Political news

Sinn Féin seeking broader civic society engagement as part of talks process

Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill flanked by party negotiator Conor Murphy and European election candidate Martina Anderson at Stormont yesterday. Picture by Mal McCann

SINN Féin's Michelle O'Neill has said her party wants to meet a range of civic society groups to discuss breaking the impasse at Stormont.

The party's deputy leader was speaking after yesterday holding separate meetings with Church leaders and Senator George Mitchell, the former US special envoy who oversaw the negotiations which led to the Good Friday Agreement. .

The latest talks aimed at reviving the devolved institutions are now in their second week.

Speaking after a round of meetings, Ms O'Neill said her party welcomed "the start of a broad engagement with wider society".

"We want to meet with a wide range of civic society, all the Churches, the trade unions, business organisations, women's groups, language groups, the community and voluntary sector and everyone out there because this process and these institutions belong to us all," she said.

DUP leader Arlene Foster, who also held a separate meeting with Senator Mitchell and Church leaders, said it would take compromises from all sides if the devolved institutions were to be restored.

She repeated her party's desire for a "parallel process" whereby the assembly is restored immediately.

"We believe we should have this assembly up and running as quickly as we possibly can," she said.

"It will take courage and compassion and compromise from all the sides and not just one side."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, who yesterday formally tabled his plan to suspend the petition of concern, said the initiative would "unlock the hard issues", enabling legislation on issues such as equal marriage.

"People from across Northern Ireland will march in the streets of Belfast this weekend to demand marriage equality," he said.

"We cannot, as political leaders, hold placards on Saturday and ignore them on Monday – our compromise proposal can deal with these issues."

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