GUE/NGL hosted a public meeting today in the European Parliament with joint First Minister of the North of Ireland Martin McGuinness.

McGuinness outlined the need for the European Parliament to continue supporting an inclusive Irish peace process as progress made so far on the long journey to peace could be undermined amid tension surrounding forthcoming inter-party talks.

He said: “We are entering talks about how we deal with the past, contentious parades, the issue of allegiance, flags and identities. We face big problems in terms of tackling sectarianism and racism. All political leaders must distance themselves from extremists who undermine our democratic institutions.”

“At the same time there exists a severe budgetary situation, and unfortunately over the last few years these contentious issues have overshadowed our programme for government,” continued McGuinness. “Despite the gains of devolution, the block grant for the North of Ireland still comes from Westminster. This means we are impacted severely by the UK coalition government's austerity measures and cuts.”

GUE/NGL MEP Martina Anderson said: “We desperately need to find a way forward. There is a serious danger that the progress we have made will be in vain if these talks are not successful.

“So far in the North of Ireland we've received tremendous support from the EU to help move on from conflict and towards prosperity. I hope this continues.”

GUE/NGL MEP Liadh Ní Riada outlined the need for an Irish language act to be at the heart of the negotiations' agenda. “Language has no borders,” she said.

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