Northern Ireland

Sinn Fein ‘watching carefully’ at DUP conference for signs of Stormont return

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald addressing the media at Belfast City Hall alongside vice-president Michelle O’Neill and party colleague Conor Murphy (Claudia Savage/PA)
Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald addressing the media at Belfast City Hall alongside vice-president Michelle O’Neill and party colleague Conor Murphy (Claudia Savage/PA)

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has said the party will be “watching carefully” at the messaging from the DUP party conference, in the hope they will decide to return to government.

Ms McDonald said the “state of inertia” Northern Ireland had been left in due to an absence of government cannot go on indefinitely.

The powersharing executive at Stormont has not been operational for more than a year due to the DUP’s ongoing boycott in protest at post-Brexit trading arrangements.

In an interview with the PA news agency, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he would like to see a successful resolution to his party’s negotiations within weeks.

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Sinn Fein
Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald at Belfast City Hall with vice-president Michelle O’Neill and party colleague Conor Murphy (Claudia Savage/PA)

Ms McDonald told reporters in Belfast on Thursday that she hopes to hear a “positive message” as the DUP prepares for its party conference at the weekend.

“We want to hear that the DUP are going back to work with everybody else, and that the executive will be re-established,” she said.

“So obviously, we’ll be listening and watching very carefully. We hope that we will hear a positive message because we know that people have waited far too long.”

She said there was “frustration amongst the business community, that was very clear to us, and I think that’s reflected across society”.

Ms McDonald added: “There has been time, there has been patience and now it has to be lights, camera, action.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had discussed the possibility of “plan B” if a devolved government was not able to be restored.

Ms McDonald said Sinn Fein remains committed to the “plan A” of a running Stormont Assembly, and added that she hoped the DUP would confirm their return following their conference.

“We have always sought to strike a determined and optimistic note. We were not prepared to concede that the institutions would not be up and running,” she said.

“But equally, we’re aware that this state of inertia can’t go on forever.

“So the ball is in the DUP’s court. They have a big decision to make, and we can only hope and expect that they will make the right decision.

“That this plan A, with an executive, an inclusive executive, a functioning assembly, the North South infrastructure, the East West piece. That’s the best outcome for everyone.

“And we hope and expect that we will see further moves and ideally a confirmation of that at the conference itself.”

She added: “If it doesn’t, we will deal with that. Let’s have the conference happen and let the DUP arrive at the only logical and fair conclusion which has to be about going back into government, reforming the executive.”

Ms McDonald visited Belfast, where she met business leaders with vice-president Michelle O’Neill and party colleague Conor Murphy.

“It’s very clear that people at this stage are frustrated,” she said.

“We wish to see the executive and government back up and running, people have a real sense of the opportunities that are presenting themselves, opportunities that are being missed, and they really want to crack on with business.

“We’ve told them that, as ever, we are ready and anxious to get back to work.

“Michelle O’Neill is ready, willing, able to lead an executive for all.”