Northern Ireland

Michelle O'Neill: 'Public's patience has run out' on DUP boycott

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill
Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill

I wrote last week to the British Secretary of State, Chris Heaton-Harris emphasising the gravity of the current situation and calling for immediate action to address the political stalemate.

Almost two years on since the collapse of the Executive and with the Windsor Framework operating successfully now since October, the endless negotiation between the British government and the DUP has now concluded.

Sinn Féin and the other parties afforded ample time and space for these negotiations but the public’s patience has rightly run out, stretched beyond all credibility. And meanwhile the political institutions the people voted for remain shut down.

I have urged the British Secretary of State to firstly bring an end to their circular negotiation with the DUP and then to take urgent action aimed at restoring the Executive, the Assembly and the north-south bodies.

Today Sinn Féin will attend the political roundtable talks with a firm and clear focus on the immediate restoration of the Assembly.

All those attending today’s meeting must do so in good faith. Workers, families and businesses right across society have expressed their hope to see the Assembly restored now.

We stand ready to engage on the budgetary challenges devastating our public services, which demands proper financial resources from the British government to address the fact that, based on need, we are underfunded.

I want to work with the governments and all parties to get the Executive up again and to get back on track.

Delivering solutions on education, including special educational needs, childcare, public sector pay, hospital waiting lists, jobs and supporting businesses, workers and families are my priorities.

We need to get ministers back in office and back at the wheel to start taking decisions without further delay.

Our society is at its best when it moves forward together, acknowledging that our common goals far outweigh everything else.

Let us unite in the common good.

Together let us stand up for our public services which have suffered 13 long years of savage Tory cuts, which have left our health, education and transport services almost at breaking point.

Together with the other political parties we will demand the necessary finances to run these vital public services during today’s roundtable.

That blockade of the Assembly and the Tories’ collective punishment of workers, families and communities is unacceptable and it must stop.

There is no more time to waste.

The dialogue must be concluded promptly, within days, the Assembly and the Executive immediately reinstated, with a Speaker elected and a First and deputy First Minister and ministerial team appointed, ready to work together to meet the challenges facing our public services and doing all we can to support workers and families.

That is what the people voted for – that is the only acceptable outcome from these talks.

It is now time to move forward.

Let’s get all MLAs back into the Assembly immediately and back to work.