Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein's O'Dowd warns Stormont Executive will not bring 'utopian society'

Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd has warned that a restored Stormont Executive would not bring about a "utopian society".

The Upper Bann MLA was quizzed on the BBC Nolan Show about the absence of an Executive following the announcement that £70m in savings have to be made over the next seven months by Northern Ireland's health trusts.

Mr O'Dowd said that his party had been trying since January to form a power-sharing arrangement with the DUP, and outstanding issues included equal marriage rights for same-sex couples and protections for the Irish language.

Sinn Fein has previously stated that it is willing to form an Executive if conditions are met around an Irish language act, rights to marriage equality, and legacy issues related to the Troubes.

Asked about the responsibility of his party for the cuts to the health service, Mr O'Dowd said: "You’ve based your question on the premise that if the Executive is up and running again we would be living in a utopian society. And I think that is a very, very dangerous place to go. For commentators, for political parties, for journalists.

"Because if we raise the expectations of citizens to such a height, if we do get the Executive back up and going again and we can’t deliver - and we won’t be able to deliver a utopian society from the other side of the Executive.  

"For a variety of reasons, including [that] the Executive is still under-funded."

During the interview Mr O'Dowd also took aim at Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire, saying that he "needs to understand, and he hasn’t understood yet, that he is partly responsible for the collapse of the Executive. And his government is partly responsible."

Mr O'Dowd added that his party did not accept that the cuts announced on Thursday were necessary, and that they would be examined "thoroughly" by his party.

Talks to restore the Stormont Executive have been expected to restart in the coming weeks. Speaking ahead of a meeting with Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney on Tuesday, James Brokenshire refused to name an exact date for when this would be.

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