Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has said there will be “zero tolerance” for those who refuse to sign up to respect and equality for all in any new administration post-elections.
Mr Adams said that there were several “red line issues” for his party, including parity of esteem for all sections of society, including ethnic minorities and the LGBT community.
He also said that there were those within political unionism who were fundamentally opposed to having “a Catholic about the place”.
The party leader set out his Sinn Fein’s stall as he addressed hundreds of young Sinn Fein members at the All-Ireland Youth Congress in the Gasyard Centre in Londonderry on Saturday.
The Assembly election, Mr Adams said, “provides an immediate opportunity to challenge the allegations of corruption and the disrespect within the institutions of the north”.
He added: “It’s an opportunity for us to make it very, very clear that we will have zero tolerance for disrespect within the institutions of the north; an opportunity for us to make it very clear we will have zero tolerance of the squandering of public money; make it very clear there can be no return to the status quo an that means the principles of respect and equality, parity of esteem are red line issues, however that manifests themselves; that they are issues that have to be front and centre, and that means embracing everyone, whether it’s the Gaeilgeoir, whether LGBT citizens, ethnic minorities, workers, migrants, women, young people, unemployed, those beset with poverty, those in education.”
Mr Adams also said that his party colleague Martin McGuinness had been left with no option but to resign his post as Deputy First Minister.
Speaking ahead of the 45th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, he told the young people gathered at the Gasyard Centre in the Brandywell:
“We’re approaching now the anniversary of the date of the Bloody Sunday attacks. In January 1972, British Paras killed 14 civil rights marchers and wounded many, many more. That changed irrevocably the politics in this island, but it didn’t end the need or the struggle for Civil Rights and that struggle goes on today and that is what you are part of: the demand for equality, for parity of esteem, an end to sectarianism, for a society in which citizens are treated respectfully and fairly and the appalling abuse by the DUP and other unionists of Irish Language Act, the contemptuous manner in which they treat the Irish language, is just one example of inequality.
“The denial also of marriage equality, the claim by some DUP politicians that they have to hold their noses when they are working with us are all symptomatic of just plain bad manners, symptomatic of what’s wrong in that party, and which is still wrong in that society.
“It’s time that we faced up to all of this in a civil, in a courteous but in a very firm way. And that’s what we have done over the RHI scandal; that’s what we have done over the outrageous decision on Liofa. And Martin McGuinness, who I met here in the Bog 45 years ago, behind the barricades of what was then Free Derry, took the only honourable course open to him by resigning.”
The DUP, he said, was born out of the anti-Civil Rights politics of the 1960s, and the “sort of firebrand unionism of the 19th and early 20th Centuries”.
“That’s where it comes from, its politics are part of our colonial legacy. It is rooted in sectarianism and among some of its members there’s a fundamental belief that Catholics are the problem, not just us, but Catholics, in fact anybody who isn’t a Free Presbyterian, that they are the problem; they are the enemy.
“From that spring a desire by some unionists, and its exemplified best by the tradition of Unionist Voice and some in the DUP, not to have a Catholic about the place.
“It’s understandable, if they are reared on the mantra of ‘not an inch’, ‘no surrender’, ‘what we have we hold’ then it’s very difficult to move from that. If that’s what you have as your basic point and you have to move from that; you’re a leader and you have to move from that, that’s a very difficult manoeuvre to accomplish because for that brand of unionism every compromise is a defeat.
“We can be defeated lots of times but with that branch of unionism every compromise is mortal, every conversation with a Sinn Feiner is a weakness and every concession risks being a surrender.
“You find even among some of them even shaking hands, even passing the time of day is too much.”
Mr Adams added that “not every DUP person behaves like this”.
“In private many of them are quite relaxed, quite friendly, they are decent people, they are doing their best for their own constituents and increasingly they are realising that really we all need to do our best for everybody, not just our own little tribe; our own little faction.
“And the fact is, everybody, including everybody here, we are shaped by the political conditions in which we live and so, if we are to find a way to reach or develop a friendlier, fairer dispensation, then we have to change the conditions. “Most of them know the game is up, it’s not over but it’s up, and the objective therefore is to delay, to delay and to delay. That is why no unionist leader has come out and acknowledged the role of the Orange State; that’s why no Unionist leader has stood up and said ‘look, we have had a role in creating the conditions for conflict’. They don’t accept the notions that there are different narratives.”
He also urged young Sinn Fein members, as the next generation, to reach out to young people in Unionist and Loyalist areas and to engage in debate with them about the future of the political and social landscape here.