Some excerpts below from this evening’s speech by Martin McGuinness at the Castlebar ard fheis.
You can listen along … though he was rudely interrupted in the live stream by adverts for Gaviscon Double Action and Harpic White and
Shine at one point! Shinner
Fifteen years ago this weekend the eyes of the world were firmly fixed on Ireland. Hope, Expectation, even Disbelief were in the air.
Inclusive dialogue had won over censorship. Respect for democratic mandates had won over exclusion. Equality had won over discrimination. Parity of Esteem had replaced triumphalism.
All-Ireland political structures would be formed and all decisions would be based upon power sharing as equals. Policing would be transformed and the political prisoners would be released. It should not be forgotten that it was the leadership given by Irish Republicans, leadership for an end to conflict and for Peace which made all this happen.
The deputy First Minister welcomed the (British) Labour Shadow Secretary of State Vernon Coaker to the ard fheis.
Nobody can argue with any credibility that the foundations laid 15 years ago for a better, peaceful and democratic future hasn’t been for the good. By the same token no one could argue that whilst in the North we have come a long way, there is still a further way to go.
And because of that truth, commentators with some justification are critical of what is seen as a lack of cohesion between Unionist and Republican Ministers.
More than once in recent months the observation has been made to me that Sinn Féin Ministers are in government with unionist ministers because we want to be, but that unionist Ministers are in government with Sinn Féin because they have to be.
Speaking frankly this isn’t good enough.
The observation has been made to me that people sometimes say they’ve been told something when it’s actually what they think themselves. The observation has been made to me that while the DUP will not have appreciated some of the comments in Martin McGuinness’ speech, they know that they’ll do less damage by ignoring them rather than reacting or retaliating.
I have no difficulty whatsoever in respecting Unionist’s allegiance to their Britishness – but it gives me no satisfaction to tell you that there is a marked reluctance by unionist leaders to respect the Irish identity of nationalists and republicans.
This difficulty goes to the very heart of the failure to resolve contentious Orange parades and the need to ensure to ensure that symbols and emblems on the basis of equality reflect the allegiances and identity of the community as a whole.
I am so confident in my Irishness that I have no desire to chip away at the Britishness of my neighbours. Unionist leaders really should have enough confidence to facilitate the Irishness of the Gael.
With the will we together have the skills and the talent and ability to deal with the big issues in the here and now – be it standing up to the Tory Welfare cuts or developing a modern Education system, or dealing with the legacy of the conflict …
But all of this would be helped greatly if some within unionism ended the pretence that they are not working the Good Friday Agreement institutions. People need to be in government not because they have to be but because they want to be – and approach decision making in that spirit.
I believe that this taken with a number of other initiatives would have a transformational impact on the operation of the political institutions.
Martin McGuinness returning to his Spring 2013 theme of “dealing with identity“.
Let unionist leaders say clearly that they recognise that my Irish identity and culture holds equal value to theirs. That is what parity of esteem means. That is what Equality is about. It is also what the Agreement demands.
Yet when faced with the recent violence around the flag issue, and indeed in the debate leading up to the decision at Belfast City Hall, instead of returning to the values which underpin the political process many within political unionism resorted to the failed politics of the lowest common denominator. Instead of seeking solutions and standing united against violence with the other political parties they turned inward to the inevitable cul-da-sac of a unionist forum.
A unionist forum, which issued a statement this week on the issue of parades. A statement which ignored entirely the most obvious fact on the subject – the issue of contentious parades will only be resolved when the Orange Order sits down and talks to residents on the basis of respect and equality.
That is the message, which unionist political leaders need to tell the Loyal Orders instead of dodging the issue and pretending to themselves that a resolution to the issue of parades can be found in a forum talking to themselves. It is simply no longer sustainable for the Orange Order to march where and when they want and expect the rest of society to pick of the pieces afterwards.
Martin McGuinness listed “outstanding commitments” from the Good Friday, St Andrews and Hillsborough agreements.
These include a Bill of Rights for the North, an all-island Charter of Rights, establishment of the North-South Consultative Forum, introduction of an Acht na Gaeilge and resolution of the issue of those people still ‘On The Run’ as a result of the conflict.
There has been a failure to act on the Weston Park commitment to hold an independent inquiry into the killing of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane. And Martin Corey and Marian Price remain in prison.
I have been to visit Marian Price and I have attended and given evidence on her behalf to the Parole Commissioners. I am totally convinced that Marian Price represents no threat to the Peace Process and only wishes to be returned to her family. Her continued imprisonment is both cruel and inhumane. Both Marian Price and Martin Corey should be released and released now.
His message to dissidents was unchanged:
The violent actions of those whose desire to plunge Northern society back to the past has to be unreservedly condemned. Whatever else about those amongst the groups responsible it is obvious that they have now been swamped by ruthless criminal elements with an island wide network.
Recent squalid feuding amongst these groups and the recent murders in Dublin and Meath has nothing at all to do with Republican ideals and everything to do with money, ego and self interest.
There is no future in these actions. There can be no going back.
But the enemy of this process in many ways is not from outside. They have failed to damage the Agreement by pointless, sporadic armed actions – but instead by those within the process looking inward instead of outward – looking back instead of forward – playing safe and aiming low instead of seeking to deliver on the ambitions and aspirations of those who elect us.
Update – Martin McGuinness spoke again on Saturday morning and gave a critique of Sinn Fein progress in Northern Ireland. He spoke at length about dissidents:
We are up for real partnership and real engagement. And that is both with those parties inside the political institutions and those outside.
I have offered dialogue with those republicans opposed to our strategy.
[Breaking away from the official speech …] Of course, you may have heard on the news that last night in Derry that guns and explosives which are designed to plunge our society back to the past have been recovered. So I am thankful that no lives have been lost. And my message to people is that we have to continue to support peace.
I want to make one other observation. Every know and again you’ll see these so-called republicans parading. Now and again you’ll see them on television. Most times, people are very interested to see who’s there. I do look too like everybody else. And I look and I see these fifty year olds, and I see these forty year olds, and see these thirty five year olds. And I don’t recognise most of them. You know what I wonder: I wonder where they were when there was a war? (long applause from delegates)
[Back to the teleprompter …] I have sought dialogue with the Orange Order in advance of the marching season.
[Adlibbing again …] In fact I wrote to them six months ago. I’ve yet to receive a reply. I wrote to them in the aftermath of them issuing apublic statement saying that they hadn’t any difficulty with any Orange lodge in the north of Ireland engaging with local residents groups. That was way last year. My information tells me that not one Orange lodge has even made any attempt whatsoever to have dialogue or to show respect and treat with dignity local communities in the north.
So I repeat those calls today – not just to the Orange order but to those so called republicans – to make it clear that to them that there are no closed doors to my office for any section of society.
Alan Meban. Normally to be found blogging over at Alan in Belfast where you’ll find an irregular set of postings, weaving an intricate pattern around a diverse set of subjects. Comment on cinema, books, technology and the occasional rant about life. On Slugger, the posts will mainly be about political events and processes. Tweets as @alaninbelfast.