There is “no justification” for the DUP’s delay in returning to devolved government at Stormont, Sinn Fein MP John Finucane has said.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson earlier described the next few weeks as “vital” as his party continues to talk with the UK Government over its concerns around post-Brexit trading arrangements.
He said his party has had “various proposals” put to it in recent weeks, but “not yet a comprehensive paper in terms of all of the issues and concerns that we have”, adding they are continuing to engage with the Government.
The DUP withdrew from the Stormont Executive in February 2022 in protest against the internal UK trade barriers created by the post-Brexit protocol.
Powersharing is unable to function in Northern Ireland without the participation of the largest unionist party.
The UK and EU agreed the Windsor Framework earlier this year in an attempt to address unionist concerns about the protocol, but the DUP has indicated it will not return to the Stormont Assembly until the Government provides further assurances over Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market.
Sir Jeffrey said there is “further work to be done on several key elements”, adding the next few weeks will be “vital in terms of progress that we need to make”.
Mr Finucane responded saying every day is vital for people who are on hospital waiting lists, workers and families facing a brutal cost-of-living crisis and those who look to their political representatives to “honour the result of last year’s election to form an Assembly and an Executive”.
“That’s what we are ready to do. We’ve been ready to do that since last May,” he said.
“There shouldn’t be any further delay for the Assembly and the Executive to be restored.
“We need that collective voice to ask for the resources to begin to tackle the problems that we have, and we also have huge opportunities in the next couple of weeks.
“We have a delegation of over 40 businesses under the leadership of Joe Kennedy III. That presents a huge opportunity to create jobs, for businesses to add to the investment they have already made here.
“We should be grabbing that with both hands. To miss or not to maximise that potential is unforgivable and that’s why we need an Assembly and an Executive without delay.
“I think we run the risk when we talk about weeks or we talk about months that we provide cover for delay that isn’t justified.
“There was no justification for not taking your place in the Assembly or the Executive last year, there hasn’t been any justification for it every day since.”
Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.