Sinn Fein open to Westminster electoral pact with other pro-Remain parties to challenge the DUP, says O'Neill
Sinn Fein has signalled a willingness to co-operate with other pro-Remain parties to challenge DUP Brexiteer candidates if a general election is called.
Party vice-president Michelle O'Neill did not rule out electoral pacts with other "progressive" parties to maximise the chances of taking seats in Northern Ireland.
She last night insisted there is no bad blood between her and the Stormont colleague vying for her job.
Mrs O'Neill also made clear Sinn Fein would not be reconsidering its Westminster abstentionist policy ahead of any snap poll.
She was at Stormont yesterday to chair an election planning meeting with party colleagues.
On the prospect of working with other pro-Remain parties during an election campaign, Mrs O'Neill said: "Of course we have to be open to working with other parties, as we have done throughout the course of the last two-and-a-half years. We have been able to work with the other progressive, pro-Remain parties in making sure that our voice is heard very strongly in that we want to protect the Good Friday Agreement, that we voted to remain and there is nothing good to come from Brexit."
Asked whether the party would be prepared to stand aside in certain constituencies to give another pro-Remain candidate a better chance of taking a seat from the DUP, she replied: "The party will clearly have to discuss all of those things, but what I have said is we have clearly stood on a progressive agenda of working with other parties, where we can send out a very clear message that we say no to Brexit, that we want to protect the Good Friday Agreement and that people here voted to remain - that will guide us through the conversations and discussions that may occur."
Mrs O'Neill said she and former Stormont Education Minister John O'Dowd, who is to challenge her for the deputy leader's position, were "comrades" and would remain so whatever the outcome of the contest for the senior leadership role.
It was an unexpected development in a party known for its internal discipline and desire for a unified approach to leadership transitions.
"I am more than happy for John to put his name forward," Mrs O'Neill said. "I have spoken to him about it. We are comrades, we will be comrades through the election campaign and afterwards."