Belfast Telegraph

'Little sign of progress' in Stormont talks says O'Neill as DUP question if Sinn Fein want Assembly return

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds and Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill.
DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds and Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill.
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds has said that Sinn Fein must decide if they want to return to Stormont after Michelle O'Neill said there was little sign of progress in party talks.

Writing in the Irish News Sinn Fein's deputy leader said that her party remained "firmly" committed to restoring devolution, but that in current talks "there is little sign of progress or a successful conclusion".

Mrs O'Neill also called for joint authority rule from the UK and Irish governments to be introduced in Northern Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

In response to her comments Mr Dodds said that the Sinn Fein leadership "needs to decide if they want a devolved government or not".

In a platform piece Mid Ulster MLA O'Neill said that direct rule from the UK government could not be introduced in Northern Ireland as it would go against the St Andrews Agreement.

"In the absence of power-sharing it would not be acceptable to Sinn Fein for the British government to impose direct rule from Westminster in the absence of power-sharing," she said.

"In the absence of the assembly and executive, the choice is between the protection of the Good Friday Agreement or its abandonment.

"A return to direct rule would represent its abandonment."

The Sinn Fein deputy said that joint authority would need to be introduced to mitigate a no-deal Brexit secenario.

"The immediate crisis of a no deal Brexit and the absence of an assembly will necessitate joint authority by both governments which amounts to an honest and responsible effort to protect the principles which ended the conflict and offer the best hope of future peace and prosperity, and to avoid causing lasting harm to the people of Ireland who must be afforded the democratic imperative to determine their own future through a referendum on reunification," she said.

Mr Dodds accused Sinn Fein of only engaging in talks to restore Stormont "for show".

"Any agreement must be fair and balanced. We are engaging sincerely to restore devolution. We want to build a shared future for people who cherish their British or Irish identity or those who feel both," the North Belfast MP said.

"This latest statement from Michelle O’Neill also drives a coach and horses through the Belfast Agreement. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. That is the reality. Michelle O’Neill shows no respect for the constitutional position.

"Sinn Fein needs to prove they believe in a shared future where the constitutional will of the majority is respected. It’s time for Sinn Fein to make up its mind.”

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