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New Sinn Fein leader Michelle O'Neill calls for 'step change' in attitude of DUP

Michelle O'Neill has called for a "step change" in the attitude of the Democratic Unionists if powersharing is to be restored in Northern Ireland.

The new leader of Sinn Fein at Stormont said the creation of an Irish language Act, a bill of rights and dealing with the legacy of the violent past were outstanding issues from previous negotiations and should be implemented.

She said she was prepared to work with anybody who displayed respect and support for equality to restore the devolved government after the March 2 election.

"We enter the negotiations on the basis of trying to find solutions but clearly there needs to be a step change in attitude from the DUP.

"The reason we are in this situation is because of their arrogance, because of their disrespect to the public, because, quite rightly, of their contempt for the public."

She said they needed to get back to the principles of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which largely ended decades of conflict.

"Clearly we are only interested in powersharing and being here and being in partnership government with other people who are wedded to equality, who are interested in parity of esteem and respect.

"Without those principles we cannot be in powersharing and share government with people who are not interested in that."

An Irish language Act to promote its development has been repeatedly vetoed by the DUP and support for extra funding for dealing with legacy inquests into Troubles killings has not been forthcoming.

Mrs O'Neill said: "It is important that we see the full implementation of those outstanding issues.

"Clearly we will be going into a negotiation on the basis only of equality, mutual respect and integrity in the institutions.

"We believe that the institutions can deliver for the citizens but they have to deliver for all of the citizens."

She accused the DUP of displaying disrespect towards the LGBT community (the DUP does not support gay marriage), ethnic minorities and women, and attacking the Irish language.

"They are all things that are not acceptable to us," she added.

Northern Ireland's largest unionist party has said it backs civil unions for same-sex couples. Its leader, Arlene Foster, is a woman and the party has had many female ministers and senior officials.

Democratic Unionist assembly member Emma Little Pengelly has previously said: "I am not corrupt and I am not arrogant. I honestly know that my colleagues are not arrogant and corrupt either.

"I got into politics to serve the people, to be an advocate and to deliver for the people of South Belfast and Northern Ireland."

The DUP has parodied the Irish language in inflammatory comments made by East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell and repeatedly refused to agree to the introduction of an Act according it official protection.

Mrs O'Neill said: "I want to get to the point where we have institutions that deliver but we can only do that and only share power with people who are wedded to equality and to the principles of the Good Friday Agreement."

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