A Chairde, welcome to you all here to the Gasyard Centre in Derry.
I want to dedicate my remarks to the memory and life of Dale Moore.
Our focus today is to discuss the current crisis arising from the controversy around the Renewable Heating Incentive Scheme and what Sinn Féin’s approach should be.
Our starting point today must be a recognition that the political institutions in this part of the island are unique and experimental.
They are an attempt to build bridges and connections between political parties and ideologies that are fundamentally different.
Sinn Féin is for a united Ireland.
The DUP and unionists are opposed to this.
Sinn Féin is opposed to austerity measures and conservative politics.
The DUP embrace these.
Sinn Féin opposed Brexit.
The DUP supported Brexit.
Sinn Féin believes in equality.
The DUP don’t.
Sinn Féin is for an Acht na Gaeilge and for the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement around legacy and truth issues.
The DUP oppose these.
They support the British government’s national security veto.
The DUP has been particularly disrespectful in relation to the Irish language and Irish medium education.
So the reality is that there is a serious fracture in northern politics, with implications for the Good Friday Agreement and for relationships on the island.
Despite our differences with the DUP Martin McGuinness and our Ministerial team work hard every day to ensure the stability of the political institutions.
They seek areas of agreement with the DUP on policy matters that allows government in this part of the island to work positively for citizens.
But it is difficult.
It is made even more problematical at this time because Martin has health issues.
In addition, the establishment parties in the 26 counties constantly see any problems that might arise in this part of the island as an opportunity to attack Sinn Féin.
It isn’t about defending the Good Friday Agreement; it isn’t about the reunification of our island; it’s about narrow party political advantage and their fear of the continuing growth of Sinn Féin in that part of the island.
In 2015, despite the opportunistic calls by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil for the suspension or the adjournment of the north’s political institutions, we successfully concluded the Fresh Start Agreement.
It has helped to deliver for citizens in the face of the worst of the Tory Party’s austerity policies.
Through leadership Sinn Féin stopped the introduction of water charges and secured free prescriptions for every citizen.
A few months ago the Minister for Health Michelle O’Neill ensured the ending of so-called ‘gay blood ban’.
However, we have much more to do.
This is clearly obvious at this time around the crisis created by the scandal of the Renewable Heating Initiative Scheme.
This was established by Arlene Foster while she was the Minister of Department Enterprise Trade and Industry in November 2012.
In April 2013 the British government introduced tariffs that would be adjusted in line with demand thus ensuring that there would be no overspend.
This precaution was not taken in the north.
There has been significant controversy around this issue in the last six months and especially the last month.
In the course of this it has emerged that the Executive could be paying up to £400 million over the next 20 years for a scheme that is not delivering.
This crisis culminated on Thursday night in an interview by former DUP Minister Jonathon Bell.
In the course of his interview Jonathon Bell made serious allegations around the management of this scheme.
He accused the DUP of keeping open a scheme that was corrupt, inefficient, and likely to cost the taxpayers over 400 million.
On Friday afternoon Martin spoke to First Minister, Arlene Foster.
He outlined to her his very serious concern that the credibility of the political institutions is being significantly undermined by the serious and ongoing allegations surrounding the design, operation, abuse and ending of the Renewable Heating Incentive Scheme.
Dúirt Martin léi chun an fhírinne a fháil agus chun clú na (polaitíochta) n-institiúidí a atógáil, gur gá dúinn fiosrúchán iomlán neamhspleách a chur ar bun.
Mhol Martin di fosta seasamh siar óna ról mar Phríomh-Aire nuair atá an fiosrúchán ar obair nó go dtí go ndéantar measúnú ar fhírinne an scéil.
He told her that in order to establish the truth, and to rebuild the reputation of the institutions, there is a need to put in place a fully independent, transparent investigation into this matter.
Martin also suggested to her that she should stand aside from the role as First Minister while that investigation is underway or at least until an initial assessment had been concluded into the veracity of all the allegations.
This was, he told her, what he would do if he was in this situation.
Not surprisingly Arlene Foster said no.
However, Martin urged her to go off and reflect on this and to come back in the new year.
We must establish the facts.
Caithfimid na firící a fháil.
Tá muid ag éileamh go gcuirfear próiseanna ar bun chun an fhírinne a fháil.
Ní bheidh aon chomhréiteach ar sin.
But we do demand that processes are in place to get to the truth.
There can be no compromise on this.
Sinn Féin’s primary objective must be to defend the integrity of the political institutions established under the Good Friday Agreement.
We do this in line with our strategic objectives as Irish republicans.
So, we have to deal with this crisis and we have to constantly look to how we advance our strategic objectives. I am confident that we can do both.