the roads in opposition to a rights-based society that a new generation of political unionists continue to oppose the development of a rights-based society and proper power-sharing," Mr Kearney said.

"Make no mistake, there is a deep systemic crisis in the north of Ireland.

"It is a crisis caused and perpetuated by a denial of democratic rights and failure to implement the Good Friday Agreement."

Mr Kearney said Brexit had brought the problems here under the spotlight.

"A solution to the depth of this crisis will only be found through negotiation and decisive political leadership, which commands the authority to make and keep agreements, and embrace and deliver change," he added.

Mr Kearney said "citizens' rights can no longer be put on hold".

And he warned that "the days of second class citizenship are over", saying there would be no return to the status quo.

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