McDonald sees Stormont sell-by date
McDonald sees Stormont sell-by date


As the Stormont Assembly approaches a third year of stalemate over an ongoing unionist boycott, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald has said the Assembly could be abolished in a united Ireland.

The Six County Executive has not functioned since the resignation of then-DUP First Minister Paul Givan in February 2022 in a protest over Brexit. That stalemate hardened after the DUP lost the top post to Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill in an Assembly election three months later.

The boycott has paralysed decisions on public services and frozen public sector pay at a time of high inflation. The resulting pay disparities has motivated what is expected to be one of the North’s largest ever one-day strikes on January 18, in what the Irish Congress of Trade Unions have called a “generalised day of action”.

The industrial action will include nurses, midwives, radiographers, teachers and civil servants, who have said they will withdraw their labour for some length of time on the day.

In a policy shift, Sinn Féin’s party leader has said the Six County Assembly and Executive may continue operating in the transition to a new Ireland, but that ultimately it should be abolished.

In an interview with the Business Post newspaper, Ms McDonald said any retention of the Stormont institutions in a united Ireland should be only temporary.

“I do not believe that we simply should have duplication for the sake of it,” she said. “We do not want to create more layers of bureaucracy, or more barriers to efficient decision making and delivery island wide.”

In the shorter term, the Dublin TD said discussions should happen over reform of the veto power of the largest parties nearly two years after the DUP collapsed the Executive. But she described “inclusion” and “cross-community consent” as being necessary parts of politics in the Six Counties.

“I think the conversation about reform has to happen. But we need to be mindful that the bedrocks of power sharing around parity of esteem and inclusion, that those foundations aren’t disturbed,” said Ms McDonald.

“The protections are in the system for a reason ... I think that inclusion is still a very necessary part of politics north of the border.

“I think it’s timely and I think it’s an important conversation. But we need to have the conversation with our eyes wide open, and not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

“Because notwithstanding people’s frustrations – and believe me I feel them and I share them, we’re more than 18 months now since the last election – this is an agreement and a settlement that has served us well.”

Public support for the partitionist institutions took another hit after a high-profile talks effort failed at Christmas.

Sinn Féin described as a “charade” the lack of a conclusion to the talks between the DUP and the British government aimed at restoring power sharing.

A deal had appeared on the cards before DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson was spooked by posters warning of a “DUP sellout” and returned to a position of calling for “more progress”.

Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy urged Donaldson to make a decision and slammed what he said was “endless charade”.

He accused the London government of allowing it to go on “far too long” and called for fresh Assembly elections or the London and Dublin governments will have to “come up with an alternative” if the DUP does not return to Stormont.

The London government is obliged by current legislation to call a fresh election if Stormont is not restored by January 18.

“What we need to do is get to the point of decision, and that’s what Jeffrey Donaldson and his party need to do, come back and tell us, are they going to join with the rest of us in doing power sharing, or are they not,” he said.

“And if they’re not, then the two governments have a decision to take in terms of where we go after that.”

He added: “If the DUP are going to decide that they can’t and won’t do powersharing, then there is either an election called on January 18 or the two governments have to get their heads together and come up with an alternative.

“They have responsibility to the Good Friday Agreement to guarantee that the continued operation of the elements of the Good Friday Agreement, and they’ve responsibility for actually jointly crafting something going forward.

“Every sector in society that we meet would want this Executive to be back. We want to be back in the Executive working with the other parties, including the DUP, to try and tackle some of the big issues but if they’re going to conclude they can’t and won’t do powersharing then we have to move on to a new area.”

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