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Sinn Féin

DUP blocking formation of executive in Stormont is a 'matter of disgrace', McDonald says

Nobody should be “spooked by the actions of the British government”, McDonald said.

SINN FÉIN LEADER Mary Lou McDonald has called the recent elections in Northern Ireland, which saw the party become the largest in the Northern Ireland Assembly for the first time, “historical” and “transformational”. 

And as the party’s leader at Stormont, Michelle O’Neill is on the verge of becoming Northern Ireland’s first republican first minister. 

At a press conference today, McDonald called it “a matter of disgrace that the DUP … with the support and connivance of the British government, have moved to frustrate the democratic will of the people”.

She added that “we are in the midst of a cost of living crisis. People are literally struggling to pay their grocery bills and their heat,” and said her party is insistent that there is a functioning government in the North, and not “caretaker ministers”. 

Yesterday morning the DUP moved to block the election of a speaker for the Northern Ireland Assembly, which will prevent the forming of a new executive. 

The move is seen as a protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol. Unionists oppose the post-Brexit treaty because of the economic barriers it creates between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

McDonald accused UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson of using unionism in Northern Ireland as “a pawn in a wider game that is being played out with the European Union”.

In a statement yesterday, DUP party leader Jeffrey Donaldson said: “Some parties who just a few months ago were mocking the promise of decisive action from the DUP in relation to the Protocol are the very same parties now feigning surprise and outrage at a political party keeping its promise to the electorate.”

McDonald and O’Neill will meet with Johnson in Northern Ireland on Monday. 

‘The protocol is going nowhere’

McDonald said that what her party wants is the establishment of an executive, the nomination of a first minister, a deputy first minister, and the nomination and appointment of a speaker. 

“The DUP have not simply called a halt to the formation of an executive, they have equally attempted to place a veto on the operation of the assembly,” she said, calling it “outrageous”.

The British government, she added, has to “desist” in assisting the DUP in the “blocking tactics”, which is something she and O’Neill will be saying to Johnson on Monday she said. 

Asked whether there was a possibility of an announcement from Johnson on Monday that the UK government would be unilaterally dissolving the Northern Ireland Protocol, McDonald said that “the protocol is going nowhere,” and called it a “necessary outworking of Brexit”. 

Nobody should be “spooked by the actions of the British government”, she said. 

“What the British government and Boris Johnson need to understand is that they may wish to try and thwart or delay or stall change and progressivity in Ireland, (but) they will not succeed.”

Also speaking at today’s press conference, O’Neill said that the public had “voted for politics to work (and) for parties to work together.” She added that through its actions, the DUP is punishing the public for its “own Brexit mess”.

Asked about her outlook regarding whether she would become first minister by the summer, O’Neill stated that she wants the opportunity to lead, and “there should be no delay.” 

With reporting by Christina Finn.

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