Northern Ireland news

DUP suggested to be preparing to end Stormont boycott

Sinn Fein's deputy leader Michelle O'Neill told the DUP to show the political will needed to restore powersharing (David Young/PA)

The DUP has been urged to restore the Stormont executive without delay amid a growing expectation that the party is preparing to end its boycott of the institutions.  

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s party has been involved in negotiations with the British government in recent weeks about the potential return of devolution, with much of the discussions understood to have focused on an accompanying financial package.  

However, the DUP leader has insisted that his party’s requirements for returning to the executive have yet to be met. 

The four parties qualifying for executive positions yesterday met the head of the regional civil service, Jayne Brady to discuss how growing budgetary pressures may be addressed if an executive is restored.  

After the meeting, there were reports that up £1bn may be sought from the Treasury to smooth the path back to Stormont in the autumn.  

However, Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O'Neill called on the DUP to "get off the fence" and show the political will to restore power-sharing. 

She said civil servants having to take decisions on public spending in the absence of ministers meant there was “no democratic accountability”. 

"That's not good enough for the public here," the first minister designate said. 

Ms O'Neill stressed the need to restore devolution quickly. 

"I don't think the autumn timeframe is an acceptable timeframe," she said. 

"I think where we need to be is around the executive table today working together, actually trying to stave off some of the worst impact of the Tory austerity agenda.” 

The Sinn Féin deputy leader welcomed yesterday’s meeting but urged the DUP not to delay in restoring the executive.  

Sir Jeffrey said the DUP's focus remained "very firmly" on finding a resolution to the dispute over Brexit's Northern Ireland Protocol. 

He said discussions continued with the British government on potential legislation that would address its concerns over sovereignty and access to trade with Britain. 

"The DUP focus remains very firmly on getting a resolution to the difficulties we've had that have arisen from the Northern Ireland Protocol," he said. 

On Stormont's financial problems, Sir Jeffrey said it was vital that changes were made to the Barnett formula. 

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood told The Irish News it had “been clear for some months that the return of Stormont was on the horizon”. 

“The time has come, the DUP know it and everyone else knows it,” he said.  

“The SDLP stands ready to return to Stormont and take up our place as Official Opposition and start delivering for people.”  

Northern Ireland news