Sinn Féin leader says Stormont institutions could be back by Christmas

Negotiations between parties and Britain and Ireland due to start on December 16th

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald made her comments at the weekly Sinn Féin staff meeting in Leinster House. File photograph: Paul Faith/AFP

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald made her comments at the weekly Sinn Féin staff meeting in Leinster House. File photograph: Paul Faith/AFP

 

Sinn Féin believes the Stormont institutions can be back up and running by Christmas, Mary Lou McDonald has told a meeting of her TDs, senators and staff in Leinster House.

Julian Smith, the UK government’s Northern Ireland secretary, last month announced that new talks aimed at restoring Stormont will begin just four days after the British general election on December 12th.

The negotiations involving the British and Irish governments and the North’s main parties will start on Monday 16th December.

Ms McDonald made the comments at the weekly Sinn Féin staff meeting in Leinster House, which sees elected representatives and parliamentary and party workers gather. It came after she welcomed Mark Ward, the new Sinn Féin TD elected in the Dublin Mid West byelection, to Leinster House.

Sources said Ms McDonald emphasised to the private meeting that her party wants to see Stormont back up and running by Christmas. Party figures added that if a successful conclusion is not possible by then, then it could be done by January at the latest. Mr Smith has said fresh elections in Northern Ireland must be held if the Northern executive and assembly are not restored by January 13th.

A Sinn Féin source said the “negotiations have to be a success”.

“It means political unionism, the DUP in particular, and both governments need to step up on the issues of language, reform of petition of concern and critically money for public services and in particular the health service.

“It’s important we restore a credible strong government in the very near future.” The source added that “everything is on the table” in the talks.