Pacing ourselves

Pacing ourselves

January 22, 2017 Blog 0 Comments

A non-negotiable principle of our peace and reconciliation process is that none of our citizens should be forced to travel at the back of the bus.

That’s particularly true for our young people who are the font of all our hopes for a shared and prosperous future.

And that’s why the shameful decision by the Executive’s Minister for Communities in the mouth of Christmas to withdraw Gaeltacht college summer scholarships from schoolchildren caused such outrage across the community.

But it also demonstrated that in some quarters the lessons of the civil rights movement have still not been learnt.

There’s a similar blind spot when it comes to noses-in-the-trough abuse of the public purse.

How else can you explain the nonchalance and arrogance from those in privileged positions to the revelations that the botched RHI scheme enabled money to be pilfered from the pockets of hardworking taxpayers?

It was against this background of belligerence and bigotry that Martin McGuinness called time on the Northern Executive.

Dignity, integrity and respect for the peacemakers and bridge-builders left him with no other choice.

As a result, voters here will go to the polls on 2 March. My hat is in the ring for a seat in South Belfast.

Martin McGuinness has decided not to stand so that he can focus on his health battle. I know all readers of this ezine will wish him well in the time ahead and welcome the statements of thanks to him for his legendary contribution to our society from Ian Paisley jr. and others.

I am also mindful of the obligation on politicians at this time to avoid language and actions which play into the hands of those who would like to heighten tensions in our working class communities. Our duty is to build the peace while, of course, standing firm for progress.

In the meantime, this week I will continue in my role as Finance Minister to defend the public purse and stand up for the principles and promise of the Good Friday Agreement.

Tomorrow, I will continue to scrutinise the so-called interim solution to the RHI scheme. On Tuesday, I will bring forward in the Assembly proposals for a no-hiding-place public inquiry into the RHI debacle.

My preference is for a £500m, twenty-year solution. Sadly, that isn’t on the table because those responsible dragged their feet last year instead of bringing forward a full and comprehensive closure plan.

And in all this work, I will take great heart from the courage of the black civil rights champions — heroes like Atlanta Congressman John Lewis whose face adorns a West Belfast mural — who consigned back of the bus politics to the dustbin of history.

I met Congressman Lewis, who famously was bludgeoned on the bridge at Selma, in 2013 as Lord Mayor of Belfast when he graciously agreed to be a Belfast Peace Ambassador. I leave the last word to him: “Fifty years later, those of us who are committed to the cause of justice need to pace ourselves because our struggle does not last for one day, one week or one year, but it is the struggle of a lifetime, and each generation must do its part.”

 

My work as Finance Minister continues right up until the day of the election and I intend to continue to pursue an agenda of investment and development to serve the entire community. On Friday I was in Glasgow for a trilateral with the Finance Ministers of Scotland and Wales, during which we viewed the Clyde Gateway regeneration area. Joining me on a new pedestrian bridge over the Clyde are Gateway project  CEO Ian Manson, Scottish Finance Minister Derek Mackay and Welsh Finance Minister Mark Drakeford.
My work as Finance Minister continues right up until the day of the election and I intend to continue to pursue an agenda of investment and development to serve the entire community. On Friday I was in Glasgow for a trilateral with the Finance Ministers of Scotland and Wales, during which we viewed the Clyde Gateway regeneration area. Joining me on a new pedestrian bridge over the Clyde are Gateway project  CEO Ian Manson, Scottish Finance Minister Derek Mackay and Welsh Finance Minister Mark Drakeford.

I was thrilled to join Arts Council CEO Roisín McDonough, artist and musician Barry Kerr and the Rev Bill Shaw in the Duncairn Arts Centre (another peace process hero) to deliver on my pledge to open the government arts collection to the public. I have now put aside £40,000 per annum for the next three years to buy new artworks by local artists for the collection and an additional £40,000 to buy works to fill the void left by the decision to cease purchasing artworks from 2004 until I came into the Finance Minister’s post.
I was thrilled to join Arts Council CEO Roisín McDonough, artist and musician Barry Kerr and the Rev Bill Shaw in the Duncairn Arts Centre (another peace process hero) to deliver on my pledge to open the government arts collection to the public. I have now put aside £40,000 per annum for the next three years to buy new artworks by local artists for the collection and an additional £40,000 to buy works to fill the void left by the decision to cease purchasing artworks from 2004 until I came into the Finance Minister’s post.



About the Author

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir is the Sinn Féin MLA for South Belfast and a businessman.