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Foster and O'Neill set for return to joint Covid-19 briefing


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Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster (right) and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill  (Liam McBurney/PA)

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster (right) and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill (Liam McBurney/PA)

PA

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster (right) and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill (Liam McBurney/PA)

Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill are due to host their first joint Executive Press conference in over a month on Thursday.

The First and Deputy First Ministers last appeared together to answer media questions after an Executive meeting on December 10. It has not been decided whether Thursday's event will happen at Stormont or whether they will host it remotely.

It will be the first opportunity for journalists to question them together since the new Covid-19 restrictions were introduced.

Stormont sources cited a mixture of reasons for the failure of the pair to host the once regular joint Executive Press conference in Parliament Buildings.

They said that Executive meetings had been held remotely and had often run late, but they admitted that there was "not a lot of enthusiasm" among some for holding the event.

Mrs Foster and Ms O'Neill did host a virtual joint Press conference on December 17 after a North South Ministerial Council Meeting with Taoiseach Micheal Martin and Tanaiste Leo Varadkar. The First Minister laid the blame for falling public compliance with Covid restrictions at Sinn Fein's door while the Deputy First Minister claimed she had never deviated from public health advice.

Mrs Foster and Ms O'Neill appeared at the Assembly's Covid ad hoc committee where they were quizzed by MLAs for over an hour last week.

Commenting on the month-long absence of post-Executive Press conferences, TUV leader Jim Allister said: "While I don't think many in the community will miss the pontifications of Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill, the failure to hold these events is yet another example of the dysfunctionality of the Executive.

"But I don't think the Deputy First Minister has any credibility whatsoever to be lecturing others on Covid-19 given the Bobby Storey funeral breaches.

"One year on from the restoration of devolution, Stormont's only real claim to fame is failure."

Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken said: "The operation of the Executive remains an issue and we have seen dysfunctionality continue in recent weeks and months.

"It is unclear whether there has been an acceptance by some parties that the culture had to change - regrettably, in far too many instances, it hasn't.

"Some parties are still to learn the lessons as to why things collapsed previously. If we were measuring progress on a balanced score card there would be far too many reds, with only a few up arrows - we should be doing much better."

Belfast Telegraph


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