Belfast Telegraph

'Daft question' - Michelle O'Neill asked if Sinn Fein supports return to violence

Michelle O'Neill appeared on 'All Out Politics' on Sky News. Credit: Sky News
Michelle O'Neill appeared on 'All Out Politics' on Sky News. Credit: Sky News

Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O'Neill has been asked if her party would support a return to violence.

The question came from Sky News presenter Adam Boulton during an interview on the 'All Out Politics' programme on Wednesday.

Mrs O'Neill was appearing on the programme via video-link from Brussels where she will be leading a Sinn Fein delegation to meet with senior EU figures.

After discussing a new Brexit proposal from the EU Mrs O'Neill was asked about a return to violence in Northern Ireland.

"There have been some violent incidents by dissident republicans of late, are there any circumstances in which you, Sinn Fein, would support the return to the armed struggle, if for example there were to be border posts?," Mr Boulton asked.

The Sinn Fein deputy leader said she thought it was a "daft question" and questioned why she was asked.

"Nobody wants to see us return to the borders of the past, that's why we're saying how devastating, how catastrophic, what it means to have a situation where they would start to reimpose border checks on our island," the Mid Ulster MLA said.

"One of the biggest symbols of our peace has been the dismantling of our borders and the British Government wants to bring us back there again.

"I would never speak of potentially what could happen in the event of customs checks, for example, being put back on the island of Ireland or any other kind of border infrastructure, but clearly there is no interest in going backwards. We can only go forwards. "

Mrs O'Neill told Sky News that the actions of Boris Johnson's government were hurting the peace process.

Sky News presenter Adam Boulton (PA)
Sky News presenter Adam Boulton (PA)

"We are a society emerging from conflict, we are a society that has a peace process that needs to be nurtured and this British Government are supposed to be a co-guarantor of that international agreement and they have run a coach and horses right through it," she said.

"They have disrespected it, disregarded it and thrown it to the side time and time again as they pursue their own reckless little England agenda.

"It's not a tolerable situation, but I don't think that there's any desire, absolutely no desire for us to go backwards, but clearly there are elements in society that would want to drag us backwards and what this British Government's agenda is doing is fuelling all of that."

Mr Boulton said that Mrs O'Neill may think it's a "daft question", but asked again "as Sinn Fein deputy leader" if she wouldn't want to see a return to violence.

"Of course we wouldn't Adam, that's a wholly unacceptable question for you to pose to me as a political leader of a political party who has been to the core of the peace process, who has brought us through 21 years of a peace process, who are fighting very hard for the Good Friday Agreement and that peace process which this British Government seem very intent on wrecking," the Mid Ulster MLA said.

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