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Saturday 28 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
Leah Farrell/
# Northern Ireland
McDonald accuses DUP of 'political posturing' over refusal to re-enter Stormont government
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said it would be unacceptable for the DUP to refuse to form a new Stormont executive with a nationalist First Minister, following a historic election in Northern Ireland.

SINN FEIN LEADER Mary Lou McDonald has said it would be unacceptable for the DUP to refuse to form a new Stormont executive with a nationalist First Minister.

Following a historic election result which saw a nationalist party win the most seats for the first time in the history of Northern Ireland, McDonald accused the DUP of “political posturing” over its failure to commit to a return to a power-sharing government.

Speaking on Newstalk’s On The Record, McDonald said: “It’s very important that the DUP, who have emerged as the second-largest party, demonstrate respect and inclusion by agreeing to serve in that joint office with a Republican First Minister.”

She said it was not acceptable for the DUP to “only [be] interested in the democratic process when they come out on top, or that they’re only interested in working together when it’s on their terms”.

Sinn Féin is now entitled to nominate its Vice President Michelle O’Neill as First Minister. But O’Neill’s hopes of becoming first minister in a power-sharing executive hinge on the unionist DUP, the second largest party, joining an administration – something it has ruled out unless there are major changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

But McDonald said she would not entertain the idea of Stormont having no government at all.

Unionists vehemently oppose the Protocol as it places a border in the Irish Sea, between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

McDonald said if the party refused to enter government on those grounds, “they will be letting everybody down, including those who voted for them if they refuse to get back to work tomorrow with the rest of us.

“They would have heard on the doorsteps, the same as ourselves, the depth of the crisis that so many families and workers are experiencing now. We’re in a cost of living crisis. We have 330 million pounds that the executive has been unable to distribute and put back in people’s pockets because we haven’t had an executive [since February].

“I think anybody – the DUP or anybody else – suggesting for a second that they will stand on the sidelines and watch as people struggle and struggle on, that they will insist on a further delay in getting that money into people’s pockets is just totally unacceptable [and] I think will be met with very, very wide public hostility.

The UK Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said today that the UK will focus on efforts to reform the Protocol in an effort to preserve stability.

He suggested it would be dealt with in the coming “weeks and months”, warning that stability in Northern Ireland was being “imperilled” by the dispute over the protocol – which was agreed by Boris Johnson’s government as part of the UK’s departure from the EU.

The deadlock will increase tensions between Westminster and Brussels, with the UK insisting all options remain on the table – including the possibility of unilaterally scrapping elements of the deal.

That could trigger a major breakdown in relations between the UK and European Union.

“We will deal with the situation, we will take whatever measures are necessary to protect the economic as well as the constitutional integrity of Northern Ireland,” Raab said.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has urged Jeffrey Donaldson to nominate a deputy first minister to allow resumption of fully functioning devolved government.

Lewis is to meet with the leaders of the Stormont parties on Monday to talk about resurrecting the Assembly.

Appearing on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme, he said it is widely acknowledged there are issues with the protocol that need to be resolved.

He also pointed out that the full protocol has not yet been implemented with a number of grace periods running on aspects of the post-Brexit treaty.

- Additional reporting from PA


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