Opinion: We need a rights based society, we need equality - McAllister

Writing in her latest blog, North Antrim activist, Collette McAllister expresses the need for a rights based executive in the North, with equality at its core. 

In regards to recent developments in the talks here in the north of Ireland, I like many others find the lazy narrative of political opponents and certain aspects of the media both frustrating and offensive, and yes – also, sadly unsurprising.

As they struggle to criticise the fact that Sinn Féin’s current demands are very much based on basic demands for the rights of all citizens, they then turn to attempt and portray the DUP and Sinn Féin as two sides of the one coin, both equally responsible for the Executive not being back up and running.

However, people can see right through this. People recognise the importance of basic entitlements for respect and equal rights being afforded to all our citizens here. Alongside this, it is also clear to people, that without the implementation of a deal which has fairness at its core, it is both entirely unsustainable anyway, but also makes it impossible for a more progressive society to move forward.

Irish Republicans are committed and passionate about equality, for the creation of a place where everyone is equally valued and where homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, sectarianism, etc is stamped out as soon as it arises. We, like most people, want the institutions restored. However, we also care about the fruition of these rights-based issues; about ensuring we deliver in regards to legacy inquests, language rights, LGBT+ rights and the need for legislation to reflect such rights and protections. It is such a vital time for all those who are passionate about these issues, to come together, to clarify where they too would draw the line and to apply pressure firmly on those who are preventing these entitlements from being delivered to our citizens. The same rights which are being afforded to those living in the UK and indeed the rest of Ireland at present.

It is vital that we listen to what ordinary people are saying in regards to being able to impact much needed change. We need to find what our core values as a collective are – be it for example, that we oppose the potential further marketization of education, oppose the impact of Brexit on our people or be it that we support marriage equality, LGBT+ rights, a Bill of Rights or an Irish Language Act.

We must recognise that grassroots activism at a local level is the most effective way to create real change in the lives of ordinary people, especially when coupled by the strength of a mass movement – real collective organisation.

We as citizens deserve to feel a sense of belonging to our local communities, but we also bear with that a real responsibility, to do what we can, where and when we can to ensure basic human rights are no longer allowed to go ignored and unaddressed.

At times it may feel frustrating, as is the case at present for all of us. But, what we need to recognise, is the importance of retaining infinite hope, and to support one another. We do this by caring, but hand in hand with that, by collaborating and campaigning as a collective for the future we wish to see – based on equality, human rights and justice.

As such, let’s get out on the streets in our numbers – be it at the pride parade, at women’s rights rallies, at the march for truth and justice, at protests demanding an acht na gaeilge. Let us also continue to call out any move by the DUP and the Tories, or even the likes of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail which adversely impacts the lives of our citizens across this island – from the attempts to cut grants for uniforms, bin charge hikes and many other recent proposals which would most drastically and detrimentally impact the most vulnerable in our society.

The elite in society would like us to believe that we don’t have the potential to impact any real change, to accept that which they dictate to us. But the reality is, that the only way any real change is created, is by sheer people power. It is easy to get lazy and roll over or turn a blind eye to injustices in our society, or shift the blame onto the others around us, as is often portrayed by elements of the media, for example in their attempts to victimise the most vulnerable in society as the opponent – such as those on benefits, or immigrants and refugees.
Instead, let us be firm in the knowledge of what it is that we desire. Let us stand for diversity and inclusivity in our society. Let us accept no less. Let us come together and protest.
“Shake your chains to earth like dew, which in sleep had fallen on you. Ye are many, they are few!”

By Colette McAllister 


Ógra Shinn Féin