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Sinn Fein chief O'Neill tells Brokenshire Brexit terms 'won't be up to him'

By Noel McAdam

Sinn Fein has bluntly challenged Secretary of State James Brokenshire's rejection of 'special status' for Northern Ireland post-Brexit.

The party's new Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill argued the decision would be up to the 27 remaining states of the European Union.

Launching her party's candidate list the woman who replaced Martin McGuinness a fortnight ago revealed she has written to the other states setting out the case for special status.

"I have got news for you, James, it won't be your decision," she told the event at the Belfast Waterfront Hall. "It will be the other member states who decide the terms of Brexit.

"That is why Sinn Fein is on a diplomatic offensive across the length and breadth of Europe, where there is a hell of a lot more sympathy for our case than for the Right-wing, anti-immigrant agenda which has fuelled the Brexit fiasco in the first place."

Mr Brokenshire last week dashed nationalist hopes for special status, insisting it would be the wrong approach.

But DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds pointed out the Government had not only ruled out special status but also any form of joint authority over Northern Ireland between London and Dublin.

"Sinn Fein have already been caught in the door," he said.

Mrs O'Neill said Martin McGuinness' decision to quit the power-sharing Executive, forcing Arlene Foster out as First Minister, had been a "watershed in Irish history".

"It was a clear demonstration to those in the DUP who still pine for one-party unionist misrule that those days are gone. Sinn Fein will never tolerate the kind of arrogance and contempt for the public which the DUP have displayed," she added.

"We won't tolerate racism, sectarianism, homophobia and sexism - we won't tolerate scandal, corruption and the abuse of public funds. If the DUP ever wish to hold ministerial office again, they are going to have to learn that lesson."

On Mrs Foster's dismissal of any Irish Language Act, Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy said: "Time and time again the DUP have shown nothing but disrespect to the Irish language and identity. These comments further highlight the contempt in which the DUP holds large sections of the community.

"It is also another desperate attempt by the DUP leader to deflect public attention from the DUP's incompetence and mishandling of the RHI scandal."

Mr Murphy, at one point tipped to take over from Mr McGuinness, said the British Government had committed to an Irish Language Act in the St Andrews Agreement.

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