File image of Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O'neill Alamy Stock Photo
Sinn Féin

Michelle O’Neill says coming weeks are 'critical' in efforts to restore Stormont

Sinn Féin’s vice president said a pragmatic approach was required by all political parties to ‘get down to business’.

THE COMING WEEKS are “critical” in efforts to restore the Stormont Assembly and Executive, Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill has said.

Addressing a meeting of party activists in Co Armagh, O’Neill said a pragmatic approach was required by all political parties to “get down to business”.

As O’Neill was delivering her speech, DUP party members were gathering in Lurgan for a meeting of their party executive.

Leader Jeffrey Donaldson made no comment to waiting media as he arrived at the venue in the Co Armagh town this evening.

While Donaldson has insisted the meeting will deal with routine business, it comes amid ongoing discussions between his party and the government over concerns about the Windsor Framework.

The DUP withdrew first minister Paul Givan in February 2022 in protest at the internal UK trade barriers created by Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol.

The UK and EU agreed the framework earlier this year in an attempt to address unionist concerns.

However the DUP has indicated it will not return to the Stormont Assembly until the UK Government provides further assurances over Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market.

One of the main parts of the framework – the green/red lane system for the movement of goods – became operational at Northern Ireland ports on Sunday.

O’Neill said for “not a month longer” should the powersharing institutions be in shutdown while families carry the burden of a cost-of-living crisis.

She said: “Where inflation and higher mortgage interest payments are stretching household budgets, where energy costs and food prices all remain outrageously high.

“Where public services we all rely on are in crisis with people crippled as they wait for basic treatment and surgery but can’t get off a waiting list.

“It is unacceptable there is nobody at the wheel and no ministers running departments.”

O’Neill referred to a US trade delegation being brought to Northern Ireland later this month by special envoy Joe Kennedy.

She said: “This includes American investors from different sectors who want to create jobs here and give our young people new opportunities.

“We must not allow these opportunities to be squandered.

“Political stability, maturity and a pragmatic approach is required by all political parties at Stormont to work together to get things moving and get down to business.”

She added: “Time and space has been given by everyone, but there are clear limits to the public’s patience and the endpoint to that is upon us.

“The next short number of weeks are therefore critical to efforts to restore the Assembly and Executive.”

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