Belfast Telegraph

DUP’s ‘anti-rights agenda’ being allowed to hold political process to ransom, says O’Neill

By Suzanne Breen

Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O'Neill has said the political process should not be "held to ransom by the DUP's anti-rights agenda".

Speaking ahead of a meeting with Secretary of State Karen Bradley today, Mrs O'Neill said the UK government had to live up to its obligations.

"I will be telling the British Secretary of State that we need the power-sharing institutions back up and running and there is a huge deal of frustration within the wider community at the unacceptable delay in restoring the Executive due to the British Government's pact with the DUP," she said.

"The British Government have obligations under the Good Friday Agreement and if they are not prepared to confront the DUP, then they need to deal with the issues directly and in partnership with the Dublin government."

Mrs O'Neill added: "The people of the north, our public services and our peace agreements should not be held to ransom by the DUP's anti-rights agenda."

Mrs Bradley is scheduled to meet the leaders of the five main parties this afternoon. There have been calls for her to begin a fresh round of negotiations to restore power-sharing.

DUP leader Arlene Foster last night said: "This is a routine meeting with the Secretary of State. I am glad she is meeting all the parties and I hope she will recognise that four of the five main parties would restore devolution immediately.

"There is only one party which has placed barriers and preconditions in the path of returning local decision-making to Northern Ireland."

Mrs Foster said that in the absence of devolution, there was still a need for decisions to be taken in Northern Ireland.

"Over the last few days issues such as the £150m delivered for broadband by the DUP through the 'confidence and supply' agreement have been in the news," she said.

"I will be urging the Secretary of State to ensure that necessary decisions are taken and the people of Northern Ireland do not suffer because of Sinn Fein's narrow agenda." Power-sharing has been suspended for over a year following Sinn Fein's withdrawal from the Executive over the RHI scandal.

Talks to restore devolution collapsed in acrimony in February after the DUP and Sinn Fein failed to agree on Irish language proposals. Despite Mrs Bradley's meeting with the politicians, Stormont sources have said there is "zero chance" of talks progressing seriously before the autumn.

Meanwhile, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood yesterday met Tanaiste Simon Coveney. Mr Eastwood called for a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference to "clear the decks" and challenge all parties back to a functioning government.

"We had a productive, honest and positive meeting with An Tanaiste," he said.

"I was very reassured by An Tanaiste's commitment to protecting citizens here from a hard Brexit and a hard border.

"It is absolutely critical that we get to that place so that politicians here can work to protect citizens across this island from Brexit. Unless both governments step in and step up, another round of secret talks between the DUP and Sinn Fein won't work."

Belfast Telegraph

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