Belfast Telegraph

Michelle O'Neill: We need to have political institutions restored on a credible basis

Rival party leaders spell out their vision for getting Assembly running again

Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill said the institutions must be restored on a ‘credible and sustainable basis’ (Niall Carson/PA)
Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill said the institutions must be restored on a ‘credible and sustainable basis’ (Niall Carson/PA)

By Michelle O'Neill

Last Thursday's election was historic and a defining moment in our politics.

Brexit has changed the political landscape in Ireland, in Britain and in Europe.

The old certainties are gone.

The political unionist majority is also gone.

Voters clearly responded to co-operation between pro-Remain, progressive parties.

They rejected Brexit in ever-growing numbers and pro-Remain parties won 10 of the 18 seats.

A cross-community majority is opposed to being dragged out of the EU, opposed to any hardening of the border in Ireland and wants to protect the Good Friday Agreement and the all-Ireland economy.

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They rejected the DUP and their ill-fated toxic pact with the Tories, which impeded political progress for more than two years and eroded all pretence of the rigorous impartiality required of the British government as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement.

The political dynamics have changed dramatically and the British government is no longer reliant on the DUP. The resistance by both the DUP and British Tory government to advancing equality and human rights guarantees in law for all citizens, which prevented the restoration of the political institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, must end with it.

This week Sinn Fein will re-enter talks with the two governments and the other parties to re-establish the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.

Sinn Fein wants to see those political institutions restored on a credible and sustainable basis.

Freedom to choose our own future will be decided by the people on this island alone.

A restored Executive, to be credible, must deliver on issues such as public sector pay, safe staffing levels in the health service, economic policies that deliver prosperity and invest in rural communities, and an appropriate welfare mitigation package.

We will work towards securing agreement on outstanding issues, including an Irish Language Act, reform of the Petition of Concern, the legacy of the past and integrity in government. I believe they can be resolved if there is the political will to do so.

We need a new kind of politics, a new Assembly and a new Executive.

We need to deliver good government and properly resourced public services to all.

We need an Executive which is transparent, accountable and inclusive. All parties should commit to being round that table, providing political leadership and setting out our own agenda and priorities, serving the best interests of the people of the North.

We need to deliver good government, based on the principles of equality and respect, and properly resourced public services to all citizens.

Alongside this, it is impossible to ignore the reality that a growing number of people are impatient for change, and the demand for an Irish unity referendum. The Irish government should establish an All-Ireland Forum on Irish Unity without delay.

We are entering a decade of opportunity where the freedom to choose our own future will be decided by the people on this island alone.

Michelle O'Neill is Sinn Fein's Northern leader

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