Eastwood writes to party leaders and governments to immediately convene talks
Dear An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar,
Prime Minister Theresa May,
Leader of Sinn Fein in the North Michelle O’Neill,
Leader of DUP Arlene Foster,
Leader of UUP Robin Swann,
Leader of Alliance Party Naomi Long,
There is an unmistakeable public desire that the tragic and terrible loss of Lyra McKee marks a turning point for our peace and political process.
I am therefore writing to all party leaders and to the two governments to urge that talks are convened this week in order to finally restore government in Northern Ireland.
On the streets of Creggan, in Derry and across Ireland a clear and resolute message has been sent to Lyra’s killers and to all of those still wedded to the futility of violence. They are the enemies of all of us on this island and enemies of the shared future we have all chosen to build.
There was however another equally strong message in the aftermath of last week’s murder. It was a simple and direct message to all of us tasked with political leadership – resolve your differences, end the division and get back to work.
21 years after the Good Friday Agreement we have been far too casual with our peace and our politics. We have too easily forgotten that failure in our politics always results in danger in our streets. We have been far too ready to disagree with one another and not ready enough to value and build upon the peace we inherited.
As political leaders, we are responsible for the context of political division which has let all of our people down. We can’t allow it to go on.
I am therefore proposing that the two governments convene urgent talks this week. If this is to be a turning point, then it is vital that we listen to the public demand to return devolution and power-sharing.
We all know that this shouldn’t be an impossible task. We all know that reform of the petition of concern is central to unlocking the impasse and we know that what has really been missing is the political courage and will to get the deal done.
The excuse needs to be removed that talks in Northern Ireland can’t happen until after an election. The public expect us to go back to work and they expect us to form a government – campaigning for any election can’t get in the way of that fundamental responsibility.
We have to stop failing and we need to start talking.
I look forward to receiving your response.
Colum Eastwood MLA