The last five years have profoundly shaken the political settlement that we reached together 20 years ago. In spite of the very serious warning about the impact Brexit would have on our people, economy and communities, those who advocated leaving the European Union have left us in a very difficult situation.
The last year alone has been a time of huge challenge and change for everyone. We have lived under very difficult and unprecedented circumstances. Many people have lost their lives during the Covid-19 crisis. However many lives have also been saved, thanks to the actions of our communities. People have pulled together to protect each other and to protect our health service.
In the middle of all this chaos, one truth remains clear. People across these islands are, many for the first time, re-evaluating what our future could look like.
SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MP has expressed his firm view that the United Kingdom is coming to an end. We say that in the full understanding that many in our community will see the break-up of the union as a tragedy and we fully respect that position. Our vision to build a shared home place for all our people.
Even though we believe the union is ending, we don't say it in a tone of thoughtless triumphalism. It instead places a solemn responsibility on us to manage relationships across these islands. Our scarred history places a moral duty upon us. We need to conduct the coming conversation with patience, care and compassion.
The prize is to build a shared home place for all of our people.