Northern Ireland

O'Neill: Peaceful marching season 'bodes well' for talks

Sinn Féin vice-president (left) with the party's Stormont leader, Michelle O'Neill Image copyright RTÉ
Image caption Sinn Féin vice-president (left) with the party's Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill in Dublin on Saturday

A relatively peaceful marching season bodes well to create the right atmosphere for political talks aimed at restoring power sharing in Northern Ireland, Michele O'Neill has said.

Speaking on Saturday, Sinn Féin's Stormont leader said she has contacted the other party leaders to stress her party's commitment to the talks.

Ms O'Neill said Sinn Féin had a team ready to "crunch" the issues.

The process was suspended for the summer at the beginning of July.

However, Ms O'Neill said she is disappointed that all unionist parties have not condemned what she described as "rogue bonfires with effigies, with things which have been absolutely disgraceful and wouldn't be tolerated anywhere and shouldn't be tolerated in the north".

She said: "We can't have actions like this that 'sectarianise', that promote hate, that promote distance right across our communities.

"We need the unionist leaders to come out and say it's wrong, it needs to stop, it doesn't play its part in culture.

"We all should encourage culture and celebrate our culture, Orangeism is a big part of that culture, but it has to be done in a respectful way," she added.

Irish language

Ms O'Neill indicated that Sinn Féin intended to continue to push for an Irish language act, a key sticking point in the talks.

"We need to deliver that, that's what the citizens are asking for," she said, adding that "legacy issues" relating to the Troubles also have to be resolved.

Ms O'Neill also criticised the deal between the DUP and the Conservatives at Westminster.

She said: "Look at the deal which they have done with the Tories, they have given them a blank cheque in relation to Brexit and we all know the devastating implications there are going to be for the island of Ireland".

Ms O'Neill said that part of the reason there is a political crisis is because the "DUP has been pandered to by the British government for the last ten years".

She said a deal with the DUP is in their own self interests "only to keep Theresa May and her millionaire cabinet in power".

"It doesn't bode well for the rigorous impartiality which the British government is supposed to display," she added.

Northern Ireland has been without a functioning devolved government since January, when the coalition led by the two biggest parties, the DUP and Sinn Féin, collapsed over a green energy scandal.

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