McGuinness’s call for unionists to foster better reconciliation is “deeply flawed” says Ulster Unionist leader

Posted By: November 24, 2016

David Young. Irish News. Thursday, November 24, 2016

ULSTER Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt has described a call by Martin McGuinness for unionists to do more to foster reconciliation as “fatally flawed”.

The deputy first minister said republicans were concerned that their moves towards reconciliation, including his own meeting with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth in 2012, had not been reciprocated.

The Sinn Féin MLA said unionists must do their bit by respecting the Irish

Speaking at the launch of a party document on reconciliation in Belfast’s Clifton House yesterday, Mr. McGuinness said all traditions in Ireland must be respected.

“The Irish language, Irish identity, culture and aspiration is as valid as any other and needs to be respected as such,” he said. That will require mature leadership from political unionism because we alone cannot deliver reconciliation. A genuine reconciliation process must seek to create common ground where the collective focus is to build for the future. Sinn Féin will continue to offer positive leadership and we will continue to pursue the national reconciliation of our people.”

Mr. Nesbitt claimed his party had led reconciliation for decades.

“We were first to voluntarily share power when we did so at council level in the former Dungannon council,” he said.

“We led unionism in negotiating the 1998 settlement that brought power sharing to Stormont and we remain committed to building a new Northern Ireland based on mutual respect, tolerance and the rule of law.

“The irony of Sinn Féin using the launch of a paper on reconciliation to give unionism a poke in the eye appears lost on them.”

He said: “We have consistently identified a need to reach a common understanding of what reconciliation means. Sinn Féin clearly sees it as a journey.

“But in defining the journey’s end as something unionism can never support – a united Ireland – their idea of reconciliation is fatally flawed.”

The launch of Sinn Féin’s 16-page document, A Pathway To Awho was speaking in a personal capacity, welcomed elements of the document but expressed concern about others.

Offering what he said was a “constructive critique”, he said republicans should not view reconciliation as something that was only obtainable through the reunification of Ireland.

“Uniting Ireland is a legitimate political goal for republicans to hold and to advocate.

“However, it falls short as the ultimate test of reconciliation, which is essentially relational and not constitutional,” he said.

Mr. Porter said the blueprint also failed to acknowledge those in civic society who had taken steps to build community bridges before the peace process gained momentum.

“Good relations did not begin when Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionists came to share power and a program for government together,” he said.

“Many laid the foundations of the bridge you were able to cross, they did so because they thought it was the right thing to do.”