McDonald: Stormont issues could be 'sorted in one hour' if there was political will

DUP leader Arlene Foster with Sin Fein's Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O'Neill before the funeral service for murdered journalist Lyra McKee. Picture: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said that if there was the political will the issues that led to the fall of the Stormont Assembly could be “sorted out in one hour.”

Politicians need to “roll up their sleeves and get cracking” she told RTE radio’s Today With Miriam O’Callaghan show.

“People want power sharing. This is not an Orange/Green dynamic, people want equality.”

She was responding to the call made by Fr Martin Magill at the funeral of murdered journalist Lyra McKee for politicians to reform the power-sharing government.

“Fr Magill hit the nail on the head. He laid down serious challenges to us, not to just talk, not to just tick boxes. We need to fix the dysfunction.”

Ms McDonald said that the only way to achieve sustainable government was to “hardwire equality.”

She welcomed anything that “moved the dial” towards equality and inclusion. “These are issues that need to be resolved.”

The challenge “is, was and remains to talk and to engage”, but if the question was Sinn Féin going to capitulate to people who would hold back progress, “then the answer is no, we will not capitulate on that,” she said.

A compromise had been reached in February 2018, added Ms McDonald, but the DUP had walked away from that.

Foster denies Lyra McKee death was caused by political vacuum

DUP leader Arlene Foster has denied that Lyra McKee’s death was caused by a political vacuum.

She was speaking on RTE radio’s Morning Ireland about the funeral service of the 29 year old journalist at which there was a standing ovation when Fr Martin Magill urged Northern Ireland's politicians to start talking to reform the power-sharing government.

Earlier on BBC radio Good Morning Ulster she had described the occasion as “a very powerful moment”. She said she had not been aware of what was happening behind her (when people began standing).

“This is about what happens next.”

On Morning Ireland she said that the service had been “very moving in so many ways.”

Fr Magill’s sermon had been “very powerful and very clear about what people want to see happening – power sharing and devolution.

“That’s why it’s important that we get back to the Assembly. To get it up and running again. There is a great public desire to see the Assembly up and running again, there’s an awful lot to be done.”

Ms Foster said she wanted to see the Assembly up and running along with a parallel talks process for a specified time, which could be six months or nine months.

Sinn Fein leader Mary-Lou McDonald has said her party is ready to play a full part in a “serious and meaningful” talks process.

Her party is seeking guarantees around the place of the Irish language and changes to the law on same-sex marriage.

Sinn Fein negotiator Conor Murphy (Niall Carson/PA)

Sinn Fein negotiator Conor Murphy repeated his assertion that the DUP leadership had previously reached an agreement and was unable to sell it to its grassroots.

“This is an attempt to get the Executive, recognising the faults and failings of the last Executive, recognising why it collapsed and wishing to put together one which is sustainable and does not collapse again.”

He told the BBC that Sinn Fein’s conditions were those imposed by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

“We want a sustainable agreement, one which keeps an Executive in place, not a quick fix which gets us up one week and brings us down the next.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley has said she intends to hold discussions with Stormont’s party leaders this week in an effort to restore powersharing.

They attended a vigil together in Londonderry following the young journalist’s death.

When asked about her party’s position on marriage equality, Ms Foster said that they had a long-standing policy of supporting traditional marriage, but that did not mean she could not express sympathy and empathise with Lyra McKee’s partner Sara for her loss. To do that was not a political issue.

Fr Magill, when asked the same question, said that there was a variety of views on gay marriage within the church, but that it had been from a pastoral point of view that he had acknowledged “the love that existed between Lyra and Sara.”

It had not been his intention to “make an embarrassing situation” for the politicians in attendance, “but clearly it was.” He was looking “for something more than a blame game.”

He said he would like to see all the parties to be more involved, to get back together into talks about the Assembly.

Additional reporting by PA

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