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No time to waste on reforming Executive, Sinn Féin warns as DUP MPs cast doubt on new protocol deal

Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O'Neill have called for the Executive to be formed as soon as possible following the UK and EU's new deal over the NI Protocol. Picture by Hugh Russell

TIME is of the essence to resurrect the Stormont Assembly and seize economic opportunities, the Sinn Féin president has warned.

Mary Lou McDonald was speaking as the DUP continues to consider a deal struck between the UK and EU to address unionist concerns around Brexit's Northern Ireland Protocol.

The DUP has said it will comb through the Windsor Framework, with no timescale given on when it may decide to go back into the assembly following its Stormont boycott over the protocol.

Ms McDonald said her party is currently actively preparing for the return of the assembly, describing her MLAs as anxious to get back to work with Michelle O'Neill as first minister.

She emphasised that time is "of the essence".

"We know that we face very, very big challenges, economically, socially, in terms of public service provision," Ms McDonald said.

"We also know there's big opportunities as well for the north of Ireland and the opportunities are coming at us now.

"We're satisfied that the agreement struck does essential things. It ensures there will be no hardening of the border on our island.

"The team is here and every single one of us is aware we have a big job to do. We're very, very anxious to get back to work, none more so than Michelle O'Neill, and we await and look forward to the time when she will lead the executive as a first minister."

Ms O'Neill said the deal meant there was "enormous potential for us now, a potential that must be grasped".

DUP MLA Gordon Lyons said his party will "take time to fully scrutinise both the political and legal texts" to assess if the Windsor Framework meets its "seven tests" relating to removing the Irish Sea border.

However, his party colleague and East Antrim MP, Sammy Wilson, has said the framework is "not a great deal", and questioned the effectiveness of the deal's mechanism that would allow the assembly to halt changes to EU laws on goods in the north.

Mr Wilson said the Stormont Brake, as the mechanism has been called, is "not really a brake at all - it's a delaying mechanism".

He said that as the British government would have the final say on vetoing EU laws, they would be unlikely to do so as London would be fearful of the consequences of trade for the rest of the United Kingdom" and of " "retaliatory action" from the EU.

Fellow DUP MP Ian Paisley has also poured cold water on the new deal, saying it "does not cut the mustard" in relation to the DUP's demands.



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