Belfast Telegraph

We will not be intimidated by threat of direct rule: Sinn Fein

Michelle O'Neill
Michelle O'Neill

By Our Political Staff

There will be "grave implications" if Westminster brings back direct rule, Sinn Fein has said.

The party's vice-president Michelle O'Neill was speaking after Environment Secretary Michael Gove said administration from London could return as a result of a no-deal Brexit.

Independent unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon said in the House of Commons that MPs, including the DUP, must give "due weight to the serious warning" issued by the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service about the "grave consequences" if there was a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Gove said she was "absolutely 100% totally right".

He added that legislation issued by the Government to empower local civil servants to take decisions is "sustainable at the moment", and it was hoped the Stormont Executive can be restored.

Mr Gove said: "But it is also clear that the current situation with no Executive would be very difficult to sustain in the uniquely challenging context of a no-deal exit.

"Now we, in the circumstances that the House has voted for no-deal, would have to start formal engagement with the Irish Government about further arrangements for providing strengthened decision-making in the event of that outcome, and that would include the very real possibility of imposing a form of direct rule.

"Now that is a grave step, and experience shows us it's very hard to return from that step, and it'd be especially difficult in the context of no-deal."

Sinn Fein said it provided further evidence that the Government "has abandoned any pretence of impartiality or commitment to the Good Friday Agreement".

"Coming on the back of the anti-Agreement vote in Westminster yesterday and the blatant attempts to defend the illegal actions of British state forces during the conflict, today's comments are conclusive evidence that the British Government has turned its back on the principles underpinning the Good Friday Agreement," Mrs O'Neill said.

"These comments are a blatant attempt to penalise those of us in Ireland, including the progressive parties in the North and the Irish Government, who have stood up to British attempts to bully us into accepting a disastrous Brexit position.

"Let me be clear, we will not be intimidated.

"The British Government and Michael Gove, a long-term opponent of the Good Friday Agreement, are playing to the unionist demand for unrestrained British direct rule.

"I cannot overstate the grave implications if the British Government follows through on these threats."

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