Unionists who hope for a return to majority rule in the North are living in fantasy land, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said today.
His comments come after the hard-line Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) secured 13.7% voter support in the European election after campaigning against powersharing with republicans.
TUV leader Jim Allister opposed what he described as the mandatory coalition system currently in place at Stormont.
And while DUP leader Peter Robinson has said he would prefer an alternative system, he accepted none was currently available.
Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement the powersharing administration operates a system that ensures both unionists and nationalists share in government responsibility.
And in a strongly worded attack on hard-line unionism Mr Adams today said his party would block any attempt to dismantle powersharing.
“The Northern Ireland state is a sectarian state,” he said. “It was established on this basis and it remains sectarian at its core.”
Mr Adams added: “Because this is a sectarian state and because unionism could not be trusted to govern fairly, the outcomes of the Good Friday Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement are all-Ireland in nature particularly in their institutions,” said the Sinn Féin president.
“There are also many equality and other legal safeguards built into the new political dispensation.
“These include compulsory power-sharing and partnership political arrangements.
“Thinking-unionism knows that this will be the case for as long as the new dispensation lasts and fair minded unionist MLAs have slowly but surely come to terms with this reality.”
He added: “Others, inside and outside the Northern Assembly toy with the idea that the system of governance can be changed.
“I cannot believe that they are serious, but if they are, they are living in fantasy land.”
Mr Adams called for cross-party support for a new future, with united opposition to sectarianism and racism.
He said sectarianism had kept Catholic and Protestant communities apart in the past and it was time for politicians to embrace a shared future.
“The truth is if the new political dispensation is to deliver for everyone then it will do so because all political parties have entered into the spirit as well as the letter of power sharing,” he said.
“Any suggestion that the compulsory nature of the power sharing arrangements can be changed is dishonest and misleading. Those who argue for this position know that it is unattainable.
“All politicians have a duty to set their faces against sectarianism.
“The recent spate of shameful racist attacks shows another unacceptable aspect of our society.
“Racism and sectarianism are two sides of the one coin.
“If there is any tolerance for sectarianism, and in my view there is, it is little wonder that racism thrives. It also needs to be confronted.”