O'Neill: Return to direct rule in NI would mean 'putting the Good Friday Agreement in the bin'

O'Neill: Return to direct rule in NI would mean 'putting the Good Friday Agreement in the bin'

Sinn Féin’s deputy leader Michelle O’Neill has said that a return to direct rule in Northern Ireland would be a retrograde step.

It would mean “putting the Good Friday Agreement in the bin” she told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

Ms O’Neill said that when she meets with the new UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson she will make it clear that the people of Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU and that nothing good can come of Brexit.

She added that she will also remind Mr Johnson of the special and unique situation in the North and of the peace process that must be cherished.

Mr Johnson's bullish rhetoric “strikes fear” into the heart of businesses and people in Northern Ireland and any return to border checks would be a retrograde step, she said.

The British Prime Minister is "clearly electioneering, playing a game of chicken with the EU."

Ms O’Neill criticised the DUP for "parking the talks" about a return to devolved government during the marching season, “they should be engaged or not.”

However, DUP leader Arlene Foster, also speaking on Morning Ireland, blamed Sinn Féin for the stalled devolution talks.

I’m not the one who walked away from devolution. I want to be back at Stormont today, but I can’t because of Sinn Féin who have a list that is getting longer by the day.

Ms Foster said she is looking forward to working with Mr Johnson to find a new agreement for “a good Brexit” for the people of Northern Ireland, the UK and the Republic.

There needs to be a rethink of the backstop and to restore devolution. She said she wants to continue in the confidence and supply agreement with the Conservative party to deliver Brexit and bring stability to the country.

Ms Foster dismissed predictions of considerable job losses in Northern Ireland and the Republic if there is a no-deal Brexit as “hyperbole”.

“We don’t want no deal”, she said. “Unfortunately we have met with belligerence from Dublin. Why is it the backstop or nothing?

“I hope the Government will dial back the rhetoric.”

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