Belfast Telegraph

DUP: Sinn Fein must 'face up to reality' for Stormont return

DUP MP Gavin Robinson with party MLA Gordon Lyons outside Stormont (PA)
DUP MP Gavin Robinson with party MLA Gordon Lyons outside Stormont (PA)

Sinn Fein must "face up to reality" and "step away from narrow shopping lists" if Stormont is to return, a DUP MP has said.

Gavin Robinson made the comments after meeting with newly-installed Secretary of State Julian Smith at Stormont on Monday.

The Northern Ireland Secretary was meeting with political representatives as he gets to grips with his new role after replacing Karen Bradley last week.

Speaking in Londonderry last week Mr Smith said he would "push as hard as I possible can" to ensure the return of power-sharing at Stormont.

“This was a useful opportunity to reiterate our commitment to reaching a balanced deal which can allow an Executive to be formed and Ministers to be appointed. The backlog of decisions which need to be made about our schools and hospitals is unacceptable," East Belfast MP Mr Robinson said.

"Serious engagement is continuing, although significant gaps remain. 

"As we approach 950 days without government in Northern Ireland, we stand ready to form a government immediately. We have no red lines. It’s time Sinn Fein face up to the reality and have the same willingness and step away from narrow shopping lists.”

Sinn Fein and the DUP remain opposed on a number of key issues including same-sex marriage and an Irish Language Act.

Speaking earlier on Monday Sinn Fein's deputy leader Michelle O'Neill rejected the suggestion the Government might move to legislate to introduce direct rule in Northern Ireland ahead of the October 31 Brexit deadline, if devolution has not be restored by then.

“Direct rule is not acceptable, we cannot go backwards, we can only go forwards,” she said.

Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy, Michelle O’Neill and Chris Hazzard after a meeting with Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith at Stormont House (David Young/PA)
Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy, Michelle O’Neill and Chris Hazzard after a meeting with Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith at Stormont House (David Young/PA)

Mrs O'Neill said she told Mr Smith he could not be a “bystander” in negotiations to restore power-sharing, insisting “rights-based issues” at the heart of the impasse, such as Irish language protections, remained unresolved.

After meeting with Mr Smith UUP leader Robin Swann said he told the new Northern Ireland Secretary that it was important to see "an intensification of talks".

“We also asked him what he plans to do if the talks don’t work, given that Northern Ireland needs to have someone in charge taking decisions on a whole host of important issues, not least health and education, and the fact that we have Brexit looming large on the horizon," the North Antrim MLA said. 

“I have made it clear that I believe a no-deal Brexit would be dangerous for Northern Ireland. With the lack of a functioning Executive, Northern Ireland will need political decision-making and financial support mechanisms to ensure that our economy doesn't crash."

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