Belfast Telegraph

People should have their say: Sinn Fein's O'Neill says plan to defer Assembly poll again 'worrying'

Sinn Fein leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill has said it is time people had their say and an Assembly election called. (Liam McBurney/PA)
Sinn Fein leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill has said it is time people had their say and an Assembly election called. (Liam McBurney/PA)
Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill has said it is time for an election if the devolved institutions can not be restored.

She was speaking as Secretary of State Karen Bradley proposed postponing again the legal obligation for an election to be called if the local parties fail to form an Executive. There has been an onus to call an election since the collapse of power sharing in 2017 and the forthcoming August deadline was already an extension on a date in March.

Sinn Fein has said it is time for an election if power sharing can not be restored - what do you think?

Posted by Belfast Telegraph on Thursday, July 4, 2019

In a significant move, the elections watchdog - the Electoral Commission - expressed its concern at the proposed postponement  saying it was a "serious step" in a democracy to continually defer elections.

Michelle O'Neill described the governments move as "worrying and retrograde" signaling a "lack of urgency" to get agreement in the current talks process.

“The governments convened the current talks process and as co guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement they have a responsibility to ensure that we get credible, sustainable institutions up and running that treat all citizens equally.

“If the two governments aren’t prepared to meet those commitments then the people should have their say through an election.

“Unfortunately, this British Government has again shown itself willing to delay the democratic process, stall the talks and abandon its own responsibilities to facilitate the DUP’s denial of rights and the Orange marching season.

“The Tory Party, reliant on the DUP to stay in office, is prioritising its own survival over the rights of citizens.”

Talks established in the wake of the dissident republican murder of journalist Lyra McKee in Londonderry in April, appear to have lost momentum, with negotiations showing no sign of delivering a breakthrough to re-establish devolution.

A war of words erupted between the DUP and Sinn Fein on Wednesday. The DUP said blaming the Twelfth for lack of progress was the republican party "making excuses" and of a "lack of engagement" in the talks.

Karen Bradley said her bill to delay an election until at least October with an extension provision for the new year was a "sensible contingency plan" to ensure good governance in NI and for if the parties could not reach agreement in the ongoing talks.

She said agreement was still possible in the weeks ahead but she had to plan for every scenario.

"We should all encourage the parties to ensure it is not needed by restoring the Executive in the coming weeks," she said.

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