Michelle O'Neill: Northern Ireland being dragged out of EU into a 'little Englander nightmare'

Michelle O'Neill: Northern Ireland being dragged out of EU into a 'little Englander nightmare'

Northern Ireland is being dragged out of the European Union into a “little Englander nightmare,” Sinn Féin's vice-president Michelle O'Neill has said.

Speaking at the opening of her party's Ard Fheis in Derry, Ms O'Neill said those in the North must turn their backs on Westminster and push for reunification as soon as possible.

Ms O'Neill, who is facing a challenge to her position by way of a ballot from John O'Dowd, said the greatest way to secure continued membership of the EU is to deliver reunification.

“We want reunification, not just for Republicans, but for all," she told delegates.

She said people from all backgrounds are coming to the conclusion that the best way to remain in the EU is for reunification to occur and this is why so many are applying for Irish passports.

She also said her party remains fully invested in and committed to the Good Friday Agreement. “The commitment to a referendum on a united Ireland is within this Agreement. It cannot be cherry-picked. The Agreement also requires an Assembly that works for everyone. The current political impasse is unsustainable and unacceptable,” she said.

“For a full decade now the Tories – with the DUP’s support – have stripped our public services of investment. If the Executive is to be credible then it must deliver on issues such as public sector pay, safe staffing levels in the health service, economic policies that deliver prosperity for all and that invests in rural communities, and an appropriate welfare mitigation package,” she added.

Ms O'Neill said that to be credible, all of the outstanding issues must be dealt with including an Irish Language Act and reform of the Petition of Concern. It must also deal with the legacy of the past. The British Government’s refusal to deal properly with legacy issues is hindering reconciliation and wider political progress, she said.

“Three years after the RHI scandal brought the assembly down people deserve and demand a functioning government and genuine power-sharing. An agreement was reached in February 18, however, the DUP regrettably walked off the pitch. That is not a sustainable position. The delivery of rights cannot be avoided,” she said.

She also heralded the prospect that at the start of the incoming year, after years of campaigning, same-sex couples will be able to marry.

“The injustice of women being criminalised has ended. There is now a consultation underway which Sinn Féin will help shape, to provide access to compassionate health care for all women,” she said.

Formally opening the Ard Fheis, Elisha McCallion MP said: “Brexit has brought the failures of partition into sharp focus. It has shown that Westminster does not and never has cared about the people of the North.”

"That is why Sinn Féin went to Europe, to our friends in the United States and elsewhere to secure the unique status we have achieved for the north to avoid a hard border, to prevent a unionist veto and to stand by the Good Friday Agreement,” she said.

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