O’Neill cautions against winter polls as she calls for Stormont to be restored

Sinn Féin’s Stormont leader was preparing to meet senior US official Derek Chollet
O’Neill cautions against winter polls as she calls for Stormont to be restored

Jonathan McCambridge, PA

People in Northern Ireland should not be made to go to the polls again before Christmas, Sinn Féin Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill has said.

Ms O’Neill repeated her call for the powersharing institutions to be restored immediately as she prepared to meet a senior US official.

Derek Chollet, counsellor with the US Department of State, is meeting political leaders at Stormont on Monday.

But DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has reiterated his warning that his party will not return to the assembly or executive until his demands are met on the Northern Ireland Protocol.


The DUP is blocking the functioning of the powersharing institutions in Belfast as part of its protest against the post-Brexit arrangements for goods travelling from Britain to the North.

The UK government has vowed to secure changes to the protocol, either by way of a negotiated compromise with the EU or through proposed domestic legislation that would empower ministers to scrap the arrangements without the approval of Brussels.

Relations between the UK and EU appear to have improved since Liz Truss became Britishp prime minister and London and Brussels have been talking up the potential for a deal through fresh negotiations.

Current legislation says that unless Stormont is restored by October 28th, Britain's Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has to call fresh assembly elections, something he has said he is prepared to do.

Speaking at Stormont on Monday, Ms O’Neill said: “I’m going to be meeting with Derek Chollet from the US State Department.


“He’s coming at a time when we’re obviously hurtling towards the October 28th deadline and we have to have an executive formed by that time.

“I very much welcome the part the United States has always played and being a big supporter and aid to our peace process.

“We need to get around the executive table today, no more delays.

“Particularly whenever you see the scale of challenges that we have to tackle as an executive, not least fixing our health service.”

Asked about the potential for an election before Christmas, Ms O’Neill said: “We shouldn’t have to have an election. We had an election back in May.

“The people spoke, and the people asked for a functioning executive, they asked for us to make politics work.

“And they asked for us to work together to deliver for them. That’s where I remain committed. That’s where I want to be.”

Ms O’Neill encouraged the UK government and the EU to come to an agreement within the framework of the protocol.

DUP party conference
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (PA)

Mr Donaldson told the BBC there is now a “sharper focus” within the UK government on what needed to be done over the protocol.

He said: “I think the UK government and our prime minister must hold firm in terms of seeking to achieve the objectives they have outlined in the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill.

“We believe that represents an outcome which respects the integrity of the UK internal market and Northern Ireland’s place within it, but also protects the integrity of the EU single market.

“No-one could be in any doubt what is required.

“It isn’t just about dealing with the symptoms of the problem created by the protocol – in other words, the checks – it is also about regulatory divergence, it is about the fact that Northern Ireland is subject to laws introduced by an outside foreign entity, the EU.

“What we need to have agreed must be in line with the provisions of the protocol Bill, otherwise it will not work.

“If the [UK] government wants to see the political institutions restored, and I want to see them restored, then we need an agreement which meets the objectives of the protocol Bill.”

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