Michelle O'Neill: British government has failed to confront DUP's negative, anti-rights and anti-agreement agenda
The fall-out from the High Court’s decision on the Hightown waste incinerator has again put the spotlight on the absence of our power-sharing institutions and what that means in terms of the inability to take key strategic decisions.
Sinn Féin shares the growing concern at where this growing democratic deficit is heading.
We need the institutions back in place. We need genuine power-sharing and proper, accountable and rights-based government.
This society faces too many challenges, particularly the Tory government’s attempts to impose on us a hard Brexit and harder austerity, to do so without our local administration in place to defend our citizens and our interests.
And the fact is that the institutions would have been back in place by now had it not been for the DUP’s decision in February to collapse the talks process and renege on the draft agreement they had negotiated with Sinn Féin.
Because of their inability to treat all citizens with equality and respect, the DUP sacrificed the power-sharing institutions.
That is shameful. But perhaps it is to be expected from a party that has never embraced the ethos of power-sharing and mutual respect.
What is unacceptable is the failure of the British government to confront this negative, anti-rights and anti-agreement agenda.
The DUP have always been reluctant partners in power-sharing and they have only ever made any semblance of progressive steps when they have been pushed to do so by the London government.
The current Tory administration has abdicated that responsibility.
Through their toxic partnership with the DUP, Theresa May’s government has abandoned all pretence of the rigorous impartiality demanded of them by the internationally binding Good Friday Agreement.
The British Secretary of State’s only contribution has been to prevent any movement or any progress to a rights-based society, acting only to support the DUP’s denial of rights which are afforded to citizens everywhere else on these islands.
Unfortunately, there is nothing currently emanating from Downing Street that suggests this reckless, partisan approach is about to change anytime soon.
And that is a betrayal of the Good Friday Agreement and a betrayal of citizens in the North, be-cause Theresa May has prioritised her own self-preservation over the rights and equality of citizens here.
Defending and pandering to the DUP’s denial of rights, their blocking of the power-sharing institutions and their refusal to honour agreements and partisan comments on an Irish unity poll is the price of Theresa May’s self-serving arrangement with that party.
That is an intolerable and anti-democratic position for a government which is supposed to be an independent co-guarantor of our peace and political process to find itself in.
And in that context there is a greater onus on the Dublin Government to assert itself in defence of the agreement and in defence of citizens.
In the absence of the DUP ending its blockade on rights, the route-map back to the power-sharing institutions is clear. It has already been set out by the Good Friday Agreement.
The British Irish Intergovernmental Conference is the vehicle for both governments to now plot a way forward, address the issues of rights and equality which are preventing power-sharing and pave the way for a return to the institutions.
The process has already been allowed to drift for far too long so Dublin must now insist and en-sure that the Conference is convened without any further stalling from a London government that is increasingly acting at the behest of the DUP.