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Responding to today’s statement from the British Secretary of State, Sinn Féin Leader in the North Michelle O’Neill commented:

“The British Secretary of State has said that he is not in a position to bring forward legislation to re-establish the Executive this week.  That is true.  Why is that so?

“It is in part because of Mr Brokenshire’s tolerance of the DUP’s blocking of the equality agenda, the reneging on past agreements and recent financial scandals.  This led to the erosion of confidence in the political institutions and Martin McGuinness’s resignation in January after ten years in office.

“Over the last ten months, the focus of these negotiations has been on the delivery of rights which are the norm everywhere else on these islands. Many of these rights are fundamental parts of the Good Friday and other agreements. They are for the benefit of all sections of society and threaten no-one.  Furthermore, marriage equality, language rights, the Bill of Rights and the right to Coroners Inquests are supported by a majority in the Assembly and in wider society.

“The only reason they are denied is because of DUP resistance to the rights agenda and the British Government’s acquiescence in this. That has been compounded by the Tory-DUP pact.  The British Secretary of State is wrong when he says that it only the parties themselves who can reach agreement, he and the Irish Government also have obligations.

“The issue of rights is not going to go away. The DUP and British Government know this.  These rights must be satisfactorily dealt with.  Sinn Féin is disappointed that the last few weeks of negotiations have ended in failure. We did our best to be flexible and we were prepared to stretch ourselves in the common good.

“Endless talks without conclusion are not sustainable.  There is a need for the two governments to act urgently to deliver equality. This is their joint responsibility under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

“I want to state explicitly that, in the context of agreement on delivery of these rights, Sinn Féin will re-enter government. In the absence of these rights the Executive is not sustainable. 

“Sinn Féin will now reflect on all of this.”