Northern Ireland’s First Minister Designate Michelle O’Neill is in Washington this week where she will urge U.S. officials and members of Congress to press the British Prime Minister to prioritize the restoration of the power-sharing Executive at Stormont.
Rishi Sunak is due in Washington on Wednesday where he will meet with President Biden. They will have trade talks as well as discussions on the political situation in Northern Ireland.
Last month, Sinn Féin emerged as the largest political party in Northern Ireland after the local government elections. The elections also confirmed the current trend where nationalism is outpolling unionism.
Last year, Sinn Féin won the most seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly election, with Michelle O’Neill in line for the First Minister’s job. However, due to the DUP’s boycott of the institutions because of their protest over the post-Brexit Irish Sea trade border, she has been unable to take up the role.
Speaking ahead of her visit to Washington, O’Neill said that the British government’s wait-and-see approach to the continued DUP boycott of the Assembly and Executive was “lax, complacent and irresponsible."
“I am traveling to Washington this week to meet with senior U.S. officials and politicians on Capitol Hill to update them on the current situation in the north following the outcome of the recent historic council elections,” she said.
“The public have now spoken in two elections over the last year. They have sent a clear signal they want parties working together around the Executive table delivering for all. They want the Good Friday Agreement implemented.
“They want an Executive investing in health and public services, supporting workers, families and businesses through the cost of living crisis and maximizing the economic opportunities of our unique access to two of the largest markets in the world.
“The continuing refusal by one party to form an Executive is hampering progress. It is resulting in public services being left at the mercy of savage and heartless Tory cuts from London and those who work in them being denied fair pay rises.
“The British government’s response to this boycott of our political institutions is lax, complacent and irresponsible. There is no sense of urgency. It has stalled the operation of the Good Friday Agreement and is leading to political drift. That must stop.”
Ms. O’Neill said the United States has been a “key partner for peace in Ireland for decades” and “steadfast supporters of the Good Friday Agreement."
“We will be urging the U.S. administration to impress on the British Prime Minister during his visit to Washington this week to start working with their partners in the Irish government to prioritize restoration and the full implementation of the agreements without any more delay.
"There is an onus on the two governments to realize the promise and potential of the Good Friday Agreement and its institutions.
“The negotiation between London and Brussels on the protocol is done. The elections are over. The public have sent a clear signal. And it’s now time for government to be formed and to seize the enormous economic opportunities now open to us which was highlighted by President Biden during his historic visit to Ireland.
“The British government, by its inaction, cannot give the DUP a veto over the operation of the Good Friday Agreement. The governments must act in partnership to realize the opportunities for progress, prosperity and reconciliation. There can simply be no more delays.”