Martin out of touch with Northern nationalists, says O’Neill

Collapse of Northern Executive undermines people’s faith in politics, says FF leader

Micheál Martin: ‘It’s a scandal the Assembly and the Executive are not in situ’. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Micheál Martin: ‘It’s a scandal the Assembly and the Executive are not in situ’. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin’s comments blaming Sinn Féin for allowing the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive to collapse show how of out of touch he is with nationalists in the North, according to Sinn Féin Deputy Leader, Michelle O’Neill.

Ms O’Neill said Mr Martin needed to spell out clearly where Fianna Fáil stands on “the ongoing DUP denial of rights to citizens” including marriage rights, language rights, women’s rights and the right of victims to a coroner’s inquest in Northern Ireland.

Speaking before addressing the Daniel O’Connell Summer School in Cahersiveen at the weekend, Mr Martin told The Irish Times that Fianna Fáil had begun talks with the SDLP to try and develop a new political agenda in the North since the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive.

“It’s a scandal the Assembly and the Executive are not in situ given the enormous threat that Brexit represents. I think it’s incredible and incomprehensible that Sinn Féin and the DUP would let this to happen – it should never have been collapsed in the first place and I said that at the time,” he said.

“Given the enormous implications that Brexit has for the island of Ireland in particular Northern Ireland economy, the Executive’s collapse really undermines people’s faith in politics and the institutions and something new is needed and that is something we will work on with the SDLP.”

But Ms O’Neill said former deputy first minister, the late Martin McGuinness, had brought down the political institutions in the North in January 2017 against a backdrop of allegations of corruption associated with the DUP and northern nationalists had endorsed this view in subsequent elections.

“In the elections which followed Sinn Féin received a huge mandate from the electorate for our platform of equality, rights and respect, for first-class public services and for integrity at the heart of government,” said Ms O’Neill.

The electorate had endorsed that mandate in increasing numbers when it won an additional three seats at the expense of the SDLP to return seven abstentionist MPs to the House of Commons and “northern nationalism effectively turned its back on Westminster,” she said.

Sinn Féin has been focussed and working to achieve the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and attempting to restore power sharing in the North based on its principles of equality and rights, contrary to what Mr Martin had suggested, she added.

She had called on Mr Martin last December to fully commit to the protection and implementation of the Good Friday Agreement by urging the British government to honour its agreements rather than sniping from the sidelines and, while he now belatedly had come to that position, it was welcome.

“Sinn Féin will continue to work to end the denial of these rights so that we can have political institutions in the north with equality and rights at their core and which enjoy the confidence of the public – to do that also requires government with integrity at its heart,” she said.

“That means an end to the DUP’s financial scandals, Red Sky, Nama, RHI and the Sri Lanka holidays of the disgraced North Antrim MP Ian Paisley. The last thing the people of the North need is a party with a record of putting self interest before the public or national interest.”