Northern Ireland news

Sinn Féin seeks 'urgent meeting' with British Prime Minister Theresa May

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the British government had no plan for restoring devolution. Picture by Hugh Russell

MARY Lou McDonald is seeking an urgent meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May in an effort to bring fresh dynamism to the stalled political process.

The Sinn Féin leader yesterday accused the British government of "sitting on its hands" and of lacking the necessary will to break the current impasse.

Ms McDonald was speaking in Belfast more than two months on from the St Valentine's Day breakdown in the Stormont talks.

At the beginning of a week that will see Arlene Foster give a further two days of evidence to the RHI inquiry, the Dublin Central TD said the DUP appeared "happy" with a situation she described as "inertia".

Flanked by her deputy Michelle O'Neill, Ms McDonald said she would also be urging Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney to be "proactive".

The Sinn Féin leader repeated her call for the two governments to convene the British-Irish intergovernmental conference ahead of making the resources available for legacy inquests, and addressing the implementation of an Irish language act and equal marriage legislation.

"The British and Irish governments have said over recent days that they want to see a process up and running to restore the institutions, however, it is absolutely clear that the British government has placed their deal with the DUP above the need to get government back up and running in the north and delivering rights for citizens," she said.

"It's clear the British government is playing for time, and it's clear that Karen Bradley has failed to introduce any new momentum into the process."

Ms McDonald said convening the British-Irish intergovernmental conference would "clear the way for a credible talks process to re-establish the institutions".

She said the best way to establish trust with the DUP was for Mrs Foster's party was "to demonstrate political will to move things forward".

"In order to build trust you have to be willing to accommodate the other, and for us the capacity to understand and to respond to unionism and to reach the kind of accommodation that we achieved in February is not a admission of weakness, in fact it's a demonstration of strength," she said.

A spokeswoman for the Northern Ireland Office said last night: "This government remains steadfast in its commitment to the Belfast Agreement and to the restoration of devolved government".

"Our aim is to redouble our efforts to work intensively with all parties and help bring this about," she said.

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