Michelle O’Neill tells DUP to ‘get their act together’ following party fallout

Edwin Poots announced last night he was stepping down as DUP leader after only three weeks in the job
Michelle O’Neill tells DUP to ‘get their act together’ following party fallout

By Cate McCurry and David Young, PA

Michelle O’Neill has urged the DUP to “get their act together” to ensure effective governance at Stormont in Northern Ireland.

The deputy First Minister said her partners in government were at a “crossroads” and faced a choice of continuing to be “rights deniers” or joining the other four executive parties in delivering a “modern and progressive” agenda.

Edwin Poots announced he was stepping down as DUP leader after only three weeks in the job, following a party revolt against his decision to nominate a Stormont first minister.

Speaking to the media in Coalisland, Co Tyrone, the deputy First Minister said she had not spoken to First Minister Paul Givan or the outgoing DUP leader since the latter’s dramatic resignation on Thursday night.

First and Deputy First Minister nomination
Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill at a special sitting of the Stormont Assembly in Parliament Buildings in Belfast (Brian Lawless/PA)

“I think the issues for the DUP are for the DUP, but where I’m concerned is where it impacts on the day-to-day governance,” Ms O’Neill said.

“That’s where I would have concerns. So I hope that they get to the point where they’re able to resolve their internal issues and we get back to basics and dealing with good powersharing and delivering public services.”

The Sinn Féin leader in Northern Ireland said the DUP are at a crossroads and they have a choice to make.

“The choice is to work with the rest of us to deliver on powersharing, to deliver rights or to continue to resist those very rights that obviously seen the ousting of Arlene Foster over gay conversion therapy or Edwin Poots yesterday over language rights,” she added.

She described the last few days as “tumultuous”, but added she is committed to powersharing and working with other parties.

Asked about the prospect of an early Assembly election, Ms O’Neill said: “It’s hard to say what’s going to happen next within the DUP, I hope that we are able to continue to share power.

“If we run to the end of the mandate well and good, if there has to be an election before that, then we will fight that election.”

Earlier this week, the UK government committed to passing Irish language legislation at Westminster in the autumn if Stormont fails to implement it.

Asked if she had fears that the government might renege on its pledge following Mr Poots’ resignation, Ms O’Neill said: “I would very much hold the British government to account on the fact they have made a political commitment this week that they will legislate in the autumn and I certainly will work towards that being the case.

“And I will hold their feet to the fire on that issue.”

She described the DUP as “outliers” in the Stormont Executive when it came to rights issues.

First and Deputy First Minister nomination
Edwin Poots leaves the DUP headquarters in Belfast (Brian Lawless/PA)

The deputy First Minister said she remained committed to working with Mr Givan as First Minister despite the uncertainty over his future.

“For my part, I remain committed to working with him whilst he is in post and, until the DUP change that nomination, then I have to work with him as joint head of government and I will do that on the basis of respect for the position that he holds,” she said.

SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon expressed concern about the British government keeping its word on passing stalled legislation and the possibility it could collapse the Executive.

“I think it would be naive to say that it’s not,” Ms Mallon.

“First of all, the first test is can this British government be trusted.

“I don’t know what they have given Sinn Féin in writing and I would be concerned if Sinn Féin was just taking the word of this British government.

“We only have to look at their track record of keeping to their promises, when you look at the (Northern Ireland) protocol.

“The second issue then is that the out-workings of this have to come back to Stormont.”

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