SDLP councillor Tina Gardiner was “disappointed but not surprised” Sinn Féin refused to back a motion she tabled at Derry City and Strabane District Council on Thursday that called on Dublin and London to immediately convene the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC).
Sinn Féin councillor Eric McGinley agreed that the international conference should meet in order to jointly agree a way forward on issues like marriage equality and an Irish Language Act (ILA).
However, Colr. McGinley baulked at Colr. Gardiner’s reference to “the recent failure of the SF/DUP talks”.
The Waterside representative had proposed that “given the recent failure of the SF/DUP talks and the urgent requirement for proper governance in Northern Ireland, which reflects the requirements, cultures and aspirations of our diverse communities, Council calls on both the Irish and British Governments to immediately convene the BIIGC in the absence of a functioning Executive and Assembly; and further calls on the Irish and British Governments to strengthen the implementation and workings of institutions under Strands 2 and 3 of the Good Friday Agreement”.
She said: “The biggest failing of political leadership in the last 20 years has been an inability to bring this society on through genuine reconciliation. We have one leader after another demonise the other culture, whip up fear of the other side for their own benefit at election time. We’ve seen the politicising of one language and the making up of another in order to score points.”
Rejecting Colr. Gardiner’s criticism of Sinn Féin, Colr. McGinley said: “It’s unfortunate the SDLP would undermine the positive elements of the motion by attempting to blame Sinn Féin for the ending of the negotiations and in that context we would propose an amendment which would remove the wording ‘the recent failure of the Sinn Féin/DUP talks’ and that would be replaced by ‘the SDLP and Sinn Féin’s stated opposition to direct rule’.
“It was the DUP’s resistance to a rights-based society that led to Martin McGuinness’ letter of resignation and it was the DUP’s resistance to a rights-based society that led to the ending of negotiations. That’s fact.”
DUP Alderman Thomas Kerrigan said: “I believe this motion has been brought here as a distraction to what needs to be achieved, a fair and balanced agreement that will see the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive.”
Independent Colr. Gary Donnelly said: “Since the conception of the six-county state it has been a failure and all attempts to make it work have failed. The Belfast Agreement is just the latest in a long line of attempts to normalise British rule in this part of Ireland.”
Colr. Gardiner’s motion fell, having failed to garner sufficient support, as did Colr. McGinley’s amendment.
She said: “I am extremely disappointed but not surprised that Sinn Féin united with the DUP to block the SDLP motion that called on the Irish and British Governments to immediately convene the BIIGC in the absence of a functioning executive and Assembly.”