Next few weeks ‘critical’ in efforts to restore Stormont Assembly – O’Neill

The coming weeks are “critical” in efforts to restore the Stormont Assembly and Executive, Michelle O’Neill has said.

Addressing a meeting of party activists in Co Armagh, Sinn Fein’s vice president said a pragmatic approach was required by all political parties to “get down to business”.

As Ms O’Neill was delivering her speech, DUP party members were gathering in Lurgan for a meeting of their party executive.

Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson made no comment to waiting media as he arrived at the venue in the Co Armagh town on Thursday evening.

While Sir Jeffrey has insisted the meeting will deal with routine business, it comes amid ongoing discussions between his party and the government over concerns about the Windsor Framework.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson comments
Democratic Unionist Party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is due to attend a meeting of his party executive (Liam McBurney/PA)

The UK and EU agreed the framework earlier this year in an attempt to address unionist concerns, however the DUP has indicated it will not return to the Stormont Assembly until the UK Government provides further assurances over Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market.

One of the main parts of the framework – the green/red lane system for the movement of goods – became operational at Northern Ireland ports on Sunday.

She said: “Where inflation and higher mortgage interest payments are stretching household budgets, where energy costs and food prices all remain outrageously high.

“Where public services we all rely on are in crisis with people crippled as they wait for basic treatment and surgery but can’t get off a waiting list.

“It is unacceptable there is nobody at the wheel and no ministers running departments.”

Northern Ireland Investment Summit 2023
US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland for Economic Affairs Joe Kennedy will bring a trade delegation to the region later this month (Niall Carson/PA)

She said: “This includes American investors from different sectors who want to create jobs here and give our young people new opportunities.

“We must not allow these opportunities to be squandered.

“Political stability, maturity and a pragmatic approach is required by all political parties at Stormont to work together to get things moving and get down to business.”

She added: “Time and space has been given by everyone, but there are clear limits to the public’s patience and the endpoint to that is upon us.

“The next short number of weeks are therefore critical to efforts to restore the Assembly and Executive.”

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