Video: 'We should be ashamed at Fr. Magill's words and must show Lyra's killers that politics works'
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has said Father Martin Magill's withering interrogation of Ireland and Britain's political class during Lyra McKee's funeral service on Wednesday should have filled the North's party leaders with shame.
In a hard-hitting address to party Councillors, MLAs and local election candidates at the launch of the the SDLP Local Government Manifesto in The Playhouse in Derry, Mr. Eastwood said that two decades on from the signing of the Good Friday Agreement the political establishment in the North had "totally and utterly lost its way".
He said it was now imperative that power-sharing was restored and that those that "who would put guns in teenagers' hands" needed to be shown that politics does work.
"We absolutely and totally need to take the poison out of our politics.
"If we can learn anything from this last week [it's that] the rhetoric of politicians has an effect. It has an effect. You can't one day say you have no confidence in police, and then the next day say you condemn people shooting at police officers.
"We have a responsibility as politicians, we have a responsibility as elected people in our community, to take the poison out of our politics and to bring people back together," said Mr. Eastwood.
The SDLP leader made reference to Fr. Magill's extraordinary homily at the funeral of the journalist Miss. McKee who was murdered in Derry on April 18.
The cleric memorably commended politicians for standing united in Creggan last Friday but asked: "Why in God’s name does it take the death of a 29 year old woman with her whole life in front of her to get us to this point?"
Mr. Eastwood said: "I think we were all deeply moved and we should be ashamed listening to the words of Fr. Magill at Lyra McKee's funeral the other day.
"But are we going to listen or are we just going to continue that circular conversation we've been in for over two years. It isn't good enough for politicians to come and stand together and just condemn things. It's great. It's important. It's symbolic and sometimes symbolism works but it isn't enough and...the public out there will never forgive us if we just put out strong statements and aren't prepared to follow that up with real action."
The Foyle MLA and European election candidate said those who still believed in the infliction of violence for political ends needed to be shown that democracy and politics works.
"We should no longer be prepared to accept the excuses. There are important issues at stake but nothing is more important than getting rid of the vacuum that exists in our streets," he stated.
"We have totally and utterly lost our way. We have to send a signal to those people who would put guns in teenagers' hands that politics does work, that your way doesn't work, we have to do that, that is our responsibility."