Belfast Telegraph

Bradley refusing to rule out another Assembly election as Sinn Fein criticise lack of progress

By Gareth Cross

The possibility of a new Assembly election is "under review", the Government spokesperson has said.

A spokesperson for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland made the comments in response to criticism from Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill who accused the Government of having "no strategy for restoring the political institutions" in Northern Ireland.

Mrs O’Neill also criticised the Secretary of State Karen Bradley calling her "disingenuous".

"The Government’s priority remains the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland.  The Secretary of State is engaging closely with the political parties and the Irish Government, as appropriate, towards that end," a Government spokesperson said.

"In the absence of devolved government, the Government has a responsibility to provide good governance and ensure the continuing delivery of public services in Northern Ireland.  That’s why we intervened reluctantly to set budget allocations for NI departments for 2018-19.

"The Secretary of State continues to keep under review her statutory obligation to call an Assembly Election. She is now considering options and will set out next steps in due course."

Northern Ireland's last Assembly election took place in March 2017, with Sinn Fein coming within 1 seat of DUP.

Michelle O'Neill said there was no indication that the Secretary of State was serious about re-storing the institutions.

“Comments by the British Secretary of State Karen Bradley that her priority is to re-establish the political institutions in the north are glib and disingenuous and there’s no evidence to support her assertion," the Mid Ulster MLA said.

“It has been clear since February that the British government has no strategy for restoring the political institutions in the north and that their priority is their pact with the DUP at Westminster.

“They have adopted a ‘do-nothing’ approach since the DUP walked away from a deal in February. Their inaction gives cover and tacit support support for the DUP’s shameful denial of rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, language rights and the right of victims affected by the legacy of the past."

She said that the Government was ignoring the people of Northern Ireland to ensure their own self-preservation.

“The north is fast becoming a political and social backwater as a result of the British government’s support for the DUP’s denial of rights available to citizens everywhere else on these islands," Mrs O'Neill said.

“This is the price that Theresa May and Karen Bradley are prepared to pay for their own political survival.

“Sinn Fein wants to see the immediate restoration of the political institutions."

The Mid Ulster MLA reiterated her call for a British Irish Intergovernmental Conference to be convened.

“In the absence of a local assembly and executive the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference should meet as a matter of urgency as provided for under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement to remove the obstacles to power-sharing and ensure the equivalence of rights and equality issues in the north, that exist in Britain and the South, including the critical issue of women’s right to appropriate, modern and compassionate health care," she said.

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