Northern Ireland news

Mary Lou McDonald says Sinn Féin is ready to share power with the DUP on the basis of 'real partnership'

Mary Lou McDonald said Sinn Féin would share power on the basis of 'genuine partnership'. Picture by Mal McCann

MARY Lou McDonald has said Sinn Féin stands ready to share-power with the DUP under new leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson but has insisted it must be on the basis of "real partnership".

Speaking in west Belfast yesterday, the Sinn Féin leader said her party did not "seek to humiliate or profit from the dysfunction within the DUP" but would "stand firm on basic rights and entitlements".

Mrs McDonald's remarks come after weeks of upheaval within the DUP, with Sir Jeffrey Donaldson replacing Edwin Poots as leader earlier this week.

Mr Poots led the party for just 21 days before his decision to nominate Paul Givan as first minister sparked internal rebellion, leading to his dramatic resignation a week ago.

The agriculture minister's brief tenure was characterised by wrangling over the implementation of Irish language legislation agreed as part of the New Decade, New Approach deal that saw devolution restored last year.

Sinn Féin last week received assurances from the British government that if Stormont didn't deliver the legislation, which is part of a wider cultural package, then it would pass through Westminster in the autumn.

Mrs McDonald said yesterday that Acht na Gaeilge and the wider package was "now concluded" and that legislation will be coming forward at Westminster in October, followed by the appointment of language commissioners in March. She lamented the fact that it had taken 15 years "for such basic rights to be recognised".

The Sinn Féin president said she had spoken to Sir Jeffrey on Monday and that they would meet next week.

"The question facing him is whether he is up for real partnership, real power-sharing, for political institutions that deliver?" she said.

"If the answer to those questions is 'Yes' then he will find a willing partner in the Sinn Féin team under Michelle O’Neill."

She said Ireland had changed and that the north was a "fast-changing society", which needed to be reflected in its political institutions.

"The balance of power has shifted irreversibly and that is now reflected around the executive table and in the make-up of the assembly," the Dublin Central TD said.

"Seeking to recreate political conditions which have gone and gone forever is the roadmap to exactly the sort of political cul-de-sac which we have witnessed in the course of the past seven days."

Mrs McDonald said partnership government was "making and sticking to agreements" and that the implementation of New Decade New Approach was "not a point of negotiation".

She said the DUP was "way out of sync" with wider society, including many within the unionist community.

"There are many people within the broader unionist people who value the LGBTQ community, who value and embrace diversity and who see no threat from Irish language rights," she said.

"They want to live in peace, to raise their family in a community based upon decency and respect, they have no truck with sectarianism or triumphalism. They don’t see their politics in terms of victory and defeat. They are confident in their own identity."

The Sinn Féin leader said the DUP was also "not in step with broad public opinion" on the protocol, again including many unionists.

"The DUP will be making another political error if they seek to endanger the political stability of the institutions over the consequences of the outworking of their Brexit policy," she said.

Mrs McDonald said talk of abolishing the post-Brexit trade arrangements was "not grounded in reality" and that challenges could be addressed through engagement in good faith and by using the Joint Committee.

"The DUP need to work alongside the rest of us to meet the challenges and maximise the opportunities of the Irish protocol," she said.

"Businesses want the protocol to work, and they expect their political leaders to work together to deliver on solutions to the practical challenges they face."

She welcomed Tánaiste Leo Varadkar's remarks last week in which has said it was time to begin planning for Irish unity and that there was "no contradiction in working within a functioning power-sharing government while building for a new united shared Ireland".

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