Belfast Telegraph

We are on cusp of an agreed Ireland that upholds the rights of everyone

By Órfhlaith Begley

It is a huge honour for me to have been elected as the first female MP for West Tyrone and I sincerely thank all those who campaigned for me, voted for me and put their faith in me.

As I now set about the work of representing all the citizens of West Tyrone, I am determined that faith will be rewarded.

The people of this constituency face many challenges, not least of them Brexit. This is not an Orange or Green issue. It is an issue on which we must work together for the common good.

That is what I will do as part of the Sinn Fein team which is already spearheading the campaign to secure special status for the North.

This election is a clear endorsement of that because, once again, the people of West Tyrone have demonstrated that they do not want a hard border.

They do not want the disastrous consequences of British Government attempts to drag us out of Europe. They do not want division or economic and social turmoil. They do not want Brexit.

Sinn Fein will ensure that message continues to be heard loud and clear in Brussels, in London, in Belfast and in Dublin.

I will also champion the issues that will benefit all the people of this constituency.

We need to attract more and better jobs to West Tyrone. We need to see the completion of the A5 and the roll-out of broadband.

These are the issues that were constantly being raised on the doorsteps and I am committed to working with all parties and stakeholders to ensure they are delivered on.

This is a new chapter for West Tyrone. I will reach out with an open hand in friendship to our unionist neighbours. I will work to seek resolutions rather than recrimination. I will work to build bridges.

I will do so as part of a vibrant, growing and dynamic party under the new leadership of Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O'Neill.

I am hugely excited by that because this can be genuinely a new era for Irish politics. That is undoubtedly true in the context of Brexit and changing demographics. And, as in any new era, we will face many challenges.

But there is also great potential. As the new MP for West Tyrone I believe we are on the cusp of creating a new Ireland, a better Ireland - an agreed Ireland. An Ireland that upholds and protects the rights of all citizens.

But I also accept that it is our responsibility as republicans to convince others of the benefits of Irish unity.

In this new era that is the conversation, the debate I want to have with unionism.

I passionately believe we can shape the new Ireland together. We can build a future that belongs to us all.

No one has anything to fear from that.

An agreed Ireland benefits us all. It can be home to us all; a home in which we all feel respected, protected and valued.

Orfhlaith Begley is Sinn Fein MP for West Tyrone

Belfast Telegraph

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