Mary Lou McDonald says UK Government "gamesmanship" over Northern Ireland Protocol won't be tolerated 4 months ago

Mary Lou McDonald says UK Government "gamesmanship" over Northern Ireland Protocol won't be tolerated

Incoming First Minister Michelle O'Neill has accused the DUP of "holding society to ransom".

Following a pivotal weekend that saw Sinn Féin dominate the Northern Ireland Assembly election, party leader Mary Lou McDonald has said that any "gamesmanship" by the UK Government with regards to Northern Ireland's position as a potential European Union bargaining chip will not be tolerated.

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Sinn Féin's performance provoked a big reaction, not least from Piers Morgan, who declared with some notable melodrama that the "impending and inevitable collapse" of the United Kingdom is now imminent.

Speaking a touch more rationally by comparison on Monday afternoon (9 May), Mary Lou McDonald hailed the "historic election" and turned her attention to potential barriers in her way.

"We have the results and it has been a historic election," said McDonald.

"We have, for the first time, a nationalist, a republican First Minister elected in the person of Michelle O'Neill and the job now is to get to work. We need to see the immediate formation of an executive, Michelle O'Neill ratified as First Minister, and an appointment of a Deputy First Minister to that position.

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"And any tactics of delay from the DUP, any grandstanding by them, any gamesmanship by the British Government who may wish to use the north of Ireland in a bargaining chip in terms of their wider engagement with the European Union over the Protocol will be clearly intolerable and must not happen," McDonald continued.

The Sinn Féin leader noted that her party stands "absolutely resolute and determined to get the job done" and to ensure that the Stormont Executive is restored promptly.

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Incoming First Minister O'Neill, meanwhile, accused the DUP of "holding society to ransom".

"There should be no delay," said O'Neill. "There's no reason for a delay and this Executive and this Assembly will not change the Protocol. There are things within the Protocol that could be ironed out; a smoother implementation, and we're up for that. We've always been up for that.

"But what I'm not up for is the DUP's approach of holding society to ransom, preventing us from being able to spend money to help people, to put it right into their pockets to deal with the cost of living crisis, to start to fix the health service – that's what the public expect of us as political leaders."

In conversation over the weekend, McDonald said that she believes a referendum on fully united Ireland is possible within a five-year timeframe.

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In an interview with TalkTV on Friday, McDonald was asked if Sinn Féin will now start to push for a reunification referendum.

She said the party would, adding:

"We believe that Irish unity is the best plan, the biggest opportunity for all of us who live on this island. Partition has been disastrous, led to conflict and no end of hardship."

However, McDonald said that a referendum of this sort would need to be done in a "planned, orderly, democratic and entirely peaceful" way, with plans to commence the process already under discussion.

"That has to involve all of us and we believe it needs to be led by the Government in Dublin in the first instance," she stated.

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The Sinn Féin leader was then asked when she would want the referendum to be held.

"I believe that we are going to see these referendums, and there will have to be two bear in mind in north and south, in the coming years. Certainly within this decade, this decade of opportunity.

"We are going to see constitutional change on the island of Ireland. I believe that the referendum would be possible within a five-year timeframe. But much more importantly, I believe that the preparation needs to start now."

Featured Image of Mary Lou McDonald via  Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie