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Michelle O'Neill: Our promise is to do all that we can to ensure power-sharing works

Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill (Niall Carson/PA)
Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill (Niall Carson/PA)

Michelle O'Neill

As we started the new year Sinn Fein said it would be the start of a decade of opportunity for the island of Ireland.

Our decision yesterday to re-enter the power-sharing institutions and nominate ministers to an Executive was the tangible start of those opportunities.

We believe that the changes which have been achieved in the negotiations over the last year, build on what was agreed in February 2018, and involve some very significant advances.

The new agreement contains:

• An Acht Gaeilge - with official, legal recognition of the Irish language for the first time, an Irish Language Commissioner and increased Irish language funding.

• Legislation on the Stormont House Agreement to be brought forward within 100 days.

• Reform of the petition of concern to try and end its misuse as a veto by one party.

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• Key measures to ensure transparency and accountability to prevent corruption and bad practice and to implement the recommendations arising from the RHI Inquiry.

• Strategies to tackle poverty and a plan to put objective need at the heart of the Programme for Government.

• Finance to start to repair the damage of Tory austerity and help deal with the crisis in our health service, including a commitment to settle the health service strike; an action plan on waiting lists; implementing the Bengoa recommendations on health and social care and a mental health action plan within two months, and the medical school at Magee.

• There are also a range of proposals to support our teachers and improve education provision; welfare mitigations to be extended beyond March 2020; proposals on workers' rights and climate change; investment in stadia including Casement Park, and ending regional imbalance.

We now have a basis to restore power-sharing and that is what we are now going to do.

The biggest and most significant challenge will be ensuring that we have genuine power-sharing based on equality, respect and integrity, and with political will that can be achieved. I believe that the power-sharing government can work. That requires everyone to step up. Sinn Fein's commitment is to do all in our power to make this happen.

At these historic times we will also continue to work for Irish reunification and ensuring the criteria for the triggering of an Irish unity poll are set out and that the planning for unity is stepped up, including the convening of a national forum to discuss and plan the future.

Three years ago Martin McGuinness set down a challenge to all of us to get it right and to deliver for all. Now it is up to us to get the job done.

Belfast Telegraph


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