January 11, 2020
Full speech from Michelle O’Neill at today’s Assembly sitting

Go raibh maith agat a Cheann Comhairle.

This is a defining moment for politics here.

From today the parties represented in this chamber undertake to cooperate in every way we can in order to rebuild public trust and confidence in, and engagement with, this Assembly and its Executive.

Our mission must be to deliver on health, education and jobs for everyone across the whole community.

I see no contradiction in declaring and delivering on our firm commitment to power sharing with unionism in the Stormont Assembly while also initiating a mature and inclusive debate about new political arrangements which examine Ireland’s future beyond Brexit.

Similarly, there is no contradiction in unionism working the existing constitutional arrangements while taking its rightful place in the conversation about what a new Ireland would look like. 

We can do this while maintaining our independent distinct political identities and working in the best interests of all of the people.

This is my firm commitment.

After three years without functioning institutions with the five parties forming the new Executive, it is my hope that we do so united in our determination to deliver a stable power-sharing coalition that works on the basis of openness, transparency and accountability, and in good faith and with no surprises.

I am honoured to follow in the footsteps of my dear friend and comrade Martin Mc Guinness taking up the position of deputy First Minister, and as joint head of Government I too pledge to follow the example of Martin by actively promoting reconciliation, and building bridges we can all cross to end sectarianism and bigotry.

Resistance to equality caused the Executive to fall.

A refusal to embrace citizens identity and rights left people frustrated, angered and divided.

This cannot be repeated.

Today we, each of us, are called on to lead.

To build common cause for a society that makes room for, and gives respect to, every citizen.

To deliver a power-sharing government that is truly grounded in fairness, inclusion.

And that has the courage to lead from the front in these times of change.

Our politics must embrace civic society – trade unions, voluntary/community sector, business, academia, farmers, business, churches, students – all must have a permanent place and space to advise, input and hold this Assembly and Executive to account.

We must work together to solve the problems facing this society.

We will apply the full powers and resources of the Executive and Assembly to address the major issues of the day facing those whom we all represent.

I welcome the historic official recognition of the Irish language in this State.

The guarantees for the language in law represents meaningful parity of esteem for the community from which I proudly come.

Also, that the equality, mutual respect and all-Ireland approaches enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement are being embraced, and that we deliver on the promises of 1998 to a new generation of our young people.

We have a basis in which to move forward in building a fair society and good government.

We will institute necessary reforms across the board in order to get things done, but also get things right in this new administration where we have shared values, and policy objectives set out in a new Programme for Government.

Yesterday nurses and healthcare workers had to take industrial strike action.

The Executive will move immediately settle the ongoing healthcare workers pay parity dispute for those workers.

The health service is in crisis and demands our urgent attention.

Waiting lists are unacceptable.

The health service needs reformed.

We have a big job to do.

As we face into the great uncertainties of Brexit, it is imperative that we redouble our efforts to develop and rebuild a modern, competitive and sustainable economy where we open doors to trade, investment, tourism and jobs.

We need decent jobs, that value workers and protect their rights.

We need to improve our competitiveness through investing in our public services and infrastructure.

To conclude,

As we approach the centenary of partition let’s not refight battles of the past.

It is time to bring people together.

We can open doors and,

We can let this future in.

We must give people hope and our young people opportunity.

It is my sincere hope that 2020 is a time of real change which reinvents the optimism and hope we have experienced before, but our young people have not. 

It is time now for parties to have courage, as we choose hope over fear and enter a new era of politics in this society.

I wish all members, particularly new MLAs the very best in the time ahead and welcome and congratulate those appointed Ministers into Government.

We have two years, let’s make a difference.

Go raibh maith agaibh

 

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