Northern Ireland news

Mary Lou McDonald to address gathering of civic unionism

Sinn Féin leaders Michelle O'Neill, left, and Mary Lou McDonald in Westminster, London, on Wednesday. Picture by Stefan Rousseau, Press Association
Rebecca Black, Press Association

Sinn Féin's president is to outline her party's approach to reconciliation to a gathering of civic unionism.

The event at Queen's University on Monday evening has been described as a meeting of civic unionism to discuss the implications of Brexit and how best to fill the democratic deficit left in the absence of a functioning assembly.

Former UUP chairman Terry Wright, who has been involved with organising the event, said it will be a chance to listen to Mrs McDonald.

"I personally don't agree with her analysis but I am very happy to discuss it with her and share my thinking with her," he said.

"I think there is a leadership deficit in political unionism. In many ways the community is ahead of the politicians."

A Sinn Féin spokesperson said the event will be part of an ongoing dialogue that Mary Lou McDonald has engaged in over her first year as party leader.

"She will discuss Sinn Féin's approach to reconciliation, healing the past and dealing with the challenges of the present such as tackling sectarianism and ending segregation," he said.

"Mary Lou McDonald will outline our vision for a new and united Ireland and encourage others to engage in the debate."

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin's deputy leader has told supporters that it is time to make partition history.

Michelle O'Neill was speaking at a commemoration event for former party councillor John Davey in Lavey, Co Derry.

Mr Davey was shot dead by loyalists in 1989.

In her speech to the gathering Ms O'Neill said her party wants to see the removal of the major obstacles.

"If the DUP or anyone else wish to exercise political power in government in the north of Ireland now or in the future, then the cost is to embrace a rights-based society and openness, transparency and equal partnership government, which works for everyone," she said.

"Sinn Féin wants to see the removal of the major obstacles to restoring the political institutions, an end to the denial of rights and the DUP's financial scandals and the full implementation of the Good Friday and subsequent agreements.

"We want an assembly which operates differently from what has gone before, to usher in a new kind of politics, which is progressive, respectful and has integrity.

"We will not be part of an unjust government. There will be no return to the status quo."

Ms O'Neill went on to say it is time to talk about the future of the island of Ireland.

"We are now in the midst of what is the most defining period politically, economically and constitutionally since the Good Friday Agreement 21 years ago," she said.

"It is time to talk about the future of our island and people together.

"And it is time to render the British border in Ireland permanently invisible and to make the partition of this country history."

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