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Sinn Fein game harming communities: Foster calls for immediate restoration of Northern Ireland Executive

By Jonny Bell

Arlene Foster has called for the immediate restoration of devolution in Northern Ireland, accusing Sinn Fein of playing a game which is harming communities.

Political talks aimed at breaking the deadlock were put on hold following the call for a snap Westminster General Election. There has been speculation devolution will not return for the rest of the year, given the impasse.

Sinn Fein brought down the institutions over the RHI scandal and Arlene Foster's refusal to stand aside temporarily for an investigation into her role in the botched green energy scheme.

Game playing by Sinn Fein is resulting in people suffering across our communities. Arlene Foster

Out on the campaign trail on Wednesday during a visit to a North Down community group, DUP leader and former First Minister Arlene Foster said community and voluntary sectors were suffering because of the lack of local government.

She said: "Government often relies on the community and voluntary sector to deliver a whole range of crucial public services.  Yet, at this time, those organisations, and the people who depend upon them, aren’t getting the support they need from Government because we don’t have an administration up and running at Stormont.

"Our community and voluntary sector deserve a devolved administration that they can work in partnership with to assist and aid the vulnerable in our society. 

The DUP wants to see devolution restored now... there is no need for delay. Arlene Foster

"What they don’t deserve is the uncertainty and instability that Sinn Fein’s refusal to restore devolution is bringing upon the sector."

Mrs Foster added: "The DUP wants to see devolution restored now.  There is absolutely no need for any further damaging delay to the restoration of Stormont. 

"What I have heard today affirms my fears that game playing by Sinn Fein is resulting in people suffering across our communities.  While some want to indulge in the pursuit of narrow party political agendas, the DUP has drawn no red lines and set no preconditions for the establishment of a new Executive.

"People rightly want to see the MLAs they elected in March getting on with the job they elected them to do.  They don’t want any more delay and they certainly don’t want the damage its doing to Northern Ireland."

Sinn Fein's John O’Dowd said said Arlene Foster and the DUP are "clearly in denial".

The Upper Bann Westminster candidate said: "Arlene Foster and the DUP are clearly in denial about the damage done to public confidence in the political institutions by the RHI debacle and other financial scandals linked to the DUP and their arrogance and disrespect towards whole sections of our community. 

"In the last election the public came out and voted for political institutions with equality, respect and integrity at their core.

"The public want the institutions to work. Sinn Féin want the political institutions to work but they can only do so if they deliver for all our citizens.

"As Martin McGuinness made clear when he tendered his resignation anyone who believes that the institutions can be restored without equality, integrity and respect at their core are living in a fool’s paradise.

"What we need to see is the implementation of previous agreements, an end to the discrimination and disrespect to sections of our community.

"There also needs to be an end to the financial scandals like Red Sky, Nama and RHI.

"All of this could have been done very quickly during the negotiations but the DUP backed by the Tories continued to set its face against equality and respect for all and continued to renege on commitments on legacy.

"Sinn Fein will return to negotiations after the Westminster elections but Arlene Foster knows that the political institutions can only secure public confidence on the basis of equality, respect and integrity."

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