Direct Rule budget passes through Westminster


Sinn Fein has said talks with unionists to restore the Six County Executive are over after it was confirmed today that the British government is pushing a ‘Northern Ireland’ budget bill through all stages of the Westminster parliament, a key step towards the return of full Direct Rule of the north of Ireland from London.

Sinn Fein said it had ended talks with the DUP and have called for “joint British-Irish partnership arrangements” for the north of Ireland.

Sinn Fein’s Northern leader Michelle O’Neill said that by moving to bring in a budget for the north of Ireland from Westminster, the British government was acknowledging that “an agreement hasn’t been possible”.

She said Sinn Fein met the DUP this morning and told them of its decision to end the negotiations, without setting a date for their resumption. “This phase of the talks are over,” said Ms O’Neill.

She accused British prime minister Theresa May of prioritising “her own electoral survival by the Tory-DUP pact over the interests of all the people here in the North”.

Ms O’Neill said in the absence of an Executive and Assembly, responsibility to move on issues such as an Irish language act and other equality issues lies with the British and Irish governments.

She called for Dublin and London to convene a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference to address issues which were blocking the return of devolved power-sharing.

Ms O’Neill said that full Direct Rule from Westminster was “not an option”. She also referred to a period in 2006 where there were discussions on joint British-Irish government structures.

“Clearly there is a mechanism within the Good Friday agreement in the intergovernmental conference that would allow work to be done across the British-Irish governments. That is what we are asking for,” she said.

“We have sought urgent meetings with the Taoiseach and the two governments,” added Ms O’Neill.

“The way forward now is for the two governments to fulfil their responsibilities as co-guarantors of the Good Friday agreement and the St Andrews Agreement to honour outstanding commitments and to deliver rights for everyone that are enjoyed by everyone else elsewhere on these islands.

“This in itself would pave the way for the Executive to be restored.”

Ms O’Neill said difficulties were compounded by Brexit and the DUP’s “refusal to accept the vote in the North to reject Brexit”.

There has been no effective devolved government since the late Martin McGuinness stood down as Deputy First Minister in January in a row with DUP leader Arlene Foster amid concerns about corruption and the integrity of the northern institutions.

Ms O’Neill did not say when or if talks with the DUP might resume. “The issues aren’t going to go away,” she said at a Sinn Fein press conference attended by senior party figures including party president Gerry Adams.

“So, whether we deal with them now, or deal with them in one month, two months, three months they have to be resolved in order to restore these institutions and to allow people to have confidence in these institutions,” she added.

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