THE fierce and powerful Maya Angelou came to mind this week as last week’s election results transformed the political landscape.
We have lived a painful history,
we know the shameful past,
but I keep on marching forward,
and you keep on coming last.
Our two islands’ future was changed by the results last week. Irish and British citizens in this jurisdiction voted incontrovertibly for the Good Friday Agreement and all of the international agreements upon which our peace relies. Stormont House, the NDNA and yes, the Protocol. A republican party led the way.
Citizens voted in hundreds of thousands for a future based on human rights and equality, where we resolve our differences in negotiation and through law.
Sadly, there is currently a disproportionate focus on the convulsions of those who refuse to face the present or the future. The DUP, TUV and LCC axis of the past resides in the place where they think saying NO and NEVER will garner them a better future, despite the lessons of the past 25 years.
Amazing day at the #BalmoralShow.— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) May 12, 2022
Listening to farmers and rural communities, they are crying out for an Executive to support them as the cost of living and farming rises.
Sinn Féin is ready to form an Executive now to put money into the pockets of families and workers. pic.twitter.com/DkGn67UrGo
With the DUP at its helm, this axis hides behind the cloak of convenience of the Protocol, when there is little doubt in anyone’s mind that the issue at stake is unionism’s inability to countenance a Catholic, republican, female First Minister. Since the Assembly collapsed under the weight of DUP hubris and the refusal to guarantee the rights of all citizens, the DUP has shown itself incapable of dealing with the representatives of a population that refuses to be treated as second class. Its actions this week, refusing to nominate a Deputy First Minister or respect the will of the people, show that its strategic lurch to the right and away from negotiation and agreement is unlikely to change anytime soon. And so the DUP write the constitutional future. If power sharing is impossible, Irish unity will become our only option. So far so obvious, and at this stage well-rehearsed.
This is however no time to talk of zombies or zombie government. In the immediate term we all hope Stormont succeeds and is up and running as we face the cost of living emergency. There will be no forgiveness for those who abdicate that responsibility.
But even if the DUP deny us that, we have an historic opportunity to reimagine our peace agreement which is entering its 25th year. We must urgently examine the threats it has weathered and reinforce its foundations. Those foundations are built on human rights and international law. The co-guarantors of London and Dublin need to be reminded of their obligations and reminded that the majority of the local population expects them to work in concert to promote peace, rights and participation. Prosperity reinforces peace, poverty threatens it.
There is also an onus on all to engage with the constitutional conversation positively. The Celtic nations are moving towards breaking the yoke of the ‘union’. Self-determination is coming. As the loyalist axis of doom wallows, we need to build frameworks for positive conversations and planning on our constitutional future. We all win from this process. We will understand each other better. We will scope all island economies, public services and citizenship rights and protections to the benefit of all. Last week’s results reinforced what we all knew – the future is bright if we can believe in ourselves. Yesterday’s men will not hold us back.