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Dublin: 8 °C Tuesday 23 October, 2018

Sinn Féin wants a new election if there's no deal in the North by weekend

Michelle O’Neill has slammed the DUP and the British government as the deadline to agree a deal approaches.

Michelle O'Neill and Gerry Adams.
Michelle O'Neill and Gerry Adams.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

SINN FÉIN’S LEADER in the North Michelle O’Neill has said there should be another election if no deal can be reached on resurrecting power-sharing by the weekend.

Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire has set a deadline of Easter for agreement between the parties.

Sinn Féin and the DUP – the two largest parties – have been deadlocked on a deal in the wake of the March election.

O’Neill again accused the unionist party and the British government of failing to address fundamental issues in current talks in a statement today.

“We have been here five weeks during which time Sinn Féin has been fully engaged,” said O’Neill.

Her strongly-worded statement made reference to “bigoted ministerial decisions”, arrogance and short-sightedness:

However, to date there has been no measurable progress. And at this critical period there is no prospect of a political agreement unless the British government and the DUP tackle the fundamental issues, which Martin McGuinness addressed in his letter of resignation.
There can be no return to petty-minded and bigoted ministerial decisions; no return to the treatment of any group of people as second-class citizens; no return to the arrogant disregard for the squandering of public money; and no return to the short-sighted dismissal of the need for genuine reconciliation and peace-building.
Those are the issues which need to be dealt with if we are to take this opportunity to fix what is broken and to move society forward on the basis of equal partnership government and rights for all.
But time is running out. We are now in a critical period and there needs to be substantial movement from both the British Government and the DUP over the coming days. If they again fail to do so then the people should have their say.

The UUP and SDLP reported little progress in talks in comments to reporters on Friday. Mike Nesbitt of the UUP told the BBC it was “deeply, deeply, deeply frustrating” while the SDLP’s Colum Eastwood said the parties were “miles away” from a deal.

Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, said progress had been made in a range of areas but accused certain other parties of “holding up the process in terms of their political demands”.

Ulster Assembly election 2017 Nigel Dodds and leader Arlene Foster of the DUP. Source: Niall Carson

Sinn Féin finished with 27 seats in the wake of last month’s election, which arose after the party called time on the last power-sharing arrangement due to Foster’s stance on the ‘cash for ash’ controversy.

The DUP remain the largest party – but only just –  with 28 seats. The SDLP have 12 seats, the UUP 10 and the Alliance eight. The remaining five seats are divided between the Greens (2), smaller parties and independents.

Some commentators in the North have speculated that both the DUP and Sinn Féin may want another election: the UUP – the main rival unionist party – is currently without a leader after Nesbitt stepped down from the role, and Sinn Féin may be hoping for an increase in support, in the wake of the death of Martin McGuinness and in-depth coverage of his role in the peace process.

Brokenshire gave an Easter deadline for a deal last month. If one couldn’t be reached he said he would bring in legislation that would effectively ramp-up direct rule from London.

Read: The DUP didn’t show up, Sinn Féin say they didn’t walk out. What happens now? >

Read: Massive manhunt for ‘highly dangerous’ man who posted manifesto to Trump >

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