Northern Ireland news

Sinn Féin receives assurances from Edwin Poots over Irish language legislation

Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy with party leader Mary Lou McDonald, speaking at Stormont Parliament Buildings after a meeting with new DUP leader Edwin Poots. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire
David Young, PA

Sinn Féin has received assurances from incoming DUP leader Edwin Poots that he intends to deliver Irish language legislation and all other outstanding elements of the deal that restored powersharing, Mary Lou McDonald has said.

She met Mr Poots in Belfast today in their first face-to-face encounter since he was elected as the departing Arlene Foster’s successor.

Ms McDonald described the meeting at Stormont as “constructive”.

The Sinn Féin president said she had indicated to Mr Poots her desire to make powersharing with the DUP work, highlighting that it was the “only show in town”.

Yesterday, Mr Poots insisted Stormont powersharing would not be at risk under his leadership of the DUP.

He reiterated his determination to get rid of Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol but said he had “no intention whatsoever” of endangering devolution.

In an interview with PA news agency, the incoming DUP leader said he wanted to see all the outstanding commitments in the New Decade, New Approach deal that resurrected powersharing in 2020 honoured, including legislation on the Irish language and the full implementation of the Military Covenant in Northern Ireland.

Some within unionism and loyalism have suggested the DUP should be prepared to bring down the institutions if new post-Brexit trading arrangements are not removed.

The party has also faced calls to block planned Irish language laws while the political impasse over the protocol remains.

However, yesterday Mr Poots told PA he remained committed to all elements of the 2020 NDNA deal. Mrs McDonald said she had received similar assurances from the DUP leader designate on Wednesday.

“The incoming leader has assured us that it is his intention and the incoming leadership’s intention to deliver on all of the New Decade, New Approach commitments, all of them,” she said.

“And of course that’s what we expect and we want this to be done in a timely manner, there is nothing to be gained by delay.

“We’ve signed off on these matters and God knows we spent many, many months negotiating them. So the deal has been struck and now it’s a question of delivery, but yes we spoke about that, and we have been told and assured by the incoming leader that it is his strong intention to deliver on NDNA in its totality.”

Speaking more broadly about the meeting with Mr Poots, the republican leader said: “I would describe the meeting as constructive. We have set out for the new leader our strong desire to make politics work, to ensure that powersharing works.”

She said Northern Ireland was facing a “huge number of challenges” as it emerged from the Covid-19 emergency, including health service reform and rebuilding the economy.

“We believe that these institutions can work for everyone,” Mrs McDonald added.

“We believe that powersharing is the only show in town. It’s the only way in which we can do right by all of the people that we represent. And we know that you need strong, constructive leadership to make that happen. And we are here to deliver just that.”

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