We launched our Assembly election campaign one month ago at the Europa hotel.
Since then we’ve all been out on the doors engaging the public across eighteen constituencies.
The feedback on the doors towards Sinn Féin, our record in the Assembly and Executive, hard work on the ground and our positive campaign has been encouraging.
Our message and our vision are being received with open arms, because everyone knows this election is about the future.
Our priority is to make politics work, and to show that real change is possible.
The last number of months has proved that when MLAs co-operate together across party lines in the Assembly that delivery is possible, delivery of progressive change that can make a real difference to people’s lives.
The last two years have proved that genuine power-sharing can work when there is unity of purpose by parties inside the Executive.
But while a lot has been achieved, much more needs to be done, and can be done.
This election is about confronting the most pressing issues bearing down on workers and families.
And that’s why Sinn Féin’s top priorities in this election are tackling the cost of living crisis and supporting the health service.
I have been on the doors with our candidates listening to people’s concerns. It is rising living costs and fuel and electricity price hikes which are to the forefront of their minds, and which is crippling household budgets.
Where local Ministers do not have the powers to take action, we will continue to work with the Scottish and Welsh administrations to make sure that the Tory government in London does.
Conor Murphy has set out Sinn Féin’s spending plans to help ease the burdens households face, along with an extra £1bn investment in the health service over the next three years to recruit more nurses, doctors, drive down waiting lists, and improve funding for mental health and cancer services alongside transforming health and social care.
This will require a laser focus to get these things done, financed through a three-year budget.
As a result of the DUP’s collapse of the Executive there remains £334 million in unallocated funds which could have gone some way to alleviating the pressures facing workers and families.
After the election we need an immediate return to the Executive to ensure this funding is released quickly to support workers, families and the most vulnerable.
Sinn Féin will be ready on day one after the election to prioritise these issues, to provide our children with a modern education, to deliver 100,000 new homes, make our communities safer, and create good jobs so the next generation has a future here.
It also means delivering the strategic flagship infrastructure projects committed to by the Executive such as Magee University expansion, completion of the A5 road upgrade and seeing the redevelopment of Casement Park delivered during this mandate.
Access to the British and EU markets gives the north a real competitive advantage from which we must yield benefits to help position our economy, support local business, attract and retain Foreign direct investment and secure jobs.
I was in Washington over St Patrick’s week and access to the single market is clearly a core part of the North’s investment proposition which is well understood by investors across the Atlantic.
But, here at home we have an economy department with the DUP at the helm, deliberately squandering opportunities because of their ideological opposition to the Protocol and All-Ireland cooperation.
It’s time for new leadership and a change of direction.
We need to see far-reaching improvements to succeed in planning and delivering our economic vision moving forward.
We need functioning institutions and political stability which allows those of us who want politics to work, to do so through cross-party co-operation and delivery.
This election is a defining moment, a time for real change which will shape the direction of our society for the next generation.
If the electorate decide, Sinn Féin will take up the reins and lead an agenda for real change at Stormont, with a progressive First Minister for All.
The future is in your hands.
While we face many challenges, we have huge opportunities also.
Our MLAs and Ministers will work hard, and we will continue to stretch ourselves night and day to deliver on behalf of people right across the entire community.
We will work in close partnership with those who want to deliver a progressive, modern and forward-looking society – a society which is inclusive, which celebrates diversity and which guarantees rights and equality for those who have been excluded, discriminated against and ignored in the past.
Inclusion and equality is where our focus will be.
On the future.
And on our common ground.
We seek partnership, not division with unionism, but we also want to work with and serve those who are of neither a unionist nor nationalist political tradition too.
We want to show respect, and to be shown respect whether we’re British, Irish, or neither.
We want this new Assembly to adopt a culture of civility, and mature politics at Stormont and focus on our shared priorities…
- A prosperous economy.
- Decent jobs.
- World-class public services.
- An inclusive society.
- Ambition, opportunity, success!
This is a time for leadership.
A time of hope and opportunity.
This is a time of real and historic change.