No Stormont powersharing talks until after May elections – O’Neill
Sinn Féin blames ‘toxic’ Tory-DUP relationship for ongoing Stormont stalemate
Michelle O’Neill: ‘The DUP are at complete odds with the cross-community majority of MLAs and public here, who oppose their reckless Brexit agenda.’ Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
Efforts to restore the Northern Executive and Assembly are to be put on hold until after the local government elections in early May, Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O’Neill has said.
Ms O’Neill said she spoke to Northern Secretary Karen Bradley on Wednesday, who confirmed to her that the UK government would not be making any attempt to reinstate Stormont until after the May 2nd elections.
The Northern Ireland Office said Ms Bradley would be making a statement about the matter on Thursday.
Ms O’Neill was speaking on the eve of the second anniversary of the death of former Sinn Féin deputy first minister Martin McGuinness. His decision to resign in January 2017 in a dispute with the DUP over the botched Renewable Heat Incentive scheme led to the breakdown of powersharing.
Ms O’Neill said Ms Bradley also told her that she was extending by five months the UK government’s legal power to suspend the requirement to hold Assembly elections. This means there will be no requirement to call a poll until after the end of August.
Reliant on DUP
Ms O’Neill said the UK government’s reliance on the DUP was the single biggest impediment to the restoration of Stormont.
“Once again, the British government has shown that it is prepared to legislate when it suits the British government but refuses to act on issues like marriage equality, Acht Gaeilge (the Irish Language Act), the legacy bodies and compensation for victims of institutional abuse,” she said.
“Karen Bradley’s government is wholly reliant on the DUP in order to cling to power, and this toxic relationship, alongside Brexit, has become the biggest impediment to restoring the powersharing institutions on the basis of genuine equality and respect.”
Ms O’Neill added: “The DUP are at complete odds with the cross-community majority of MLAs and public here, who oppose their reckless Brexit agenda and their ongoing refusal to treat all citizens equally.
“Powersharing can and should be restored but that will require Karen Bradley’s government finally confronting the DUP’s discriminatory agenda and upholding their own responsibilities to citizens and the equality of treatment.”
The DUP East Antrim Assembly member Gordon Lyons said Sinn Féin should “not hide behind Karen Bradley” on the restoration of devolution.
“The DUP would nominate ministers immediately and get back to work, taking decisions on the issues which matter to the people of Northern Ireland. Will Michelle O’Neill join us?” he asked.
Mr Lyons accused Ms O’Neill and Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald of caring “far more about proving their green credentials to the republican backwoods than about working with unionists to deliver on health, education and the issues that actually matter to all of the people we represent”.
Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry, who met Ms Bradley in London on Wednesday, said there was no reason to further delay talks to restore devolution. He said that at the very least Ms Bradley “must provide a clear indication of when talks will start, how they will be structured and preferably announce an independent facilitator to chair the process”.