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British government has provided no guarantees on legislating for rights issues says Mary Lou McDonald

Mary Lou McDonald said the removal of the petition of concern would be 'dangerous'. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

MARY Lou McDonald has said she has received no guarantees from Theresa May that the British government would be willing to legislate for Northern Ireland on rights issues.

Sinn Féin has said that in the event of the current talks process failing, the British government should step in to resolve outstanding rights issues, including marriage equality and implementing an Irish language act.

The party's senior negotiator Conor Murphy previously claimed he was given an assurance by the British government last year that same-sex marriage would be passed at Westminster if Stormont failed to agree the necessary legislation.

But according to Mrs McDonald, there has been given no such guarantees from Theresa May since the new round of talks began.

"Thus far, Theresa May has been most ineffective in creating the right climate for agreement," the Dublin Central TD told the Press Association.

"Unfortunately, her confidence and supply relationship with the DUP has clouded her judgment, and that kind of positive dynamic that should be coming from the head of government in London is absent."

The Sinn Féin leader said that if the DUP had no interest in partnership it was her party's "strong view" that the Irish and British governments would have to step in.

She said all the "outstanding rights issues" were as important as each other.

Mrs McDonald said the removal of Stormont's petition of concern, which was used by the DUP and other parties to block marriage equality, would be "dangerous".

"I think we need to tread very carefully with tinkering with the infrastructure with the Good Friday Agreement," she said.

She said she was concerned that there had been no concrete guarantees from all parties that they would sit in a new executive and that everyone calling for the restoration of the institutions needed to make clear their willingness to sit in government.

The Sinn Féin leader said it would be "really, really helpful" for SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and his UUP counterpart Robin Swann to commit to "sit in government and serve all of the people".

With the forthcoming RHI inquiry report casting a shadow over the current negotiations, Mrs McDonald stressed that any finding by Sir Patrick Coghlin of "any suggestion of malpractice or negligence or corruption" should result in the resignation of those implicated.

"It would be very very difficult for any person in political life, if there was a concrete finding against them, for them not to respond in a way that's leaderly and honourable," she said.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that the Sinn Féin leadership will meet Prince Charles when he visits Ireland next week. The prince is expected to meet representatives of Stormont's five main parties. It is believed a location has yet to be arranged, although Charles is expected to make appearances in Northern Ireland the Republic.

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