Belfast Telegraph

O'Neill: we're facing chaos because the government 'parked' talks

By Rebecca Black

Northern Ireland has been plunged into chaos because the Conservative government has "parked" the talks to restore the power-sharing Assembly at Stormont, Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill has claimed.

Talks ended in failure on Monday following two deadlines which were not met.

Both the DUP and Sinn Fein blamed each other for the collapse of Stormont - which has not seen a functioning devolved government since January.

With no budget agreed for the 2017/18 financial year, civil servants are currently in charge of allocating money to the government departments but unless budget legislation is passed either by the Assembly or by Westminster in the autumn, officials can only spend 95% of the total money available.

Departments are currently operating on the indicative budget which reflects the indicative allocations set out by Secretary of State James Brokenshire in a written statement to Parliament on April 24.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has insisted that her party is up for an agreement and vowed to keep working throughout the summer to try and restore devolution later this year. Her party has blamed Sinn Fein for the lack of agreement, claiming they have blocked the DUP's attempt to restart Stormont.

But writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, Sinn Fein's northern leader Michelle O'Neill said she is "hugely frustrated" that agreement has not been reached, adding that her party has been "genuinely working to restore credible and sustainable institutions, which value and deliver for all citizens".

"The Assembly and the Executive could be in place today if the DUP was prepared to end its blockade of basic rights - rights that people routinely enjoy in every other part of Ireland and in Britain.

"But the DUP's adherence to a world view, long since abandoned in the Britain to which they declare allegiance, continues to define whole sections of our society as somehow inferior or less equal.  The DUP deny rights to Irish speakers. They deny equality to members of the LGBT community. They deny families - some of whom have been waiting up to 45 years - the right to coroners' inquests. It is an unacceptable position. The Assembly and Executive are only sustainable and credible if they are based on rights, respect and equality."

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