Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has urged the DUP to commit to “real powersharing” with her party at Stormont.
The republican leader claimed that a DUP “failure to accept rights and equality” was a contributory factor in the “political storm” that has hit unionism recently.
After former first minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster was ousted by her party and replaced by Edwin Poots, Sinn Fein refused initially to re-nominate Michelle O’Neill as deputy First Minister until it received assurances over protections for the Irish language.
After the republican party secured a commitment from the UK Government to progress the cultural legislation at Westminster, the DUP was then rocked by an internal revolt over Mr Poots’s decision to proceed with nominating Paul Givan as the new first minister.
After Mr Poots was forced to resign, the incoming DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson warned that it is “not realistic” to expect stability in Northern Ireland under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol, part of the Brexit deal.
In a keynote speech in the Balmoral Hotel in west Belfast, Ms McDonald said: “The outworking of Brexit and the decision of the DUP to support it, the inevitable disaster of the post-election pact with the English Tories and the loss of the unionist majority in Stormont have created a political landscape which many within the leadership of the DUP seem incapable of reconciling themselves to.”
Mrs McDonald said she took “no comfort” from the internal difficulties the DUP has endured in the last week.
She added: “We don’t seek to humiliate or profit from the dysfunction within the DUP.”
Mrs McDonald said she had spoken with Sir Jeffrey on Tuesday and would meet with him next week.
She said: “The question facing him is whether he is up for real partnership, real powersharing, for political institutions that deliver? If the answer to those questions is yes then he will find a willing partner in the Sinn Fein team under (deputy First Minister) Michelle O’Neill.
“A partner who wants to get on with the task of delivering better public services, tackling the hospital waiting lists, building decent homes and managing the economy out of Covid.
“A partner who will continue to give voice to those who have none, and who will work across party lines in both the Assembly and the Executive in achieving rights for women, Irish language speakers, newcomer communities and every section of the people who live here.”
Mrs McDonald said the contents of the New Decade New Approach deal that restored devolution in 2020 were non-negotiable.
“Its implementation is not a point of negotiation. It is an obligation on us all,” she said.
“The failure of the DUP to meet this basic political benchmark and to obstruct basic rights is not the basis upon which effective partnership government can be built.”
Mrs McDonald also claimed the DUP’s approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol was out of step with the wider public, including many unionists.
“The DUP will be making another political error if they seek to endanger the political stability of the institutions over the consequences of the outworking of their Brexit policy,” she said.
Mrs McDonald added: “Talk of abolishing the Irish protocol are not grounded in reality. Good faith engagement and use of the Joint Committee is the only mechanism to address challenges and difficulties.
The Sinn Fein president said it was critical that stability was restored to the powersharing institutions in Belfast.
“In the days ahead it is critical that political stability be restored. That is the minimum people expect,” she said.
“Sinn Fein stands ready to renominate Michelle O’Neill as deputy First Minister. We will play our part.”
Mrs McDonald reiterated her view that a referendum on Irish unity would come before the end of the decade.
“I firmly believe that within this decade the people will have the opportunity to freely choose new constitutional and political arrangements on this island, as underpinned by the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement,” she said.
“Let me be clear, there is no contradiction in working within a functioning powersharing government while building for a new united shared Ireland.”
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