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McDonald and Foster feel the heat but do not concede on the issues blocking Stormont

Northern Ireland has been without an Executive since January 2017.

Northern Ireland's political leaders at yesterday's funeral.
Northern Ireland's political leaders at yesterday's funeral.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

THE LEADERS OF DUP and Sinn Féin have both faced questions this morning about the way forward in Northern Ireland following Lyra McKee’s funeral yesterday.

During the funeral service, Fr Martin Magill received a standing ovation when he challenged politicians about why it took such a tragedy to bring them together.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Foster has said she wants the Northern Assembly up and running, even if outstanding issues are not resolved.

Northern Ireland has been without an Executive since January 2017 because of ongoing rows between Sinn Féin and the DUP.

It had appeared that a deal was on the cards last February but collapsed due to a number of issues, including the proposal for an Irish Language Act.

The DUP has been pushing for a plan that sees these issues put to the side in a separate talks process while the assembly gets back up and running regardless.

Sinn Féin, the SDLP and the Alliance Party disagrees with this approach but Foster said this morning it has the potential to move things forward.

“I think it is important that we get back into an assembly to deal with all of those things that matter to people on a day-to-day basis and we should have a parallel process to deal with issues that Sinn Féin wants to raise in relation to other matters,” Foster said this morning.

Foster said this represents “a balanced way forward”.

“If people don’t want to put the assembly up now, if they would rather go into a talks process we will be there too,” Foster said.

We want to see the assembly returned and we want to see it returned in a way that everyone in Northern Ireland feels comfortable with so that we can come out of it with a balanced agreement and an agreement that everybody can subscribe to.

Foster was also asked about another issue of disagreement, the issue of marriage equality in Northern Ireland. The DUP opposes same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland being brought into line with the laws that are in place in the rest of the UK and Ireland.

Foster was asked about this in the context of her attendance at the funeral of LGBT activist McKee and said her party’s position had not changed.

“We have a long-standing policy which hasn’t changed of support for traditional marriage and that remains the position of the party. That does not mean that I cannot sympathise and empathise with Sara and to say with her that we feel her loss. And as I said to her in the Creggan last Friday that her loss was all of our loss,” Foster said.

Londonderry unrest McDonald and Foster in Derry last week. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Sinn Féin

In an interview later with Miriam O’Callaghan on Today with Seán O’Rourke, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said her party’s position in favour of a standalone Irish Language Act and marriage equality had not changed.

“There is nothing trivial at all on insisting on equality and rights for every citizen irrespective of class, colour or creed. And we stand by the Good Friday Agreement and we are not going to resile from that position,” she said.

The issues that are at play here aren’t trivialities. I’m sure you didn’t miss the fact that those who were saying goodbye to Lyra were carrying the rainbow flag. I’m sure you haven’t missed the fact that Lyra herself was a very passionate and very effective advocate for marriage equality.

“These are equality issues and people in Northern society loud and clear now understand that sustainable government is based on equality. On saying to every citizen that irrespective of who you are recognised, that you valued and that your rights are protected.”

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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