Belfast Telegraph

Karen Bradley will not attempt to restore power-sharing until after May elections

Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill (Niall Carson/PA Wire)
Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill (Niall Carson/PA Wire)

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley will not make any attempt to restore power-sharing institutions until after May's local elections, Sinn Fein has claimed.

Party vice president Michelle O'Neill said Mrs Bradley had also confirmed her intention to activate a five-month extension to her legal obligation to call a fresh Assembly election.

Under legislation introduced last year, Mrs Bradley is theoretically under a legal duty to call an election if devolved ministers are not in place by the end of March.

But the laws, which also included measures to make it easier for civil servants to make decisions in the absence of ministers, incorporated an option to extend that deadline by five months.

Mrs O'Neill claimed the DUP was the "single biggest impediment" to the restoration of the Stormont Executive.

“I spoke to the British Secretary of State by phone today and she confirmed that her government will not be making any attempt to restore the power-sharing institutions prior to the local government elections on May 2nd," she said.

“She also confirmed that she intends to extend by five months the legislation she introduced last year as her supposed plan to restore the institutions. Since then, her government has done absolutely nothing to resolve the issues at the heart of the impasse.

"Can we expect the same for the next five months?"

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mrs O'Neill said the British Government refuses to act on issues like marriage equality, an Irish Language Act, legacy bodies and compensation for victims of institutional abuse.

She added: “Karen Bradley’s government is wholly reliant on the DUP in order to cling to power, and this toxic relationship, alongside Brexit, has become the biggest impediment to restoring the power-sharing institutions on the basis of genuine equality and respect.

“The DUP are at complete odds with the cross-community majority of MLAs and public here who oppose their reckless Brexit agenda and their ongoing refusal to treat all citizens equally.

“Power-sharing can and should be restored but that will require Karen Bradley’s government finally confronting the DUP’s discriminatory agenda and upholding their own responsibilities to citizens and the equality of treatment.”

East Antrim DUP MLA Gordon Lyons said that his party would be willing to return to Stormont "immediately".

"Will Michelle O’Neill join us? Sinn Fein continue to veto the restoration of devolution but complain about a lack of movement on issues which are the direct responsibility of the Northern Ireland Assembly," Mr Lyons said.

"Sinn Fein continue to veto the operation of an Assembly in which no single party has enough MLAs to trigger the Petition of Concern.

"Events of the last few days have also shone a light on Sinn Fein’s approach towards equality and respect. Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill appear seem to care far more about proving their ‘green’ credentials to the republican backwoods than about working with unionists to deliver on health, education and the issues that  actually matter to all of the people we represent.”

Stormont crashed in January 2017 when the last DUP/Sinn Fein led coalition imploded amid a row about a botched green energy scheme.

That dispute later widened to take in issues such as the Irish language, LGBT rights and the legacy of the Troubles.

A number of efforts to negotiate a resolution to the long-running logjam have ended in failure.

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