Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein won't go into government unless there is agreement on Irish language act, says MLA Pat Sheehan

Sinn Fein's Pat Sheehan has guaranteed his party will not return to government unless there is agreement on an Irish language act, a bill of rights and resolution on dealing with the legacy of the past.

The outgoing West Belfast MLA Pat Sheehan was speaking at an event for young people in the area on Thursday night.

He told the BBC's Stephen Nolan: "We are not going back into the Executive until all...... There were three issues that have been agreed previously.

"So you had the Irish language act, there was a thing called the bill of rights and there was another issues. An agreement with regard to dealing with people killed during the conflict.

"We need to see those agreements implemented.

Asked if it was a promise that they would not go into government, he replied "yes".

"Unless the outstanding agreements are implemented."

Mr Nolan said the ultimatum was given at least three times by Mr Sheehan at the event to those in attendance and the politician was there on behalf of Sinn Fein. The broadcaster said he spelt out the position "emphatically" while delivering a speech.

A Sinn Fein spokesperson said: “The people are demanding institutions that deliver for all on the basis of equality, respect and integrity.

“Central to this is that an agreement made must be an agreement delivered.

The statement continued: “Sinn Fein is not going into renegotiate issues that already have been agreed. There cannot be an endless cycle of renegotiation. This is about implementation.

“These include an Irish language act, commitments on legacy, and genuine power sharing, equality and integrity. The governments and the DUP are in default on their obligations on these issues.

“The failure of the governments and the DUP to live up to their responsibilities has created this crisis.

“The way forward is through implementation of the agreements and restoring confidence in the political institutions. That is reasonable and deliverable.”

More: DUP's Foster right to resist Irish Language Act, says Gaelic academic O Coigligh

Reacting the DUP's Peter Weir said his party was not in favour of an Irish language act and Sinn Fein appeared to have a "desire for direct rule".

He said: "This election has been provoked by a particular republican wish list and that's been clearly shown by Pat Sheehan.

"It contrasts strongly with Conor Murphy saying there could be a government established within weeks and what we are seeing here is Sinn Fein upping the ante with what would be lengthly republican wish list.

"This does beg the question as to if Sinn Fein are really interested in devolution or if they want direct rule."

He added: "They want legislation which could be expensive. They want a bill of rights they want legacy issues.

"When it came to the programme for government, none of these issues were raised and it is showing election about the internal dynamics of Sinn Fein.

"Sinn Fein seems to be shifting from Brits out to Brits in, in terms of their attitude toward direct rule."

Mr Weir added: "We want to see devolved government established as soon as possible, immediately after the election and people blocking that appear to be Sinn Fein.

"Our priorities are about delivering good government for Northern Ireland on the key issues that are affecting people and we are prepared to work with other parties to do that.

"When a party comes to negotiations with a long list of preconditions, I think that is where the blockage is."

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