Belfast Telegraph

Martin McGuinness: Building an Ireland of equals that has a place for everybody

Sinn Fein has led from the front in terms of protecting core services. The task of the next five years is to build on the progress already made and deliver a better future for all, writes Martin McGuinness.

Sinn Fein is seeking your vote on May 5 as a mandate to continue the process of building prosperity and consolidating the peace.

We should never take for granted how far we have come in this society and your support, your engagement with the democratic process, is vital as we continue to build a better future for our children.

There is no denying that we have come through a difficult time in terms of the Executive. We have had five years of political instability as a result of Tory austerity and also negativity and blatant opportunism by some political parties.

However, we worked hard to come up with alternatives to offset the worst excess of the Tory cuts agenda. We did this by creating jobs, reducing unemployment, protecting essential public services and securing more than £500m to support those in need, including vulnerable children and adults. We also prevented the return of direct rule and delivered stable, functioning power-sharing institutions. The Fresh Start negotiations last year were about drawing a line in the sand and changing how we do business.

And I am proud of Sinn Fein's record in government. Our ministers - John O'Dowd, Michelle O'Neill and Caral Ni Chuilin - have led from the front in terms of protecting front line services and bringing equality to the heart of government.

We have led the way in decentralising an entire department to the north west. We have directed additional funding to the most disadvantaged schools, we are revitalising the Irish language community through investment in Irish-medium education and the Liofa project, unemployment in the North has fallen by 26,000 and levels of foreign direct investment are at an all-time high.

We have led on the progressive measures taken by the Executive, ring-fenced health spending, transformed the schools estate across the North, created 40,000 jobs, as well as blocking water charges, keeping student fees affordable and protecting free prescriptions and pensioners' travel.

We achieved this in spite of the relentless negativity of smaller parties who opposed the Fresh Start agreement and which, only days from the election, can't tell the electorate if they want to be in the Executive or in the Opposition.

Parties which have set out endless uncosted and unfunded election promises they will never deliver. Parties which call for joined-up government, while voting negatively at every opportunity.

It's long past time to move beyond this narrow, self-serving point-scoring. We need a more responsible, a more mature approach to politics in the Assembly, because we know when we have worked together collectively we have made progress.

I am certainly determined and committed to providing the positive and experienced leadership that will deliver more progress. Progress on jobs, on improving our health service, on gender equality. We need to eradicate sectarianism, racism, homophobia and bigotry and deliver equality for every one of our citizens.

We must also continue to face down the extremes within loyalism and so-called republicanism, which would seek to drag us back to the dark days of the past.

All they have to offer is fear, intimidation and pointless bloodshed. We have seen that in recent days and weeks with the murders of Michael McGibbon and prison officer Adrian Ismay in Belfast and the shooting of Harry Boyle in my own city of Derry.

The people who carried out these acts are a blight on our communities. They have been rejected by the people of Ireland, because it is the Sinn Fein national and democratic project which citizens are embracing.

We are the only party on the island which is serious about achieving the Ireland of equals that was declared to the world from the steps of the GPO in Dublin a century ago.

That Ireland, the new Ireland, threatens no one. It had a place for everyone.

We are absolutely committed to developing all-Ireland co-operation and implementing practical proposals that are to the mutual benefit of everyone.

We are committed to campaigning against Brexit, as it would be bad for Ireland politically, economically and socially. Sinn Fein's vision is of a changed Europe, which properly serves the sovereign and democratic needs of its member states.

My priority is to bring forward and implement a Programme for Government that grows the economy, provides proper public services and promotes equality and inclusion.

The peace process remains one of the most important dynamics in modern Irish history and it shows us what is possible when we show positive leadership. Sinn Fein has a strong track record on delivering for you.

We have set out in our manifesto what Sinn Fein intends to deliver, building on the work of the last five years. You know that you can trust Sinn Fein with the political institutions, trust us with peace process and trust us to deliver. I am asking for your support so that Sinn Fein can build on the success of the general election in the South, where we achieved 23 TDs and have now seven seanadoiri.

We are delivering for all the people of Ireland.

My commitment to you for the next five years is to build on the enormous progress already made and to deliver a better future for all.

  • Martin McGuinness is Deputy First Minister.

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