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Sinn Fein's championing of rights 'a sham': DUP's Donaldson

By Mark Edwards

Sinn Fein's championing of rights in Northern Ireland "is a sham", a senior DUP MP has claimed.

The two biggest parties in Northern Ireland have been at loggerheads over issues such as the Irish Language Act, gay marriage and abortion since the Assembly collapsed last January.

The latest argument has revolved around DUP councillors using a call-in procedure to block the flying of rainbow flags on Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon council's civic buildings for this weekend's Pride events.

Sinn Fein called the move "disgraceful and disrespectful" to the LGBTQ community.

However, Lagan Valley MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has hit back at Sinn Fein, saying the party's stance on rights was a sham.

“It should probably come as little surprise to anyone that Sinn Fein take an ‘ourselves alone’ attitude to democracy," he said.

"Whilst very keen to talk about their mandate, they completely disregard the mandate given to every other political party. Whilst talking about equality, for Sinn Fein republicans must always be more equal than others.

"The latest soundbite from Sinn Fein is to claim the DUP is responsible for a denial of rights on just about any issue imaginable. What is true however is that Sinn Fein alone is holding Northern Ireland to ransom by denying the right of the Assembly and Executive to vote and decide on any issue."

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Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Michelle O'Neill at a march calling for a law change in Northern Ireland allowing gay marriage. The march was organised by Love Equality Campaign. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

The Lagan Valley MP said Sinn Fein's approach was "to lay down red lines" and demand that issues are agreed without having elected representatives vote on them.

Sir Jeffrey added: "Sinn Fein’s championing of rights is a sham. They are only truly interested in their own narrow sectional interests and will hold Northern Ireland to ransom to advance those narrow interests alone.

"Their boycott of the Assembly and Executive means it is Sinn Fein blocking any potential of change rather than action taken by the DUP."

Sinn Fein MP Orfhlaith Begley responded, saying the reason the political institutions collapsed in January 2017 was as a result of the RHI scandal and the DUP's "denial of rights to whole sections" of the community in Northern Ireland.

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Orfhlaith Begley MP after her election

She said: “Since then the DUP has continued to deny rights to Irish speakers, women, victims and the LGBT community, rights which are enjoyed by citizens everywhere else in these islands.

“The DUP has been supported in this denial of rights by a Tory government in chaos.

“In return the DUP has given the Tories a blank cheque for a disastrous Brexit against the wishes of the people of the north and backed continued savage Tory austerity cuts to our public services, cuts to health, cuts to education and to our economy.

“The DUP walked away from a deal with Sinn Fein in February this year to restore the Assembly and the Executive before collapsing the political talks.

“Sinn Fein will enter any new talks to restore the power-sharing institutions in good faith but the simple fact is that those talks can only be successful if they deliver equality, rights and respect for all.”

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