Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein says power-sharing is only way forward

SF leader is optimistic about return to Stormont

by john mulgrew

Sinn Fein's leader in Northern Ireland has warned there is "no alternative" to restoring a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland in 2018.

Michelle O'Neill said she believed the Assembly could be up and running in the New Year, but said that will only happen "if the institutions represent genuine and equal partnership government for all our people".

"That will require the British Government and the DUP accepting the political and democratic reality which has already been made abundantly clear by the electorate," she said in her New Year message.

"The past 12 months has been an extraordinary time politically. We have witnessed incredible political developments, suffered the loss of a political giant but also the reawakening of the demand for fairness and equality at the heart of our political process.

"And as we look forward to 2018, Sinn Fein is determined and optimistic that we will realise that demand. That we will restore power-sharing institutions based on the principles of the Good Friday Agreement.

"There is no alternative, the status quo is not an option."

Ms O'Neill also paid tribute to the late Martin McGuinness, who passed away in March last year, following a short illness. His resignation as deputy First Minister last January in the wake of the RHI scandal collapsed the Executive.

Ms O'Neill said people were "shaken by the recklessness" of a "DUP-Tory Brexit agenda and the immense harm it will cause to communities and the economy throughout the island".

"That is not the future they want for their children and grandchildren" she said.

"Most people want a positive future, an inclusive and welcoming future where everyone is treated fairly and cherished.

"That is what Martin McGuinness wanted and that is the challenge he set for us in his resignation letter almost a year ago which set out in very clear terms what needs to happen to put the proper foundations in place.

"We have lost Martin, and it is an incalculable loss for us all, but we remain determined to realise the vision he set out."

She said a majority of people in Northern Ireland voted "for parties who support a rights-based society and the principles of mutual respect and parity of esteem".

Ms O'Neill added that a majority of people "want an Assembly which accepts the diversity in our society and delivers for all".

In her New Year message, reported in yesterday's Belfast Telegraph, DUP leader Arlene Foster said Westminster should move promptly to appoint direct rule ministers here, if a last-ditch attempt at brokering a deal to restore devolution fails.

"A return to direct rule would be an inferior alternative, but it would be a government," she said.

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