Republicans need to understand and address the concerns of unionists, Martin McGuinness told Sinn Féin activists at the party’s Six County Cuige AGM which was held in Derry on Saturday.
At the event, Martina Anderson was selected as the Sinn Féin candidate for next year’s European Parliament elections. Ms Anderson is currently an MEP having been co-opted to replace Bairbre de Brún last year.
Mr McGuinness told the audience, which was made up of Sinn Féin representatives and members from across the North, that they need to “understand the process of change” and the “fears and uncertainties” of unionists.
“We want and need unionists to understand what we are about and what our politics is about and what it really means for them,” he said.
“The transformation of society must include addressing their needs. Equality, mutual respect, parity of esteem must apply to everyone,” he added.
Mr McGuinness also said the everyone must engage in a process of reconciliation. “Economic difficulties across the world, manifestations of the anxieties of political opponents here in Ireland, the slower pace of change all combine to feed the agenda of our opponents, to fuel the firs of detractors. We must not allow ourselves to be derailed by any of this.
“We have to continue to build, to deliver, to pursue a genuine reconciliation across our society, to tackle inequality wherever it arises and to eliminate sectarianism and racism and to build an Ireland that truly mirrors the promise of the Proclamation,” he said.
The Deputy First Minister also said republicans should be confident going into the future.
“The challenges are many; we can be sure of that. Difficulties lie ahead; we can be sure of that. But whatever we face we will face it well. We can and must be absolutely sure of that.
“So, let us ensure that we keep focused on what has to be done and how best to do it. We must be realistic, but we must also be optimistic.
“And we cannot be anything other than confident. And so we should be. Our record tells us that we are entitled to be.
“Let us ensure that we stay confident and let us ensure that we mark this next year as another year of change, of progress and of advance.
“It is crucial that we keep that momentum in the process and that we are continually questioning ourselves and how our work is impacting on the bigger picture,” he said.