Thursday 23 May 2019

Sinn Féin rejects Foster bid to break Stormont impasse

DUP leader Arlene Foster sits with Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O'Neill. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
DUP leader Arlene Foster sits with Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O'Neill. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Michael McHugh and Rebecca Black

Sinn Fein has rejected Arlene Foster's latest offer to break the political impasse in Northern Ireland.

The DUP leader wants a twin-track approach where the devolved institutions are restored quickly to deal with issues like running the health service, while a separate process addresses disagreements like that over same-sex marriage.

On Wednesday, Catholic peacemaking priest Fr Martin Magill challenged politicians as to why it had taken the death of 29-year-old Lyra McKee to unite them, at her funeral.

Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill said: "In terms of what Arlene Foster has proposed today, in terms of going into the Executive and having a parallel process, that will not work.

"The citizens here deserve to have their rights delivered on, marriage equality, language rights, legacy inquest rights.

"These things need to be delivered, and that in itself then paves the way for the institutions to be restored."

The Stormont Assembly and ministerial Executive collapsed more than two years ago in a row between the former powersharing partners over a botched green energy scheme.

Sinn Fein leader Mary-Lou McDonald has said her party is ready to play a full part in a "serious and meaningful" talks process aimed at restoration.

Her party is seeking guarantees around the place of the Irish language and changes to the law on same-sex marriage.

The DUP has consistently called for devolution to be revived or for the UK Government to step in to make more decisions.

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley has said she intends to hold discussions with Stormont's party leaders.

They attended a vigil together in Londonderry after Miss McKee was shot dead by dissident republicans.

Mrs Foster said Sinn Fein could not get everything it wanted, "a 5-0 victory", and her party receive nothing.

She told Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster programme: "We are now a year and a half forward, there is a huge frustration in our society.

"I think it is an eminently reasonable thing to suggest, dealing with the normal day-to-day things in the Assembly whilst dealing in a separate process with the help of our Government to dealing with the issues which Sinn Fein want to raise."

Sinn Fein feels that would be a false start without dealing with the underlying issues first.

The DUP leader said: "That is putting their demands above the demands of the people of Northern Ireland.

"The people of Northern Ireland have demands as well and they are demands for a better healthcare system, they want their schools reformed, they want their infrastructure done."

Sinn Fein negotiator Conor Murphy repeated his assertion that the DUP leadership had previously reached an agreement and was unable to sell it to its grassroots.

He told the BBC it should be a sustainable Executive rather than one prone to collapse.

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said there should be no excuses for not engaging in meaningful talks.

"The record hadn't changed.

"This is an abdication of political responsibility.

"It is clear that some are still intent on making excuses for not engaging in meaningful talks.

"For too long they have been allowed to hide behind soundbites and slogans."

Press Association

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