McDonald: British Government has ‘no viable plan’ to restore power-sharing

The British Prime Minister met with the leaders of Sinn Féin and the DUP this evening

McDonald: British Government has ‘no viable plan’ to restore power-sharing

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald (left) and the party’s leader in the North, Michelle O’Neill at Westminster, London, 21-02-2017. Image: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire/PA Images

The Sinn Féin President has accused the British Government of having ‘no viable plan’ for the restoration of power-sharing in the North.

British Prime Minister Theresa May met with the leaders of Sinn Féin and the DUP in London this evening.

It comes after talks aimed at restoring the Stormont Executive collapsed again last week.

It has now been over 13 months since the Executive collapsed over the DUP’s handling of a botched renewable energy scheme.

Following this evening’s meeting, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou Mcdonald said Mrs May had put forward no suggestions to resolve the crisis:

“We are disappointed that the Government seems wedded to what they call a reflection period,” she said.

“We regard the opening up of any sort of political vacuum as extremely dangerous.”

Draft deal

Sinn Féin has insisted that a draft deal was in place before the DUP walked away from the negotiations.

Yesterday the Northern Secretary Karen Bradley said a “balanced and fair” agreement on the main issues of contention had been in place before the talks broke down.

Deputy McDonald said she fears “entrenchment” and “drift” without an Executive in place and said action is now required:

“Just because the DUP has crashed the bus does not mean that everybody else has to sit at home now, cross their fingers and hope against hope that things will improve and that these issues will be resolved,” she said.

“That frankly isn’t good enough.”

Documents leaked yesterday suggest a draft agreement was in place that included a stand-alone Irish Language Act as well as an Ulster Scots Act and a respecting language and diversity act.

DUP leader Arlene Foster this evening insisted that her party is not contemplating introducing an Irish language act in Northern Ireland.

“That is only one of a number of documents that were circulated and put out and about and I think the important thing is that we now reflect on where we got to in relation to all of those issues and we have a budget put in place,” she said.

She said she is now hopeful a budget will be imposed on Northern Ireland from Westminster within weeks:

“We wanted to impress upon her the need and indeed the urgency to have a budget in place for the people of Northern Ireland in the very near future and I think she heard that very loud and clear and we are hopeful that is going to happen in the near future.

“I am hopeful that it will happen within weeks and that it will set out the trajectory for public services within Northern Ireland.

“We have the worst waiting lists in our health services and there is a need to deal with health reform which we have not been able to do because we haven’t had a Government now since last January.”

Yesterday the Northern Secretary said any 20-year celebration of the Good Friday Agreement will look “decidedly hollow” if no devolved Government is in place.

She raised the prospect of calling a fresh round of elections in the North and re-iterated the British Government’s steadfast report for the Good Friday Agreement.