Northern Ireland news

You can't build powersharing on broken promises, Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill says

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill at the British Irish Council Summit at Lough Erne Resort, Co Fermanagh last week with Arlene Foster in the background. Picture by Ronan McGrade/Pacemaker Press
Cate McCurry, PA

Michelle O’Neill has fired a warning shot to the new leadership of the DUP, stating that powersharing cannot be built on broken promises.

Sinn Féin’s leader in Stormont said the Northern Ireland Executive must be grounded in “fairness and inclusion”.

Ms O’Neill made the comments as she paid tribute to Arlene Foster, who stepped down as first minister today.

Her resignation means that Ms O’Neill has been removed as deputy first minister from the joint office.

Political leaders now have seven days to approve a new first minister and deputy first minister.

There has been growing tension between Sinn Féin and the DUP over the issue of Irish language legislation, which has threatened the nomination process.

Ms O’Neill, who stood opposite new DUP leader Edwin Poots in the chamber as she made her remarks, said there is a need to work on the basis of “openness, transparency, accountability and in good faith”.

“That’s the only way in which we can share power together,” Ms O’Neill added.

“All of us in this chamber are called upon to lead. That means leading and delivering for everybody.

“That means delivering a powersharing that’s grounded in fairness and inclusion.

“That’s certainly what I’m here to do. I hope that we have willing partners in which to do so also because you can’t build powersharing on broken promises.

“You must deliver upon agreements that are made. I’m committed to do that. I hope others are also committed likewise to doing that.”

Addressing Ms Foster, she said they both used their platforms to highlight misogyny in society.

“Being in public life, as we all know, isn’t an easy job at times. It can be very, very challenging and there are many highs and also many lows,” Ms O’Neill added.

“I think that particularly for a female in public life, it’s even more challenging.

“Many sacrifices are made, and we have to deal with the additional burden of misogyny that exists in society.

“I think if there’s one thing that I can say that we have done well together, is the fact that we’ve highlighted that on numerous occasions and taken up many platforms.”

Referring to the restoration of the Executive last January, Ms O’Neill said that many commitments were made, including health and education reform.

“We were committed to doing all those things, and obviously the pandemic hit within a short number of months and we very much put all our efforts and all our energies in to try and chart our way through the pandemic,” she added.

“That has been no mean feat, it’s been extremely, extremely challenging and Arlene and I were certainly thrust into working very closely together over that time, even to the point where Arlene joked at one stage that we were in each other’s bubble.

“We were trying to do our best. That’s the long and short of it.

“I want to say that Arlene, I want to wish you the very best for the future and for your family, for your beloved mother who you’ve spoken about on a number of occasions.

“I hope you get more time to spend with your family.

“Arlene, every best wish for the future, and I really, really hope that you get some special time with your family, regardless if they want to see you or not.”

Read more: Political rivals praise Arlene Foster's ‘utmost dignity'

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