I hope we can get to point where DUP ends Stormont blockade – Michelle O'Neill
The DUP is dragging out its blockade of powersharing in the pursuit of something that looks impossible to achieve, Michelle O’Neill has warned.
The Sinn Féin vice president said this week’s investment conference demonstrated the huge economic potential of the north, but she said a functioning ministerial executive was required to fully harness those opportunities.
The DUP has been blocking powersharing at Stormont for more than a year in protest at the internal UK trade barriers created by Brexit’s contentious Northern Ireland Protocol.
The party says the deal struck by the EU and UK to reform the protocol – the Windsor Framework – does not go far enough to address its concerns and has made clear that it will not countenance a return to devolution until the British government provides further assurances, by way of legislation, over Northern Ireland’s place within the UK internal market.
Sinn Féin and the other main Stormont parties have long been calling on the DUP to return to Stormont as the north is beset by significant challenges, including around finances and public services.
Ms O’Neill attended her party’s think-in event in Dublin today.
“Clearly, we know that the DUP are in negotiations with the British government, but they have been for some time, and they need to get on with it, because while they are sitting off trying to maybe achieve something that is impossible, the public are suffering,” she told the PA news agency.
“But I hope that we can get a resolution. I believe in a restored executive. I think that we’ve been far too long out of the executive. But I hope that we can get to a point where the DUP do end that blockade and get into the executive with the rest of us.
“I think the investment conference this week shows that we have huge economic potential to create more and better jobs. But we need an executive up and running to really harness that.”
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson this week made clear his party would not be diverted from securing the assurances it requires from the British government.
“We have been consistent in our position, that has not changed. We have outlined our position to the government on numerous occasions,” he said.
“We are engaged with the government on an ongoing basis to resolve the issues that have given rise to the problems for Northern Ireland.”
He added: “I live in the real world, I recognise the problems that we have, the challenges that we face and I am looking for solutions.”