Sinn Féin’s Michelle O'Neill to visit US this week to gather support for restoring power-sharing to Stormont

Sinn Féin’s Michelle O'Neill to visit US this week to gather support for restoring power-sharing to Stormont

SINN FÉIN'S Michelle O'Neill is to visit the US this week in a bid to help restore power-sharing to Stormont.

The First Minister designate says she sees the US as a 'critical partner' in the process.

Sinn Féin became the largest party in Northern Ireland following May's Assembly elections.

However, power-sharing has been unable to resume in Northern Ireland — and O'Neill unable to assume her tole as First Minister — while the DUP refuses to engage in the process until its concerns about the Northern Ireland Protocol are addressed.

O'Neill says she will tell representatives of the US Administration, Congressional Members and Irish American leaders that the unionist party is denying people's democratic wishes.

'People voted for change'

"Having travelled to Brussels, Dublin and London since our historic election in May, this is my first visit to Washington where I will emphasise the value of the relationship with the United States, who remain a critical partner for peace and progress," said O'Neill.

"I will tell politicians, diplomats and business leaders that the majority of people voted for change, and there is a strong commitment from a majority of newly-elected MLAs and Assembly parties to work together and make politics work so we can deliver for the whole community.

"The continued stand-off by the DUP who are denying the public the democratic representation and leadership they are entitled to cannot continue.

"The political cover by the Tories must be robustly challenged. The Good Friday Agreement must be both applied and upheld in full."

Relief plans

O'Neill added that despite the DUP's objections to the Protocol — which the unionist party believes threatens the union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland — there is widespread support for the agreement among the majority of MLAs.

She also took aim at the Tories for introducing the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which would allow Westminster to unilaterally change parts of the Protocol.

While the DUP holds up the formation of an Executive and the Tories seek to alter the Protocol, it is the people of Northern Ireland who are suffering, warned O'Neill.

"We need to form a Government and set a budget to help give relief to families and workers who face a huge burden come autumn with the rising cost of living on households," she said.

"It is important that all those in the US who value the close political, economic and cultural bonds with the island of Ireland understand what is now at stake after a quarter century of peace and stability.

'Westminster untrustworthy'

"It is vital that we underscore the reckless actions of the British government who are trying to sabotage our political agreements through their anti-good Friday agreement agenda which is disingenuously dressed up in a pro-agreement rhetoric.

"They have abandoned victims and survivors and taken a fundamental departure away from the Stormont House Agreement by legislating unilaterally in order to protect the interests of the British State itself.

"They are legislating to breach international law and denounce the Protocol which limits the impact of their hard Brexit on society and business here, and prevents a hard border.

"The Protocol is supported by a majority of MLAs because it is working, and gives us access to the EU single market which is helping business export, create more jobs and economic success.

"They do this at a time of major conflict in Europe.

"The actions of the Tory party in Westminster have demonstrated they are an untrustworthy partner in Ireland and internationally."

The British Government claims the Protocol Bill is lawful ands will allow it to address the practical problems the agreement has created in Northern Ireland in four key areas — customs processes, regulation, tax and spend discrepancies and democratic governance issues.