Belfast Telegraph

No return to direct rule in absence of power sharing: Sinn Fein's O'Neill

A return to Direct Rule in Northern Ireland would represent an abandonment of the Good Friday Agreement, the Sinn Fein deputy leader has said,

Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill during a party meeting at the Carrickdale Hotel and Spa in Dundalk. PA Photo. Picture date: Wednesday September 11, 2019. Pic: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill during a party meeting at the Carrickdale Hotel and Spa in Dundalk. PA Photo. Picture date: Wednesday September 11, 2019. Pic: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd (left) with leader Mary Lou McDonald (centre), and deputy leader Michelle O'Neill (right), before a party away day at the Carrickdale Hotel and Spa: Pic Liam McBurney/PA Wire

By Aine McMahon PA

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill says there must be no return to direct rule from the British Government in the absence of a power sharing government in Northern Ireland.

Ms O’Neill said a return to direct rule by the British Government would represent an abandonment of the Good Friday Agreement.

Speaking at the Sinn Fein away day in Dundalk Co Louth, Ms O’Neill said the lack of a functioning Assembly at Stormont for the past 900 days is “unsustainable.”

“The DUP have traded power sharing in the north for their short-lived influence in London,” she said.

“If no agreement is reached and in the absence of powersharing, it would not be acceptable for the British Government to impose direct rule.

“This should not be acceptable to the Irish Government and we will hold the Taoiseach to account when he said no citizen in the north will be left behind again,” said Ms O’Neill.

“The British Government is in turmoil and is only interested in serving its own interests. It is actively ignoring the needs and the democratically expressed wishes of the people who live on this island.

“It is continuing to ignore the citizens in the north and the elected members who vehemently oppose this unwanted Brexit,” said Ms O’Neill.

“The British Government’s attitude towards the Good Friday Agreement and the Peace Process can only be described as an act of political sabotage. They are dealing with the North and the peace process as if we are a commodity,” she added.

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Party leader Arlene Foster at DUP headquarters (David Young/PA)

DUP leader Arlene Foster said a Northern Ireland-only backstop would mean one part of the UK would be left in the customs union and subject to the rules of the single market without any consent.

Ms Foster said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had set out to the European Union why a Northern Ireland-only backstop would be anti-democratic.

“As we hurtle towards a no-deal crash out, the reckless DUP Brexiteers are very quickly running out of road and their options are narrowing. A Northern Ireland only backstop would not be a constitutional issue as the DUP falsely claim – it is nonsense,” said Ms O’Neill.

Ms O’Neill said Irish unity is the ultimate goal for the party and planning must begin.

“The process of planning for a referendum for a united Ireland must be undertaken by both Governments – including the Irish Government. They need to get away from this ostrich mentality and get their heads out of the sand. More and more people are talking about Irish unity, not just republicans,” she said.

PA

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