Belfast Telegraph

SF chief O'Neill says DUP needs radical change of attitude if Assembly to return

By Michael McHugh

Michelle O'Neill has called for a "step change" in the attitude of the DUP if power-sharing 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 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 administration 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 it 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 power-sharing 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 power-sharing 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 disrespecting the LGBT community, 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. It has a female leader, Arlene Foster, and has had many female ministers and senior officials.

DUP 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 comments by East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell, and repeatedly refused to agree an Act according it official protection.

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