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Michelle O’Neill ‘not hung up’ on what to call Northern Ireland

Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neill speaking to the media in Belfast city centre (PA)
Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neill speaking to the media in Belfast city centre (PA)

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill has said she does not get “too hung up” on what she calls Northern Ireland.

Ms O’Neill, who said she uses the term “North of Ireland” but referred to “Northern Ireland” in the Assembly earlier this month, said people should be “a bit relaxed about those things”.

Her comments come ahead of a meeting between Sinn Fein and Conservative MPs in Westminster later on Tuesday.

First Minister meets with Sinn Fein Vice President
Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill (Jane Barlow/PA)

Ms O’Neill, first minister designate of Northern Ireland, was asked why she is meeting the Conservatives.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think it’s really important that over the course of yesterday and today that we take this opportunity to put across the fact that, a number of things I suppose, firstly that the democratic outcome of the election must be respected, that the British Government need to stop pandering to the DUP, that the DUP’s voice does not reflect the wider view at home.

“The reality is that the protocol is working. The reality is the business community at home want to see economic certainty. They want clarity around what’s next.

“And the fact that the approach of Liz Truss and Boris Johnson in terms of unilateral action is not what’s wanted. So I think it’s really, really important that we drive that message home, that we give that different perspective.

Northern Ireland Assembly elections
Michelle O’Neill reacts to her election in Mid Ulster (Niall Carson/PA)

“And actually, I will go even further to say that true perspective actually of what’s happening on the ground.”

Asked if she now uses the term “Northern Ireland”, Ms O’Neill told the programme: “I don’t get too hung up on these things.

“I mean, I say North of Ireland, others say Northern Ireland.”

Asked if she could refer to it as Northern Ireland, she said: “Yes, and I have done in the past week.

“And I think it’s important that also if the democratic outcome of the election is respected I would be the First Minister of the Northern Ireland Executive.

“So I think we shouldn’t get hung up on those things. It’s the beauty of the Good Friday Agreement – British, Irish or both or neither.

“So I think that that’s important. I think we should be a bit relaxed about those things.”

Reacting to Ms O’Neill saying “Northern Ireland”, DUP MP Ian Paisley told The Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster earlier this month: “100 years to call Northern Ireland its proper name. My goodness, let me please lie down and recover from the shock of that.”