Belfast Telegraph

Michelle O'Neill: It is not the backstop that May needs to ditch, it is the wreckers of the DUP

Michelle O'Neill
Michelle O'Neill

By Michelle O'Neill

A Sinn Fein delegation led by party president Mary Lou McDonald told the British Prime Minister in no uncertain terms that we will not tolerate anything that undermines the Good Friday Agreement, which is precisely what a hard border in Ireland would do.

Brexit belongs to the Conservative Party and the people of Britain, but the Good Friday Agreement belongs to the people of Ireland, North and South.

The backstop is an insurance policy to prevent a hard border. It is the bottom line of the four pro-Remain parties in the North and all the other parties across the island.

It is supported by the majority of citizens and businesses and other key sectors of our economy.

Theresa May's attempt to row back on it is an act of gross bad faith and an act of hostility against Irish interests.

It is also very foolish, because an agreement will never be found in pandering to the DUP's opposition to the backstop.

We've had two years of a British Government pandering to the DUP, and look where that has got us. The DUP are wreckers like their friends in the ERG. The government here collapsed because of the DUP and they have now brought their dysfunctionality and chaos into the heart of the Brexit process.

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Sinn Fein want a withdrawal agreement, just as we want a restoration of power-sharing at Stormont.

But it's abundantly clear that the DUP aren't interested in a sensible Brexit agreement. Just as they aren't interested in the rights of citizens here or in restoring power-sharing unless it is on their terms.

That won't change while they continue to be appeased by the British Government. Despite introducing legislation in October 2018, Karen Bradley has done absolutely nothing to resolve the issues or restore the institutions.

Any genuine attempt to restore power-sharing must involve challenging the DUP's ongoing refusal to govern on the basis of rights and equality for all citizens. The British Government are simply not prepared to do that while they rely on the DUP for their own survival.

The British Conservative Party's lust for power will always trump the rights and interests of people in Ireland.

So here we are only six weeks from the exit date with no deal and hurtling towards a crash-out.

This must be avoided to prevent increased household costs, to prevent hampering many businesses from trading and to safeguard people's livelihoods.

In the event of a no-deal crash Sinn Fein believe the people should decide our future beyond Brexit through a referendum on Irish unity under the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement

That is the logical thing to do in the event of a no-deal crash.

But for now, Theresa May has an opportunity to bring an end to the chaos and the uncertainty.

To achieve that, it isn't the backstop that she needs to ditch, it is the DUP.

  • Michelle O'Neill is vice-president of Sinn Fein

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