By David Young, PA
Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill has called on the DUP to “get off the fence” and show the political will to restore powersharing at Stormont.
Ms O’Neill was commenting as she arrived for talks with the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service Jayne Brady about public funding pressures in the region.
The other parties eligible to participate in a ministerial executive if it was resurrected, the DUP, Alliance and UUP, also attended the talks at Stormont Castle.
Civil servants are currently running public services in the region in the ongoing absence of devolution.
The DUP is blocking the powersharing institutions in protest at post-Brexit trading arrangements.
“Civil servants are in a very desperately difficult situation in taking decisions where there’s no democratic accountability,” said Ms O’Neill.
“That’s not good enough for the public here.
“So while these discussions are welcome, and yes, we should be doing everything we can to prepare, what we need to hear is what is the political will from the DUP to get around the executive table and actually to make it work and actually have an executive reformed.”
She said: “I do welcome the fact that everybody’s here, I do welcome the fact that we’re all engaged, but it’s no substitute obviously for a fully functioning executive, that’s where we need to get to.
“So what I want to hear today is about the political will, what I want to hear today is that all parties are going to be engaged and that we are going to have a restored executive.”
Ms O’Neill rejected the suggestion it may be the autumn before the DUP return to Stormont.
“I don’t accept the autumn as a timeframe,” she said.
“I don’t think that’s good enough.
“I mean, the time for restoring executive was last May, the people have just endorsed positive leadership again (in the local government election), the people have just endorsed a fully functional executive.
“So, I don’t think the autumn timeframe is an acceptable timeframe.
“I think where we need to be is around the executive table today working together, actually trying to stave off some of the worst impact of the Tory austerity agenda.
“But I think that while today’s meeting is welcome, it’s good that we’re here, it’s good that we’re engaged, but what we need to hear is what’s the political will, we need to hear the DUP are going to get off the fence and actually join the rest of us and get into the executive.”
The other parties attending the meeting are expected to speak to the media when it concludes.