Belfast Telegraph

DUP claim Sinn Fein set April 2019 date for Stormont return - 'More nonsense and drivel' says Sinn Fein

DUP MP Gregory Campbell has welcomed comments from Sinn Fein implying that they will return to the Assembly in April next year, but said that they should end their "boycott" now.

Speaking at Stormont on Thursday Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy said Sinn Fein wanted to be back in government by April 2019.

“Our intention is to have ministers in place by April 1, our intention is not to sit back here and allow the timetable of drift,” the Newry and Armagh MLA said.

On Tuesday the DUP unfurled a banner outside Stormont calling on Sinn Fein to end its “boycott” on governing.

However, Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy said the party was dedicated to getting the institutions up and running on a “proper basis”.

The republican party has accused the DUP of blocking “rights-based” concessions, such as protections for Irish language speakers, the introduction of same-sex marriage and the release of additional funds for historic inquests on killings carried out by the security forces.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell said that setting a date for next year was no good for the people of Northern Ireland who need action now.

A Sinn Fein spokesperson said that Mr Campbell's comments were "more of the nonsense and drivel we have come to associate with Gregory Campbell"

Mr Campbell said that Sinn Fein were effectively holding Northern Ireland to ransom.

“Sinn Fein has boycotted the Assembly and Executive for over eighteen months. Every walk of life in Northern Ireland has been hit hard by the lack of Ministerial decision-making. For Conor Murphy to state that the boycott will end in seven months is a potential step forward but it needs to end now," the East Londonderry MP said.

"An election was held in March 2017. The people have spoken. Parties received a mandate. They should enter the Assembly and Executive now. Four of the five main parties are agreed on that principle. Sinn Fein is the exception. 

"Sinn Fein should end their boycott. They are holding the whole of Northern Ireland to ransom. Democracy should be respected. Parties should debate matters on the floor of the Assembly and vote according to the institution’s Standing Orders. If anyone loses a vote on the Assembly floor, then that’s democracy in action. No walking away and holding everyone to ransom."

The long-serving DUP representative said that Sinn Fein had dismissed attempts at reaching a solution out of hand.

"Arlene Foster offered Sinn Fein a deal whereby the institutions would be restored and unresolved matters would be discussed in tandem with the Executive functioning. This would have been time limited. Michelle O’Neill rejected this with less than an hour’s thought," Mr Campbell said.

"Conor Murphy may well want another seven months to hold the country to ransom but that is not acceptable. If Sinn Fein will not end the boycott, then the Secretary of State must act to put a decision-making mechanism in place.”

A Sinn Fein spokesperson said that they would be more than willing to return to Stormont immediately under the right terms.

“Gregory and his colleagues in the DUP walked away from a deal with Sinn Fein in February this year to restore the Assembly and the Executive before collapsing the political talks," the spokesperson said.

“The institutions could be restored immediately if the DUP, backed by the Tories, ends the disgraceful denial of rights which are enjoyed by citizens everywhere else on these islands.”

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