Sinn Fein News, September 6, 2006

Equality is the guarantee for all

By Mitchel McLaughlin

The Good Friday Agreement is about changing the ethos of the North to one based on the principle of equality. Both governments and all parties - with the exception of the DUP - claim a commitment to the Agreement. On that basis, we are continually being told: "The two governments have a common strategy. It is the Good Friday Agreement. The governments are as one on this issue."

The basic concept of unionism is one of dominance and supremacy and therefore, as an ideology, political unionism will find it difficult to function within a culture of equality. Ian Paisley probably realises this and I believe that is the real reason why the DUP will continue to exploit every excuse to prevent the implementation of the GFA, with its equality agenda. Can unionism as we know it accommodate the equality agenda? It is possible that it is incapable of doing so.

It is therefore imperative that the two governments deny the DUP any opportunity to frustrate the pace of change. Rather, both governments should embark on a project of persuading the unionist people of the need to build a new union: a union of all traditions on the island of Ireland, focused on building a future that can be shared by everyone. Unionism's future, and this is at the core of the Good Friday Agreement, is with the rest of the people of Ireland on terms freely entered into by its entire people. We all have a responsibility to reassure unionists that such a scenario will not threaten their culture or traditions but will, in fact, secure an understanding of unionism's part in our contested history and our shared future in a New Ireland.

While every effort must be expended to convince the DUP of the benefits of this approach, they must not be permitted to smother this opportunity to build a better future for all. The two governments, supported by pro-Agreement parties, must move immediately to deliver the change that the vast majority of the people of Ireland voted for. There must be no erosion of the GFA - rather it should be built upon.

If agreement is not achieved by the 24 November deadline then the rejectionists from wherever they come must realise that change will continue and that the speed of change will be intensified.

We cannot defer indefinitely the debate on sovereignty. It is as much in the interests of the unionist population as of republicans that that debate is carried out now and in the public arena. It is unacceptable that sovereignty, which is the core issue in every electoral contest in the North, should be left to the malign influences of myth, misunderstanding and misinformation. I don't accept the simplistic premise that such a discussion would de-stabilise unionist politics nor should it be used to arbitrarily deny open debate on the benefits of constitutional change towards a United Ireland.