Martin McGuinness has challenged dissident republicans to accept that further violence is futile and to enter into dialogue on the future of the North.
The North’s deputy first minister said dissident republicans “talk about the conflict in romantic terms” when there was nothing romantic about it. “The war is over and we are in the process of building a new republic and you can still be part of that,” he said in a direct appeal to them.
“There is plenty of room within the political process for voices who oppose the Sinn Féin strategy.
“I was part of the conflict, I was there during the difficult and tragic times we had in the past, and let me tell you, there was nothing romantic about the war. It was hard, it was painful and it was traumatic.
“I never want to attend another funeral of a police officer or any other member of our society who lost their lives due to violence, so I appeal to you for dialogue but I also say to you that the process of building a new future will continue with or without you, it is your call.”
He said Sinn Féin’s republican ideology was “based on inclusion” and recognition of the different cultural traditions in Ireland.
“I recognise that there are 1m people on this island who are British, and let me state here and now that as a proud Irish republican, I not only recognise the unionist and British identity, I respect it and in return all I seek is for my Irish identity and tradition to be respected as well. Respect is a two-way street. People who think that a new Ireland, a united Ireland can be built without unionist participation, involvement and leadership are deluded.”
He called for the next decade of commemorations — such as the 1916 Rising and the 1912 signing of the Ulster Covenant — to become a “decade of reconciliation”.
“Our future is in our hands — it must be about building a new and shared community based on tolerance and respect.”
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