Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein rejects 'already discussed' DUP plan to restore powersharing Assembly

Sinn Fein has rejected a DUP bid to restore the Assembly and resolve division over cultural issues.

Leader in the North Michelle O'Neill said establishing a powersharing administration that may collapse after a matter of months over the same problems would only fail the people.

She claimed Arlene Foster's latest proposal to break the political talks stalemate was nothing new and had been made knowing it would be rejected.

The Democratic Unionist chief called for a "common sense" solution appointing Stormont ministers alongside a time-limited process for making progress on the red line issue of an Irish language act and Ulster Scots.

Mrs O'Neill said: "This parallel process has been discussed and disregarded throughout the course of all the negotiations we have had to date."

She said the intervention demonstrated unionists had not listened to or acknowledged the reasons for Martin McGuinness' resignation from the head of devolved government which prompted its suspension earlier this year.

Mrs O'Neill said: "Establishing an Executive that may collapse after a matter of months on the same issues will only fail all our people.

"Let's agree to quickly conclude talks on implementation and rights, that is the only way to build a sustainable Executive that will last."

Powersharing has been in deep freeze since early this year when late Sinn Fein deputy first minister Mr McGuinness resigned in protest at the DUP's handling of a botched green energy scheme which risks landing the taxpayer in millions of pounds of debt.

Talks aimed at restoring the institutions are due to resume on Monday led by the British and Irish governments, with some prominent DUP MPs warning a return to direct rule from Westminster could be looming.

Sinn Fein claims the DUP has failed to embrace principles like equality and respect. Democratic Unionists argue that any deal should not be one-sided and devolution should be immediately restored to protect faltering health and education systems.

Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney said Mrs Foster's intervention was a genuine effort to show leadership and reach out towards compromise.

The DUP is propping up Theresa May's minority Conservative Government with support in key votes in exchange for a £1 billion spending package.

In a major speech in Belfast on Thursday night, DUP leader and Tory ally Mrs Foster said laws should be introduced to address cultural and language issues within a "time-limited" period.

She warned unless agreement can be found between the Stormont parties direct rule from London could be speedily reintroduced.

She said: "I am putting forward a common sense solution that can give us the Executive we need and resolve outstanding issues."

Mrs Foster called for ministers to return to posts so that decisions can be made and Northern Ireland can have a government again.

"But we also agree to bring forward legislation to address culture and language issues in Northern Ireland within a time-limited period to be agreed.

"If we fail to do that in a way that commands cross-community support then the Executive would cease to exist."

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