Sinn Fein’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has told his party’s Ard Fheis [annual conference] today that unionists are “brothers and sisters” who are to be “loved and cherished”.
The annual conference - the first to be held north of the border - has focused on the creation of a ‘new Republic’, rather than a reunited Ireland. It has seen new departures in the party’s move to the political mainstream and its programme of ‘reaching out’ to unionism.
Mr McGuinness spoke to party colleagues about fairness and equality during his keynote address at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall on Saturday.
“Building a new Irish Republic is about much more than territory. It is about people. It is about fairness. It is about equality,” he said.
He said the Irish people abhorred “injustice, greed, corruption, sectarianism and racism”.
“I see unionists as brothers and sisters to be loved and cherished as we continue to develop a genuine process of reconciliation on our journey to the New Republic,” he declared.
His speech came after Presbyterian minister Reverend David Latimer became the first Protestant clergyman from the North to address a Sinn Fein conference last night.
During his address, Latimer hailed Mr McGuinness as one of the “true great leaders of modern times”.
The former British Army chaplain, who used a number of Irish phrases in his address, described Mr McGuinness as his friend.
“We must not let the peace die, we will not let the peace die and with a man at the helm like Martin we can be sure of that,” he said.