Autumn return for Stormont 'not acceptable timeframe', says Sinn Féin vice president

Sinn Féin's vice-president has said restoring the Stormont Executive in the Autumn is "not good enough", adding that the time for restoration was "last May".

Michelle O'Neill made the comments ahead of a cross-party meeting about budgetary pressures with the head of civil service in Northern Ireland on Thursday.

These were the first talks to take place since the local council elections last week.

Civil servants are currently running public services in the absence of devolution.

Attempts to restore an executive have been stalled due to an ongoing boycott by the DUP. The party has refused to re-enter power-sharing due to its concerns over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Speaking to reporters outside Stormont Castle, Michelle O'Neill said she welcomed that parties which are eligible to enter an executive had gathered.

"I do welcome the fact everybody's here and that we're all engaged but it's no substitute for a fully functioning executive, that's where we need to get to," said the Sinn Féin vice-president.

"I don't accept the Autumn as a timeframe, I don't think that's good enough. The time for restoring an executive was last May.

"The people have just endorsed positive leadership again," she added. "The people have just fully endorses a fully-functioning executive, so I don't think the Autumn timeframe is an acceptable timeframe".

She added: "Whilst today's meeting is welcome, it's good that we're here, it's good that we're engaged but what we need to hear is the political will.

"We need to hear that the DUP is going to get off the fence and join the rest of us and get into the executive and that's certainly what we're here at the meeting for."

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