McGuinness addresses Labour Party conference
McGuinness addresses Labour Party conference

Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness addressed a fringe event at the British Labour Party Conference in Brighton on Tuesday morning.

As part of a wide ranging speech Mr McGuinness challenged the rejectionists on all sides and warned that progress on transferring powers on policing and justice was crucial in the time ahead.

His visit drew some controversy after it was revealed that he had attended an invitation-only party thrown by the Guardian newspaper at the Grand Hotel.

The hotel was the scene of an IRA bomb attack against Margaret Thatcher and her Cabinet during a Conservative Party conference in 1984.

Former British Trade Scretary Norman Tebbit described the invitation to Mr McGuinness as “a disgrace”.

“Of course McGuinness expressed no remorse - he has no remorse, he is a terrorist,” he said. “I imagine he came to have a look around to see why the plot failed.

“He is an IRA man - a terrorist - he should be locked up in prison along with all other terrorists.”

During the course of a wide-ranging speech, Mr McGuinness said:

“There are those opposed to the Good Friday and St. Andrews Agreements and the working practise that underpins our institutions. On the republican side we have dissidents who have no clear strategy, who have no plan and no public support. They seek only to make themselves relevant by carrying out actions which destabilise the institutions and seek to bring us back into conflict.

“On the Unionist side we have some opposed to the institutions, to north south arrangements and opposed to power sharing. They want to drag us back into a negotiation that was concluded 11 years ago. They believe that an international agreement and the will of the people north south, who voted in referendums can be set aside. They believe that nationalists and republicans would consider a move away from equality and power sharing. It is alarming that these positions are gaining some currency within our partners in the DUP.

“Only yesterday the deputy leader of the DUP was calling for the end of the Equality Commission, the ending of the Human Rights Commission and the ending of North South Bodies. We have had the leader of the DUP and my partner in Government seeking fundamental change to the structures of power sharing.

“This is at best, the politics of playing to the gallery or at worse a case of self delusion. What was agreed on Good Friday and again in St. Andrews is the way forward.Sinn Fein and I believe the two governments are committed to the arrangements agreed on Good Friday. However we need all others to work the agreement in partnership and as equals. We need to make it work and to deliver.

“That is my message to the rejectionists within Unionism and Republicanism. I speak to them with the same message for although they profess to be ideologically opposite, they share the same objective. To end power sharing and the Agreement.

“Rejectionists on both sides have used policing as a touch stone issue. Unionist rejectionists have put forward the position that Sinn Fein cannot have a role or that more time is required so that we can demonstrate our bona fides. That is clearly offensive and unreasonable. We stand as equals with all other parties on the basis of our mandate.Rejectionists on the republican side have propagated the position that policing is still in the hands of a British Minister and subservient to British National interests.

“For our part Sinn Fein has sought to develop a fully civic policing service and separate out British National Security interests. We want a police service that all sections of our community can support to tackle criminality,anti-social behaviour and to contribute to community safety. We believe that we have made progress on this and acknowledge that it will take time to change the procedures, practises and ethos of policing. We are engaged with all sections of the policing system to make this happen and to hold them to account for any failures.

“However we also need to have a locally accountable Minister in place, not because it is a republican demand, or as a tick box exercise. We need a locally accountable minister to build confidence and to make informed decisions based on local experience and need.

“We have been engaged in detailed discussions with the British Prime Minister to put in place financial arrangements which will address the legacy of underfunding of some aspects of the policing and justice system. Our goal has been to achieve a settlement which will allow for the policing and justice system to be run effectively. The British Prime Minister has said that finance would not be a block to transfer. We need him to deliver on this commitment.

However now also need to be realistic, to conclude a deal that will meet the needs of the policing and justice system and not allow ourselves to be hostage to unrealistic demands. The effect of not striking a deal will only leave those who have underfunded the service, in charge of the purse strings.

Nor should the issue of finance be allowed to become an excuse for not making decisions. I am mindful of the implications for not making a decision. Does anyone believe that a future British Government be they Labour or Conservative would be in a better position to offer additional support.

By seizing this moment we can plot a new way forward, a way forward together in partnership and as equals, That is how we can ultimately defeat the combined forces of the rejectionists.”

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