Unionists will not bow to President Biden's pressure over Stormont issue
"I am not here to bow to Presidents and Prime Ministers" declared the Unionist politician.
Speaking during a conference on Tuesday at Queen's University in Belfast, DUP MLA Emma Little-Pengelly was adamant that her party would not bow to pressure from President Biden to return to the Stormont Assembly.
During his historic four-day visit to Ireland last week, the US President made an address at Ulster University to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday agreement.
"I think sometimes, especially with the distance of history, we forget how hard-earned, how astounding that peace was at the moment", recounted Mr. Biden.
The Democratic Party leader went on to call for an end to the impasse which has seen the DUP prevent Sinn Féin from taking the lead at Stormont following their breakthrough election victory last May.
"I hope it's not too presumptuous for me to say that I believe democratic institutions, established through the Good Friday Agreement, remain critical for the future of Northern Ireland... An effective devolved government reflects the people of Northern Ireland and is accountable to them... So I hope the Assembly and the Executive will soon be restored".
Mr. Biden echoed this sentiment further upon his return to the United States on Saturday, with the US President reflecting on his visit to the Emerald Isle by stating "We have more to do in the North".
However, the comments of Mr. Biden have angered members of the Democratic Unionist Party such as Emma Little-Pengelly, who declared that Unionists in the North would not be so malleable in agreeing with President Biden, or UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who last week called for the Stormont Assembly's swift return.
Ms. Little-Pengelly stated that a return to power-sharing could only happen when there was a sustainable basis for governance and a return to the principles behind the 1998 deal, where unionist and nationalist ideals are both considered.
"I am not here to bow to presidents and prime ministers. I am here to speak for the people and their genuine concerns and to try to get that resolved".
Responding to the DUP's claims, Sinn Féin's leader in the south, Mary Lou McDonald, stated that the Unionist’s concerns had been heard "so loudly" and taken so seriously that there have been "years of a sustained negotiation".
"For me, the most frightening prospect is drift. We agreed that we have to work together. We all live here. That’s not going to change. That will never change. We have different views. That’s not going to change either", said Ms. McDonald.
The Dublin Central TD concluded her retort by stating "What has to change now is that we have the institutions, as imperfect as they are, functioning for everybody".
With such an elongated absence of a sitting government, the prospect of direct rule from Westminster looms large over the Stormont Assembly, although this is a scenario which Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described last month as being "premature".
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