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Sinn Féin’s Historic Opportunity

In today's elections, Sinn Féin looks set to emerge as the largest party in Stormont, spelling potential defeat for an establishment that has set the agenda in the Six Counties for over a century.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald (R) and northern leader Michelle O'Neill (L) following the Sinn Fein manifesto launch on 25 April 2022 in Belfast. (Charles McQuillan / Getty Images)

In recent weeks the feedback on the doors towards Sinn Féin—in recognition of our record in the Assembly, our grassroots activism, and our positive campaign—has been encouraging. Our message and our vision has been received with open arms, because everyone appreciates today’s election is about the future. Sinn Féin’s priority has been to demonstrate that we want to make politics work for ordinary citizens; that real change is possible in communities throughout Ireland. The last number of months has proved that when MLAs co-operate together across party lines in the Assembly, delivery is possible; the delivery of progressive change that can make a real difference to people’s lives. Indeed, the last two years have proved that genuine power-sharing can work when there is unity of purpose by parties inside the Executive. But while a lot has been achieved, much more needs to be done, and can be done.For Sinn Féin, today’s election is about confronting the most pressing issues bearing down on workers and families. That’s why our priority is tackling the cost of living crisis and supporting the health service. Like the other devolved administrations in Edinburgh and Cardiff, Stormont doesn’t have the type of powers required for a crisis like this. We don’t have control of tax, we can’t borrow, nor can we introduce quantitative easing. We also don’t have the powers to effectively regulate the energy market. Whatever we do, the impact will be limited—so it’s vitally important that urgent support is targeted at those most in need by the Stormont Executive.In recent months, Sinn Féin’s Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey stepped up and delivered a £200 payment to help heat the homes of nearly 300,000 families, binned the bedroom tax, and froze Housing Executive rents. Sinn Féin’s Finance Minister Conor Murphy has also introduced a ‘living wage guarantee’ for all public service contracts, delivering a fair wage for thousands of workers. Conor Murphy also recently set out Sinn Féin’s spending plans to help ease the burdens households face, along with an extra £1 billion investment in the health service over the next three years to recruit more nurses and doctors, drive down waiting lists, and improve funding for mental health and cancer services alongside transforming health and social care. This will require a laser focus to get these things done, financed through a three-year budget. As a result of the DUP’s collapse of the Executive, there remains £334 million in unallocated funds, which could have gone some way to alleviating the pressures facing workers and families. After today’s election, we need an immediate return to the Executive next week to ensure this funding is released quickly to support workers, families, and the most vulnerable.We need functioning institutions and political stability which allows those of us who want politics to work to do so through cross-party co-operation and delivery. Today’s election is a defining moment—a time for real change which will shape the direction of our society for the next generation. If the electorate decide, Sinn Féin will take up the reins and lead an agenda for real change at Stormont, with a progressive ‘First Minister for All’. We will work in close partnership with those who want to deliver a progressive, modern, and forward-looking society—a society which is inclusive, which celebrates diversity, and which guarantees rights and equality for those who have been excluded, discriminated against, and ignored in the past. Inclusion and equality is where our focus will be. On the future. And on our common ground. We seek partnership, not division with unionism, but we also want to work with and serve those who are of neither a unionist nor nationalist political tradition too.

We want to show respect, and to be shown respect whether we’re British, Irish, or neither. We want this new Assembly to adopt a culture of civility, and mature politics at Stormont and focus on our shared priorities. This is a time for leadership, and a time of hope and opportunity. The time has come for real and historic change.