Northern Ireland’s deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has vowed to hold Northern Secretary Brandon Lewis to account to ensure that he follows through on a British government commitment to Irish language rights.
Ms O’Neill told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that she expected the British government to honour its commitment and to see the issue tabled for discussion in Westminster this week.
When asked about the possibility that the DUP would collapse the Stormont assembly on the issue, the vice president of Sinn Féin, asked “how ludicrous” was it that Jeffrey Donaldson was making that threat at a time when so many other issues needed to be addressed.
The DUP were not doing their job, and they needed to “dial back” the rhetoric about blocking language rights. “They are holding everyone to ransom”.
Ms O’Neill said that the DUP were looking over their shoulder, and they were concerned at their internal dynamics.
The deputy First Minister also criticised the DUP and other unionists for their attempts to “claw back” any progress that had been made to date in the North on social issues.
The women of the North were entitled to modern and compassionate healthcare and the DUP had failed to commit to that level of care for women. The DUP motion had been futile, she said, as the British government had the legislation to provide such services and would commission the services.
Ms O’Neill said she had fought tooth and nail to get the services commissioned. It was an unfortunate situation that unionists did not want to bring forward changes, she said.
The UK government had a responsibility to provide services, and she wanted them to go ahead and commission the services.
“This is madness that needs to stop.”