Sinn Fein Optimistic About Restoration Of Govt Two Years On

Two years on from the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive on 09 January 2017, Sinn Fein has expressed optimism that the power-sharing institutions can be restored, but only on the basis of equality.

The Ulster Unionist party, however, has hit out at the "two wasted years" caused by the lack of political responsibility taken by Northern Ireland's two largest parties and called on the Secretary of State to introduce direct rule.

Sinn Fein's Deputy Leader Michelle O'Neill reflected on the "heart-breaking yet inspiring day" when Martin McGuiness resigned as Deputy First Minister and effectively collapsed the political institution of Stormont, but added: "It was the right thing to in order to fix what was broken.

"The public deserve to have a functioning government they can have confidence in. A government that guarantees citizens rights and operates on the basis of transparency and integrity. Through all the political breakdown and rancour of the past two years, it can be tempting to believe that the prospects of restoring the Assembly and the Executive in the North are as remote as ever.

"But I believe there is hope for optimism. It is imperative that we arrest the political drift that we are currently in and stop the attempts to unravel the Good Friday Agreement and its political institutions before it becomes unsalvageable."

The mid Ulster MLA slammed the DUP for its part in collapsing any negotiations aimed at the re-establishment of power-sharing, adding: "They are on the wrong side of the popular and political will on the issues of rights, equality and Brexit.

"They are blocking progress from a minority stance and that is not a sustainable position in the longer term. They have been facilitated in this by a British Government which has been robbed of any pretence of impartiality due to its Confidence and Supply arrangement with the DUP at Westminster."

Mrs O'Neill added: "As co-guarantors of our peace and political process, both the Dublin and London governments have a responsibility to ensure that happens.

"The denial of rights must be ended. The equality, mutual respect and all-Ireland approaches enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement must be embraced. The disrespect to Irish national identity and culture must be consigned to the past and the prejudice felt by Women, the LGBT community and ethnic minorities must be eradicated.

"The RHI Inquiry has also exposed the crucial need for reform of how the Assembly and Executive operates in future.
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"None of this is impossible, providing the political will exists. Sinn Féin wants an Assembly which operates differently from what went before. We want to usher in a new kind of politics, which is progressive, respectful, and has integrity. That means promoting the interests of the whole community and upholding our commitment to genuine power-sharing, respect and mutual trust towards one another."

The Ulster Unionist Party chose to mark the two-year anniversary by highlighting the dysfunctionality of Northern Ireland's two largest parties, and called on Secretary of State Karen Bradley to facilitate a transparent talks process aimed at restoring government.

Party leader Robin Swann said: "Where the Assembly could, and should have been working to deliver jobs, delivering for our health service and delivering for our children's education, instead we have seen the DUP and Sinn Fein engaged in a zero sum game, where the people of Northern Ireland are the losers.

"The only way to get this place up and running again is for five party talks to take place. For the negotiations surrounding the Belfast Agreement, parties were invited to take part. Those who wanted to be involved, were involved and those who didn't, self-excluded. The Secretary of State knows what needs to happen and she should have done something about it by now. Instead she seems obsessed with making sure that the DUP and Sinn Fein are satisfied with everything before they get round the table. That approach simply won't work."

The north Antrim MLA also called for direct rule in the absence of ministerial leadership, and hit out at the DUP and Sinn Fein for transferring their political stalemate to local government.

"The people of Northern Ireland deserve government and they deserve accountable and responsible politicians. If that's not going to be from Stormont, then it's going to have to be from Westminster.

"In recent days we have heard rhetoric from both Sinn Fein and the DUP which indicates that they seem intent on transferring the dysfunctionality of their scandal ridden Executive to local councils and sectarianising the forthcoming local government elections. They are feeding off each other in a race to the bottom. That should not be allowed to happen because Northern Ireland and its people both need and deserve something better.

"Local Government served all the people of Northern Ireland through some very difficult and dark times. That role should not be threatened by those who only seek to serve themselves."


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