The British government “does not have a viable plan” for Northern Ireland, the new leader of Ulster’s republican party Sinn Fein Mary Lou McDonald, told a press conference on Wednesday.
Following a London meeting with UK Prime Minister Theresa May, McDonald came away questioning May’s commitment to the tenets of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement – the cornerstone of peace in Northern Ireland – despite assurances to the contrary.
“Theresa May is actually facilitating the (Protestant, pro-Unionist) DUP from blocking any advancement and resolution on these core issues,” McDonald told the BBC.
Northern Ireland has for over a year been without a power-sharing executive, as envisaged by the Good Friday Agreement for over a year. Since June, the British government depends on the parliamentary support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which prevents London from acting as a power-sharing broker in Northern Ireland and has also affected May’s position in the ongoing Brexit negotiations.
The British government on February 20 resisted moving to re-impose direct rule from London, although it is clear that Sinn Fein and the DUP cannot reach an agreement on a new budget. The DUP has refused to concede an Irish Language Act that would grant Irish Gaelic the status of an official administrative language in Northern Ireland. Negotiations for an Irish Language Act have recently failed, with speculation that a brokered agreement was not signed off by the DUP.
“Just because the DUP have crashed the bus, does not mean that everyone has to sit at home now and cross their fingers and hope against hope that things will improve and that these issues will be resolved,” McDonald told the BBC.
The leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, expressed confidence that a new agreement on a budget could be concluded within weeks and urged for an “interim position” on the Irish language question.