McGuinness questions the need for Secretary of State

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. (0105MM11)
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. (0105MM11)

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has questioned the need for the Northern Ireland Office and the position of Secretary of State.

Mr McGuiness made the comments in a keynote speech at the London School of Economics last night.

The Sinn Féin leader said the stability of the Assembly and Executive have created a situation where there is no longer a need for the Northern Ireland Office of the Secretary of State.

“The role of the British Secretary of State continues to diminish, and rightly so, and in my view, it is time for a serious conversation on whether there is a need for the NIO and the Secretary of State job to exist at all.

“As Ian Paisley said to me during our first meeting,‘Martin, we can rule ourselves, we do not need these direct rule ministers coming over here telling us what to do.’ And I agree with him!

“It is my view that the removal of the NIO and the Secretary of State position and the transfer of remaining powers would be a massive vote of confidence in our political institutions and the peace process, as well as a massive saving to the Exchequer.” he said.

Elsewhere in his speech, Mr McGuinness called for a change in British Government policy on the union.

“It has been often said that the Easter Rising marked the end of the British Empire as it was known. The days of colonialism and domination had to end. Peoples’ right to national self determination and freedom would have to take preference to the economic needs of the colonial masters.

“I say that, not to be provocative or to engage in rhetoric but to simply mark out a significant landmark on the historical road which has led us to we are now. The years preceding and following the First World War were a time of great political and constitutional upheaval for the British State. And I firmly believe that we are now living through a similar period of massive change – obviously not as dramatic as 100 years ago, but significant change nonetheless.

“In constitutional terms, whereas the Rising marked the beginning of the end of the Empire as people knew it, it is my belief that the Good Friday Agreement marked the end of the Union, as we know it,” he said.

Mr McGuinness also said people in Britain have a role to play in helping to bring about Irish reunification. “As an Irish Republican leader I am clearly unapologetic about my belief in Irish national self determination. I am also absolutely wedded to the political and peace process.

“A united Ireland makes sense. In many ways the political progress in the North over recent years has levelled the political playing field for nationalists and republicans to argue for the first time ever from a position of equality that Irish unity is a political and economic imperative.

“That debate should not be confined to Ireland. There is a role for people in Britain to become persuaders for Irish unity.

“Tonight I call on all those in Britain to become voices for an altered union, a union without Ireland, for a united Ireland, at peace with itself and its neighbours, including Britain,” he explained.