Sinn Féin MLA Martin McGuinness has said there is a need for real leadership if confidence is to be restored in the political institutions in 2017.
Mr McGuinness said;
“Over the course of the last year we have marked many milestones on our path to a new Ireland, an agreed Ireland. Most notably we celebrated the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising and did so with great pride, dignity and respect.
“This sets the standard for our approach to involvement in the remainder of this decade of centenaries in which the national and democratic character and mandate of the 1918 general election is a keystone of our politics.
“Sinn Féin representatives also acknowledged and demonstrated respect for those thousands of people from both the unionist and nationalist traditions who lost their lives in the 1914-’18 war.
“We also had major elections across the island in which we saw the continued growth of Sinn Féin as we continue to work to realise the vision of the Proclamation.
“We also saw the outworking of the British government’s referendum on the European Union and the potentially very damaging consequences for the entire island of Ireland.
“Sinn Féin has made it repeatedly clear that the vote of the majority of people in the North to remain in the EU should be respected and that we are committed to securing designated special status for the north within the EU.
“There is also no doubt that we are facing a serious growing political crisis in the North as public confidence in the political institutions has been grievously undermined by the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) debacle and the DUP’s failure to deal responsibly and adequately with it.
“In order to address these challenges the DUP and its leader Arlene Foster need to accept there is an overwhelming desire in the community to deal with this issue and for Arlene Foster to step aside as First Minister pending a preliminary report.
“That would allow for an independent investigation to take place, which is transparent, robust, time-framed and led by an independent judicial figure from outside this jurisdiction appointed by the Attorney General. A rigorous process to recoup as much of the money as possible must also be put in place.
“We need to restore public confidence in the credibility of the political institutions, ensuring they deliver for the people.
“This means giving substance to what citizens, north and south, endorsed in referendums almost 20 years ago and in the Good Friday Agreement which both the Irish and British governments have the responsibility to see implemented.
“This is set out in international treaty; that is equality of treatment, parity of esteem and mutual respect.
“Political and civic leaders in the north must play their part in this. My leadership on this is well documented and is a matter of public record.
“There needs to be respect for all political allegiances and traditions on this island, for all narratives. The Irish language, Irish identity, culture and aspiration are as valid as any other and need to be respected as such.
“The political principles agreed to this end and the political infrastructure created to bring this about are not being used for these purposes. This must change. Our society should have no fear of equality, reconciliation and peaceful co-existence.
“On the contrary most people desire it, require it.
“That will require mature leadership from political unionism because we alone cannot deliver reconciliation.
“There is also an onus on the British government to step up to the plate on the vexed issue of dealing with the legacy of the past.
“They are currently holding up legacy inquests, denying justice to victims and their families in the process.
“The British government must implement the legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House and release the funds requested by the Lord Chief Justice for legacy inquests.
“The Irish government must hold the British government to account on its failure to implement its agreements on legacy.
“2017 will no doubt be a year of challenges and there is a clear need for real leadership if public confidence is to be restored in the political institutions in the days and weeks ahead.
“I would like to wish everyone a happy, safe and peaceful New Year.”