'˜Time for bigger politics, bigger solutions': Elisha McCallion
Newly elected Foyle MP Elisha McCallion is looking forward to a busy few days
As the new Sinn Féin MP for Foyle, I will travel to London today [Tuesday] as part of Sinn Féin’s now seven-strong MP team.
We will be accompanied by representatives from our Dáil group as we meet, engage and lobby all the key stakeholders in and out of Westminster.
Yesterday [Monday], I was in Belfast as part of the Sinn Féin negotiation group as the Stormont talks resumed.
And, later this week, I’ll be in Dublin to meet with Sinn Féin’s Oireachtas team which has already been at the forefront of representing the needs of all citizens, North and South.
That is the team approach which a Sinn Féin MP brings.
I am part of the largest, most influential party in Ireland.
We have seven MPs, seven Senators, 23 TDs, four MEPs, 27 MLAs, 261 Councillors, 15,000 activists and over half a million voters the length and breadth of Ireland.
We have been the driving force of all the progressive change that has occurred on this island over recent decades.
The peace process and the transformation of our society have been delivered through direct negotiation and the authority of our all-Ireland mandate - not by sitting on the green benches of Westminster where Irish concerns have been ignored for centuries.
That is the approach which Sinn Féin will continue to take and it is an approach which has been resolutely endorsed by the people in election after election.
The people recognise the first class constituency services that Sinn Féin MPs provide day and daily. They recognise that we work where it counts - within communities, at Stormont, in the Dáil and with our All-Ireland EU MEPs in Brussels.
They know I will work with Sinn Féin’s representatives in all those areas and tirelessly represent the needs of the people in this constituency.
They know it’s delusional to think that MPs from the North will achieve anything by taking seats in Westminster. In fact, I would challenge any of the North’s former MPs to point to anything of substance they have delivered by taking their seats.
They didn’t stop austerity or welfare cuts, they didn’t stop Brexit. They haven’t achieved a fraction of what Sinn Féin has through our determined, direct and strategic approach.
In fact, the only thing they have achieved is to legitimise the British Government’s claim to govern over this part of Ireland, despite having no mandate or support here.
Why would I, or any Irish republican, want to do that?
I have no wish to interfere in British politics. I just wish they would stop interfering in ours because, as recent events have again shown, that is at the heart of all our difficulties.
Theresa May ignored the democratic will of the people here and in Scotland when she sat aside the EU referendum result in the North.
She is now even ignoring the democratic will of the people in England by continuing to pursue her hard Brexit and austerity agenda despite the majority of her own citizens voting for a different future.
The fact she is prepared to turn to the DUP to prop up her ailing regime demonstrates how politically and morally bankrupt she has become.
But that alliance is nothing new. It hasn’t come about because Sinn Féin MPs won’t take their seats. Arlene Foster and Theresa May are two sides of the one coin and always have been. They are simply formalising an arrangement that has been in place for years. Ailing minority Tory governments have always looked to their unionist partners for a crutch and to hell with the consequences.
John Major was prepared to sacrifice progress in order to curry favour with rejectionist unionism. Theresa May is now doing exactly the same thing.
But where is John Major now? Where is his government?
These arrangements always end in tears.
By contrast, Sinn Féin is still at the forefront of progressive politics and we are stronger now than at any stage in our history.
So this battle is far from over. Politics is in a state of flux and there are massive opportunities ahead to build progressive politics, to build a better future.
I am excited about that and I believe we are on the cusp of achieving something remarkable in terms of Irish history.
It is time for bigger solutions. It is time for bigger politics.
The election results show that northern nationalists have now outgrown the northern state.
They are exasperated with Brexit, with Toryism and DUP bigotry.
They see no long-term solution to all of that which is limited to the internal workings of the northern state.
They are looking to Dublin and to Europe to secure their future.
They are looking to Irish unity.
They are looking to Sinn Féin.
And we won’t let them down.