Belfast Telegraph

Michelle O'Neill: Sinn Fein remains committed to restoring powersharing

Sinn Fein is committed to restoring powersharing at Stormont, the party's Northern Ireland leader has insisted.

Michelle O'Neill said however that any agreement to resolve the region's political crisis will be based on the DUP's ability to "embrace a rights-based society and equal partnership government."

She was speaking at the start of the Republican party's Ard Fheis in Dublin on Friday evening.

Northern Ireland has been without a functioning government since January following the resignation of the then deputy first minister Martin McGuinness over the DUP's handling of a botched green energy scheme, called the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

On Saturday, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams is expected to outline his future leadership plans, and potentially a timetable for retirement, in what is being billed as a "historic and significant" speech.

Ms O'Neill blamed Stormont's ongoing political crisis on the DUP's "denial of rights for all citizens", failure to fully implement previous political agreements, contempt for Irish national identity and culture and the RHI scandal.

She said Sinn Fein has "invested hugely" in the peace process and the political institutions and insisted the party is committed to making the institutions work.

"I want to lead Sinn Fein back into a new Executive, which represents genuine equal partnership Government," said Ms O'Neill.

"For over 10 months Sinn Fein has sought to resolve these issues through dialogue and political negotiations with the DUP and both Governments.

"However, despite our best endeavours the discussions were unsuccessful."

She claimed this was "in large part pre-determined by the Conservative party's pact with the DUP to keep them in government".

Ms O'Neill added: "Sinn Fein remains committed to the restoration of the institutions and the Executive.

"However, they only have value if they enjoy the confidence and support of the people they were established to serve. For, as Martin McGuinness said, there is no going back to the status quo."

She also said the Sinn Fein leadership will continue to "make every effort to find a political solution to the political breakdown."

"If the DUP or anyone else wish to exercise political power in Government in the North of Ireland now or in the future, then the cost is to embrace a rights-based society and equal partnership government, which works for everyone.

"This would pave the way for the Executive to be restored," she said.

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