The result from the local election in Northern Ireland on Friday was emphatic. It shows an electorate hungry for delivery, hungry for progress and hungry for change.
Sinn Féin enters the talks process tomorrow with a renewed mandate and hopeful for a deal that delivers, that is durable and upon which sustainable power-sharing government can be built.
The political stalemate is unacceptable, it cannot continue. The way back to power-sharing is to embrace equality.
The electorate has spoken loud and clear for equality; the task is now for politics to rise to that popular demand. We have an opportunity to resolve the outstanding issues, it’s an opportunity that every political leader should seize.
We also engage in these talks with our eyes wide open. More than any other party we understand the need for dialogue and compromise.
A year on from the compromise deal negotiated with and subsequently reneged on by the DUP, we are mindful that reaching agreement is not a sole responsibility of a single party. It requires partners that respect and act in the interest of all sections of the community.
Our mandate is for the establishment of genuine power-sharing, for building a reconciled, peaceful and prosperous society. A place that is a home to all, in all our rich diversity. A society of equal citizens, with equal rights and due equal respect I think these objectives are not only entirely reasonable, but they are also the bedrock that sustainable power-sharing government is founded on.
At the heartbreaking funeral of Lyra McKee political leaders were challenged to come together. That challenge was far greater than simply to meet and talk. It was a call to resolve the outstanding issues and build a better society for all.
Because there comes a point when talking, without delivery, simply isn’t good enough.
Nobody could countenance the continued denial of rights or refusal to implement agreements. The people have told us that they want these issues resolved. We are determined to do our jobs and have them resolved.
Sinn Féin spent 10 years in partnership government in the north working daily for the whole of society.
That decade was marked by many successes but progress and good government was consistently frustrated and ultimately fatally undermined by a political Unionism that would not embrace full power-sharing and equality.
The system was broken and it required us to stop and fix it, for everybody. The Good Friday Agreement provides the foundation to resolve the current political stalemate.
The agreement is built on the fundamental principles of rights, respect, equality, democracy and peace. These principles remain the basis for re-establishing power-sharing. They do not require renegotiation, they require acceptance and implementation.
Our negotiators are ready for talks. We are up for resolving the issues. These issues are not complex, complicated or intractable. They can be resolved if the political will exists. Agreement can be found in which the rights of all are respected.
We will work hard to find agreement. Our expectation is that all parties and, crucially, the two governments will now take the next leap forward to meet the equality imperative at the core of power-sharing.
If political parties, are unwilling or unable to deliver equality then the governments must bring forward a new British Irish partnership to implement the outstanding agreement and end the denial of rights.
Now is the time to move forward together. We owe this to each other. The promise of the Good Friday Agreement can and must be realised for this generation.
Mary Lou McDonald
Leader Sinn Féin
TD Dublin Central
This reader's opinion was originally published in the letters page of the Irish Examiner print edition on May 8, 2019.