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'A standstill is completely unacceptable': Sinn Féin to meet Varadkar and May over Stormont deadlock

Mary Lou McDonald said there is “no question of a return to direct rule” from Westminister in the North.

Image: Sam Boal via Rolling News

SINN FÉIN WILL hold separate meetings with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Theresa May over the coming week following the collapse of power-sharing restoration talks in Northern Ireland.

Speaking to reporters before a meeting of the party’s Ard Comhairle today, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the there is “no question of a return to direct rule” from Westminister in the North.

She reaffirmed this stance in an interview with TheJournal.ie this week, in which she said: “If the DUP crashed this thinking that they would return to the bosom of direct rule, they thought wrong, because that is not acceptable to us.”

McDonald told reporters today that the party will be meeting with both Taoiseach Varadkar and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, and will arrange a meeting with Theresa May next week to discuss the situation.

On Wednesday, DUP leader Arlene Foster collapsed the talks on the restoration of power-sharing in Stormont.

Foster said that while she “respects the Irish language”, her party cannot agree to a standalone Irish Language Act, which Sinn Féin has been adamant on.

Up until Foster’s announcement there had been hoping in the North – as well as among the UK and Irish governments – that a deal was imminent.

Both parties have been deadlocked now for over 13 months when the Executive collapsed – leaving Northern Ireland without a functioning Assembly.

Yesterday, McDonald put some of the details of the agreement into the public domain, stating that three separate acts were included in the draft agreement: An Irish Language Act, an Ulster Scots Act, and a Respecting Language and Diversity Act.

Outlining her disappointment again over the collapse of the talks, McDonald said: ”We invested a huge amount of time in what was a very positive engagement with the DUP in an effort to resolve issues that are long-standing and that carried some sensitivity for parties.

We reached an accommodation and we’re very, very disappointed that that accommodation couldn’t be signed off on and closed by the DUP.
The DUP crashed this current process, they’ve been very clear in their view that this is over and so this is an moment for leadership and a moment for action.

McDonald said that Sinn Féin wants the Intergovernmental Conference as a “minimum step”.

“We now need to chart and plot our next steps. It would be completely unacceptable now for us to be in a mode of standstill,” McDonald said.

“These issues are important. The institutions of governance in the north are important. It’s important that we get to a resolution with all of these things,” she said.

“We stand ready to lead.”

TheJournal.ie interview with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald will be published in full this evening. 

Read: McDonald: ‘If the DUP crashed this thinking that they would return to the bosom of direct rule, they thought wrong’

More: McDonald: ‘Three language acts were included in draft DUP deal, but no agreement on marriage equality’

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