Political news

Michelle O'Neill: DUP has 'given up on power-sharing'

Michelle O'Neill said that the DUP’s manifesto had introduced a whole new series of conditions since negotiations collapsed at the end of March.

Sinn Fein’s leader for Northern Ireland Michelle O’ Neill has claimed that the DUP has given up on power sharing with nationalists and republicans in favour of direct rule.

The Mid-Ulster assembly member said the DUP’s manifesto had introduced a whole new series of conditions since negotiations collapsed at the end of March.

Writing on Eamonn Mallie’s website, Ms O’Neill said: "Their Westminster manifesto sets out five tests for the negotiations and ten commitments. All from a party that says it has no red lines for agreement."

Ms O’Neill said that these new conditions would make it even harder to come to an agreement in future negotiations. It reads “like a manifesto for a return to British direct rule," she said.

She added: “It appears from the DUP manifesto that they are either living in denial about the step change that is required or have made the judgement that they would rather have Tory direct rule minsters than share power.”

Ms O'Neill said that during negotiations for the new executive there had been “no meaningful engagement from either the British government or the DUP”.

DUP leader Arlene Foster rejected Ms O'Neill's claims, stating that her party believed devolution "is best for Northern Ireland".

"I would like to see the Assembly and Executive restored immediately. Unlike Sinn Féin, the DUP has no red-lines or preconditions to the restoration of devolution."

The Fermanagh and South Tyrone assembly member said Sinn Féin had "set down a list of demands during the Assembly election" and that list "has been getting longer since then".

She added: "If Sinn Fein is serious about restoring devolution then I would be happy to sit down with Michelle O’Neill today and start the process immediately."

If Sinn Féin "continue on their current path and refuse to compromise then it will inevitably lead to direct rule", she added.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin’s South Antrim assembly member Declan Kearney has criticised the DUP leader for “running away from hard questions” as she is not taking part in tonight's UTV election debate.

Mr Kearney said he was not surprised at the “DUP leader’s decision to follow Theresa May's lead by refusing to take part in the local leaders’ television election debates”. 

A DUP spokesman said Nigel Dodds was the DUP Westminster leader and would represent the party in the local debates "just as he did in 2015".

"Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Féin, is not participating in the debates. In 2015, four of the five parties were not represented by their leader."

The spokesman said Ms Foster had participated in two party leader interviews for the BBC on Inside Politics and The View.

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