Belfast Telegraph

DUP chief Foster tells Sinn Fein to pick Stormont or Westminster

By Noel McAdam

The DUP has insisted Sinn Fein must decide whether it wants Stormont to return - or face direct rule from Westminster.

DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill held their first meeting yesterday since before the seven-week general election campaign.

The meeting came as it emerged that the Queen's Speech - which is likely to contain more detail about any deal between the Conservatives and the DUP - has been delayed by up to a week.

Amid ongoing speculation, DUP MP Gregory Campbell hinted that his party's demands on the Government could include job creation in the province.

"Government doesn't create jobs, but it creates the conditions which allow employers to grow. Our manifesto set out a roadmap for improving economic conditions and I want to deliver on that," the re-elected East Londonderry MP said.

"I don't want any more of our young people leaving our shores in search of work.

"Growing our private sector will ultimately reduce our dependence on the Block Grant and give us more money to invest in public services."

Sinn Fein has been critical of the proposed DUP-Conservative alliance, saying it could scupper the talks because Theresa May's party would be beholden to the unionists and unable to chair negotiations from a neutral position.

But Mrs Foster insisted she could see no reason why the deal talks with the Tories, which will see her in London today, would put the restoration of a Stormont Executive in greater jeopardy.

She added: "If others decide they are not coming back into the devolved administration here in Northern Ireland then those issues will have to be dealt with at Westminster.

"It is really for Sinn Fein to decide where they want those powers to lie."

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds also challenged Sinn Fein to rule out taking a role in the Irish government, should the opportunity arise.

He said the Irish people would be "very, very interested" to know whether Sinn Fein would rule themselves out of government on the basis it would breach the Good Friday Agreement "because if that's what they say about us, it applies to them equally".

Mrs Foster added: "Parliamentarians would like to play as full a role as they possibly can in our national parliament, just as some in Sinn Fein would like to play a role in the Irish parliament."

But Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill said the Irish government and the new taoiseach must "resolutely defend the Good Friday Agreement in the context of the emerging Tory-DUP alliance".

Ahead of new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar taking up office tomorrow, she added: "The Irish government should now insist on a joint commitment from both governments to the Good Friday Agreement and the international treaty which underpins it.

"This should be the immediate priority of the incoming taoiseach."

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