The holidays don’t need Boris’ pep talks: Michelle O’Neill

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PRIME Minister-elect Michelle O’Neill says parties in the North don’t need a pep talk from Boris Johnson as the PM is due to arrive in Belfast for meetings with party leaders .

It comes after Michelle O’Neill met Taoiseach Micheál Martin this morning.

Following their meeting in Dublin, Ms O’Neill said: “Our common priority is to have a functioning Assembly and Executive that bring about real and positive change for people.
The democratic result of the election must be respected.

“People can’t wait another day for the parties to get to work on their behalf, to support them in the face of the rising cost of living and to fix our health service.”

A Taoiseach spokesperson said: “As part of its ongoing engagement with political leaders in Northern Ireland, the Taoiseach met Michelle O’Neill this morning.

“They both agreed on the importance of having the NI Assembly and Executive operational as soon as possible.

“This is what the people of Northern Ireland voted for less than two weeks ago. For the democratically elected Assembly to be prevented from sitting and doing its business is in no one’s interest.

“They expressed serious concerns about possible unilateral steps on the protocol by the UK government, which would have a destabilizing impact on Northern Ireland.

“They have acknowledged that there are real problems with certain aspects of the implementation of the protocol, but these can be addressed in the context of discussions between the EU and the UK.

“Only agreed results will bring the stability and certainty that Northern Ireland needs.”

Mr Johnson is expected to tell the parties that he is not considering scrapping the protocol, but rather proposing amendments which he hopes will allay unionists’ concerns.

In a statement ahead of the visit, Downing Street said the Prime Minister would send a ‘tough message’ to party leaders that they needed to ‘get back to work’ so they could deal with the ‘bread and butter issues’ such as family support. with the cost of living, reducing Covid backlogs and tackling crime.

The statement continued: “The Prime Minister will clarify that the government never suggested scrapping the protocol. There will still need to be a treaty governing the UK’s relationship with the EU in relation to Northern Ireland to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland and to protect the integrity of the single market of the EU.

“Instead, the protocol must be reformed so that it achieves its original objectives of protecting the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions.”

He will say that there is “nothing to hide” that the delicate balance of the Agreement has been upset by the Protocol, because one aspect of the Agreement (North-South) has taken precedence over another (East -West).

“It undermines the text of the agreement, which makes it clear that all strands are ‘interlinked and of equal importance’. It has eroded the historic economic ties between Britain and Northern Ireland and has given the unionist community the feeling that its aspirations and its identity are threatened.

“The UK and EU’s ‘common aim’ should be that a reformed protocol has the ‘widest possible cross-community support’ when it faces a consent vote in 2024.”

Ahead of his meeting with Boris Johnson, DUP leader Sir Jeffery Donaldson said the Prime Minister’s visit is an acknowledgment that the protocol is not working and is harmful to the North.

“These issues need to be addressed,” he said.

“We are waiting to hear what the Prime Minister has to say, but we will not pass judgments based on words.

“This is decisive action that needs to be taken. The issues have been clearly identified and I have set out seven tests against which the action will be judged.

Donaldson added that until this step is taken, the necessary consensus for power sharing does not exist.

“We respect the mandate received by the other parties, but they must also recognize the clear vision expressed by the unionist electorate,” he continued.

“We have been waiting for this moment for a long time and unionism has been both reasonable and patient. If the situation were reversed, no one would seriously argue that it would be sustainable for nationalist concerns to be ignored. We have to deal with the problems that exist, restore consensus and then move forward on that basis.

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