Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein rejects DUP suggestion to set up shadow Assembly

By Suzanne Breen

Sinn Fein has rejected the DUP's plan for a shadow Assembly to sit at Stormont giving MLAs scrutiny powers while devolution is suspended.

Arlene Foster indicated on Saturday that her party would be working to develop the idea with Secretary of State Karen Bradley.

But Mary Lou McDonald said a shadow Assembly would represent a retreat from power-sharing. Addressing an event in London examining a united Ireland, the Sinn Fein president said: "The way forward in the north is through real and genuine power-sharing, the delivery of citizens' rights and equal partnership government. 

"Any proposed shadow Assembly would mark a retreat from power-sharing and the leadership needed to restore the Good Friday Agreement framework. It would be an unacceptable step backwards, lacking credibility. 

"The onus is now on the two governments to act and through their joint stewardship to remove the obstacles to restoring the political institutions."

Ms McDonald called on London and Dublin to immediately convene the British-Irish intergovernmental conference to "find a way to implement outstanding agreements and to fully respect the rights of citizens to marriage equality, to language rights and the funding of legacy inquests".

She continued: "Direct rule is not an option. It was a failure in the past and would be so again. 

"It's time to face the real challenge to deliver citizens' rights and to re-establish the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement."

But addressing the DUP's spring conference in Ballymena, Mrs Foster said the prospects of a return to devolution in the near future "don't look promising".

She said: "Ministerial decisions being made by the Secretary of State is in no way our preferred outcome, but it is far better than no decisions being taken at all.

"We will continue to work closely with Karen Bradley as she makes good on her commitment to do whatever is necessary to fulfil her majesty's Government's responsibilities to the people of Northern Ireland, including working with her on ways for the Assembly that the people elected last year to have an input."

Mrs Foster said her party was committed to devolution.

"We want to see power in the hands of locally elected and locally accountable ministers. 

"But in the absence of devolution, the DUP is finding other ways to deliver for Northern Ireland," she added.

The DUP leader pointed to the additional funds her party secured for Northern Ireland in its confidence and supply deal with the Conservative government.

She accused Sinn Fein of offering little in comparison.

"Whether it's health or education or jobs or infrastructure, the DUP is prioritising what is important to people of all persuasions in Northern Ireland," she said.

"What are Sinn Fein delivering for our people?

"The answer is short and simple - absolutely nothing. Sorry, that isn't entirely fair.

"Sinn Fein are at least trying to deliver. 

"They are trying to deliver division and dysfunction. But we are not going to allow them to hold Northern Ireland to ransom any longer."

The DUP leader said that her party needed more than ideology in order to advance its agenda.

"I truly believe that if we are to achieve our overarching aim of preserving the Union then we have to concentrate on our ideas, and not our ideology, and focus on defying our opponents by making Northern Ireland work for everyone," she said. 

"Having secured a historic election victory, we cannot fall into the trap of complacency."

Belfast Telegraph

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