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Parties' election tactics are criticised by new leader

By Noel McAdam

Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill has accused the DUP of attempting to "sectarianise" the Assembly election.

Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, she also revealed her party has told the British and Irish Governments there will be no return of the Assembly or Executive unless there is "fundamental change" - without spelling out what that amounts to.

Mrs O'Neill also made clear, however, her party will not accept Arlene Foster returning as First Minister until the inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme is complete, which is likely to take six months after it begins.

"The DUP promised a brutal campaign and from the outset have sought to sectarianise the election, to make it an issue of who would be First Minister despite the fact there will be no First Minister without the support of Sinn Fein. They want the election to be about the past," she argued. "They want the election to be about anything other than the waste that is RHI or the arrogance and contempt displayed to citizens."

Facing her first election as Northern leader just four weeks after replacing former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Mrs O'Neill said the election and negotiations which will follow are "about the future".

And she also hit out at the UUP and SDLP, who she said "have attempted to present themselves as some alternative".

"There can be no alternative to respect and equality. There is no alternative to power sharing and the Good Friday Agreement. After nine years, these parties stepped out of the Executive and away from the agreement, and entered Opposition. They have yet to make it clear that they will return to the Executive or hide in Opposition," she said.

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