Reflections on political progress in 2015 but contentious issues remain

Unionist representatives pictured recently at Stormont
Unionist representatives pictured recently at Stormont

Unionism will remain “unbroken” and Sinn Fein will not be allowed to rewrite the role of the republican party in our troubled past, Gregory Campbell has said.

In a New Year message, the DUP MP for East Londonderry said a recent remark by Gerry Adams in Co Fermanagh showed Sinn Fein has still not grasped that unionism was unbreakable.

At a meeting in Enniskillen last month, the Sinn Fein president said equality legislation should be used to “break these ba****ds”.

When subsequently challenged over the comment, Mr Adams said: “The full transcript of my remarks will show very clearly that I wasn’t talking about unionists. I was talking about bigots”.

However, representatives of both the DUP and UUP said they believed they were the target of the slur.

In his message issued on new year’s eve, Mr Campbell said: “Just as Gerry Adams let the mask slip, referring to myself and others when he said ‘we must break the ‘ba****ds,’ so the need remains for the same SF to understand that what they wish to break is unbreakable.

“It will be for the greater good of the entire community when SF comes to that understanding.”

He added: “I have said for a number of years that it would take some time for them to reach that point, and, given the Adams outburst we have still some way to go. Getting to that position we will have genuinely moved forward, we all must redouble our efforts to reach that goal, whether in 2015 or beyond.”

In his own New Year message, UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said his party was “committed to ensuring its elected representatives go the extra mile” to engage with the electorate.

“We aspire to twelve months in which more people wake up with a proper sense of purpose in their lives and go to bed with a feeling of achievement.

“Some of our forefathers helped shape the American Declaration of Independence and we would do well to follow their lead in enshrining ‘the pursuit of happiness” as a New Year’s resolution. Happier, better educated, healthier people should be among the core measures of successful government.

“Mr Nesbitt added: “The Ulster Unionist Party has come some way over the last two years to reviving its fortunes and ability, to once again, play a central role in serving the people. In 2015, we stand ready to do what’s right for Northern Ireland.”

On the eve of 2015, Gerry Adams said his party “offers choice between failed politics of past or genuine republican alternative”.

He said: “The Stormont House Agreement demonstrates that with the five main parties acting together, significant progress can be made to safeguard the most vulnerable and rebuild the reputation of the political institutions”.

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said we need to we need to “ensure that 2015 is a better year for victims and survivors,” and “one where they will eventually receive the truth and justice many of them demand and deserve, and for those that don’t demand justice, we need to ensure they get the respect they deserve, and the acknowledgement that they suffered.”

• In her own New Year message, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said the pre-Christmas political agreement has presented new opportunities for people in the Province.

She said: “I hope this is a year of renewed confidence for Northern Ireland: a year when politics works, the economy continues to grow and society gets stronger and more united, a place where through hard work and commitment, everyone has the opportunity to realise their potential.”

Ms Villiers added: “While there are significant challenges ahead, NI’s politicians showed real leadership and determination in negotiating the SH Agreement. As a result, new opportunities await us in 2015 which I hope are grasped.

“As we look ahead to 2015, I want to wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.”