Sinn Féin hail ‘watershed election’ ahead of talks

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, with party colleagues on the Falls Road in west Belfast. Credit: Presseye

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has said both his party and the leaders of unionism need to reflect on what has been a “watershed election”.

Speaking on the Falls Road in west Belfast on Saturday afternoon, flanked by senior party representatives, Mr Adams noted that the unionist majority at Stormont had ended.

“And the notion of a permanent or a perpetual unionist majority has been dismantled,” he added.

However, Mr Adams stated that Sinn Féin’s leader in Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill, had “made it clear that what we won, we would win for everyone and we intend to assert that mandate.”

Mrs O’Neill also addressed the gathered media and confirmed that she had already spoken to other party leaders and to the British and Irish governments.

Stating that her party’s wants to engage in the process to get Stormont back up and running as soon as possible, Mrs O'Neill added: “While the task isn’t easy, I think it’s achievable - if people come at it with the right attitude.”

Asked if Sinn Féin was insisting on Arlene Foster stepping aside as DUP leader, Mr Adams fielded the question and said that was not a condition of going into negotiations.

However, he outlined his position that the investigation into the botched Renewable Heat incentive scheme needed to completed before they could back Mrs Foster’s nomination as First Minister.

Mr Adams pointed to the fact that, while he was Sinn Féin leader, he previously nominated Martin McGuinness as deputy First Minister and would “be delighted” do the same for Michelle O’Neill.

He further stated that former DUP leader Peter Robinson had twice stepped aside, adding: “So there’s a sensible way to sort all this out …”

The parties have just three weeks to reach agreement – or face returning to the polls, or a return to direct rule.